Feni storage vessel – the clear spirit is aged in large glass bottles, sometimes covered with palm leaves weavings.

The cashew may be Goa’s beloved fruit, but it’s originally a Brazilian import. The cajueiro plant, brought by the Portuguese, thrived from the 15th century to become a mainstay in the food habits of the locals. Cashew, now recognized as the ‘heritage spirit of Goa’, received the first geographical indication (GI) in the State in 2013. It gives produces exclusive rights to brand the product. The drink has moved from the taverns to five-star properties. Special festivals promote the fruit and drink.

The pulp is hand-patted and tied to a boulder

Culturally, feni, the fiery spirit, is an integral part of socio-cultural life. During the Bhikreamjevon, a lavish meal for the poor before a wedding, lunch is washed down with a peg of feni. Traditional medicine in Goa used feni to cure various ailments, from colds to stomach-related illnesses.

The traditional process involves plucking the fallen fruit with a bamboo stick. The baskets are emptied into the stomping area, a rock-cut basin called ‘colmi.’ The squeezed juice flows into an earthen pot, where it is allowed to ferment. The pulp left behind is hand-patted into small mounds, tied with a vine around a heavy boulder. The clear juice that oozes out is called neero and is put into a copper or earthen pot, kodem, buried halfway into the ground. It is left to ferment for a few days. No artificial yeast is added in this process.

The bhann is used in traditional cashew distillation. The larger pot empties into a smaller receiver called ‘launni.’

Maendra Alvares, the owner of Big Foot mentions, ‘The bhann is heated with wood fire while the lauuni is kept cool by continuously pouring cold water over it. The distilling process takes about eight hours.’ The first distillate is a low-grade alcohol called urrack, cazulo is next, and the final is feni.

Pop in a crunchy nut or two to feast on this nutritious snack. Home chefs whip up numerous sweet dishes and even garnish a dish with cashew nuts.

Viva Cashew!

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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