Reminisces triggered by Urrak

It’s the season for Goa’s beloved cashew drink; read more about its revered status in the locals’ lives in this article.

Opposite my house in Benaulim where I lived in my childhood days, lay a large empty house with the typical Goan balcão. Though the house appeared haunted right round the year, come summer, and it reverberated with singing and loud strumming of the guitar, as mouth watering aroma of sausages waltzed out of its large halls, across the paind (natural water drain) that separated our plot boundaries and into our house, teasing our taste buds.

The son of the house who was well settled in Bombay would gather his bachelor friends, squeeze in an ancient Ambassador car and make that great journey from Bombay to Benaulim, their car packed to capacity with Bombay ducks and musical instruments peeking out at odd angles. And thus the dead house turned boisterous again if only for a few days before sinking back into its habitual depression.

Any guesses as to what dragged them to Goa in the summer? The codso (pot) of Urrak of course! Just as the sun turned fiery, the whole gang would empty generous doses of Urrak into crystal tumblers, add lime and Limca and cubes of ice, stretch their legs on the voltair (easy chairs) and take their sips of the elixir of life that drowned all their accumulated city blues of the last three hundred and fifty days. The elixir would slowly work its magic on their grey cells and unleash creativity that played havoc on the guitar strings and resurrect voices burnt hoarse to sexy, husky baritones. Fifteen days and fifteen codse later, they would once again squeeze into their rusty four wheeler and head back to the city of dreams, refreshed, rejuvenated and renewed!

That then is the power of the world famous Urrak. It draws Goans from world over to their native villages, despite the Scotches and Bourbons and Vodkas or Tequilas. The Urrak serves as an umbilical cord, its fine taste etched on the genes of Goans. Let’s then enter a cashew grove to try and unlock some of the secrets of the great Goan Urrak.

After lunch the villagers venture into their cashew orchards, picking up the fallen fruit. They never pluck the fruit directly from the tree as some of the dik (sap) is retained in the fruit and renders it an unpleasant taste. Instead, the cashew apple is picked from the ground and collected into buckets. In order to prevent bending multiple times and inviting backaches and pains, the locals have devised a simple tool to make the task easy. They go a thorny thicket in the forest and select a stick with two good thorns at one end. The other thorns are chopped away. This stick is known as a kanto. The fallen apple is simple impaled by the thorn and just dropped into the bucket.

In a shady spot of the orchard one finds the kulmi, a basin carved out of the rocky bed in which to crush the cashew. The men and women support themselves on ropes or bamboo braces and stomp on the cashew apples, releasing their juice. Where the bed is plain soil, an old tree trunk is halved and hallowed and the cashew crushed with a stout pole. The juice collected is stored in earthen pots for fermentation. These pots are buried in the earth for stability.

After four to six days of fermentation, a distillation unit is set up consisting of the big earthenware bhan (large pot), connected to a launi (earthenware pot) via a bamboo or other hollow branch. The bhan full of fermented juice is fired using dead tree trunks and sealed. The bhan is then fired using old dead wood. As the fermented juice begins to boil, the vapours escape through the hollow pipe and are collected into the launi. The high temperature of the vapours heats up the launi, making it necessary to cool it constantly. Usually the housewife undertakes this task, using water from a codem (earthenware basin) placed under the launi. The water cools the launi and drops right back into the codem. A slight delay in splashing it and the codem will crack. The cooled vapours thus condense into the launi forming the Urrak.

Once the market demand is met, the Urrak is distilled again by mixing it with an equal portion of fermented juice and this time the condensed vapour yields the Heritage drink of Goa – the Feni!

Text And Pics: Pantaleao Fernandes

For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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