My community is disappearing. What once was a thriving community in the heart of Bombay is now vanishing; and with it, all our traditions and culture. In a city of 22 million people, there are hardly 5 lakh East Indians left. Or was that 5 lakh across the globe?
The salt on the wounds? When most people talk about East Indians, they’re either talking about American Indians or Indians from the East of India. It’s like we didn’t even exist. Ha!
With so many inter-caste and inter-racial marriages that take our world forward, our community takes a step backward. Yes, we are becoming global citizens, but that doesn’t mean we should lose our culture. Just because we learn new ways of living, it doesn’t mean we should forget the old ones. Well, at least not all of them! Some things are best forgotten, but some must be remembered. The concept is ‘Roots and wings!’, isn’t it?
East Indian History
Although Christianity in India has been ascribed to the proselytizing work of the Portuguese in the 16th century, it did in fact exist here much before that. The research of late Dr. Elsie W Baptista, the niece of Indian freedom fighter Kaka Baptista (who was also Lokmanya Tilak’s lawyer), shows that Christianity was brought to India by the Apostle Bartholomew. Of course, her work has been based on the work of learned men before her; the likes of Jerome (342 AD to 420 AD), Eusebius (265 AD to 340 AD), Fr. Stilitingus (1703 AD to 1763 AD, and many more.
To support her theory, here is food for thought. Although the Apostle and Saint Bartholomew is supposed to have been martyred in Armenia for converting the king of Armenia to Christianity, he wasn’t. Contemporaries now believe that Bartholomew was in fact martyred along the Konkan coast in Kalyan, India.
How did he get to India you ask? Trade! India has been trading with European countries for quite some time now. Alexander’s invasion of India in 326 BC opened up the trade routes and the gates of commerce further. But even before that, trade between India and other African and Europe existed.
Even King David and King Solomon traded with India. According to 1 Chronicles 29:4, King David had received three thousand talents of the gold of Ophir. According to 1 Kings 9:28, Solomon received gold, silver, peacocks, sandalwood, ivory, precious stones and more from Ophir.
The place Ophir mentioned here was Sopara or सोपारा in Mumbai. Ophir or Soprara was one of the largest trading port in ancient times.
East Indian Culture
*****[ I’d love to write about our traditional sarees, and our parasols, our music and our food. I’d also love to write about what’s lost in the pages of history and what may be lost soon.
I’d love it if one day when I tell someone outside India that I’m an East Indian, they don’t assume that I’m living on the East coast of India.
But I need to take a break from work to complete the rest of my research and update this bit. Will try to do that soon. In the mean time if you have something to contribute about our history, traditions, culture or food, please email me at email@example.com and I’d be happy to feature it.]*****
But if you want to see some of the artifacts from our culture, visit the Kaka Baptista East Indian Museum in Manori.
Traditional East Indian Food
Most of us have been brought up without learning the community language either, other than a spattering of words, myself included.
Ask the younger generation of East Indians nowadays, and many of them might say they don’t know how to cook the traditional vajri curry or even the trotters khudi. Some may even laugh at the fact that vajris aka cow and goat stomachs or trotters aka goats hooves are considered a traditional delicacy, until they taste them and realize that they’re actually quite amazing. Most East Indian cuisine is. 😉
I had originally planned on writing a piece about how a handful of East Indian ‘aunties’ make these dishes. But time just seems to pass with the swiftness of a horse at the races. And mom and my aunt are so busy caring for granny that they don’t have time to cater to the likes of me.
And so now, a few months later I’ve dug up some of the old pics of the East Indian dishes that my mom makes, with her special twist, especially her spicy chicken tope.
Here they are. No, I’m not going to write the recipes down. Just find any East Indian ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’ (as they’re lovingly called’) and they should tell you. If you can’t find any, well, it’s probably because we are disappearing, isn’t it? If you find them, and they don’t tell you the recipe, let me know and I’ll write them down the next time.
And no, I haven’t found the time to take pics of tongue moile or other recipes yet. So if any of you nice ‘aunties’ would love to talk about them please ping me.
Yeah, that amazing dish of goats brains with a special spicy masala tastes amazing. It’s even more mouth-watering with my mom’s addition of coconut milk, cashewnut paste and cream. Have you ever tried it that way?
Crab Curry Masala
Everyone loves crab curry. Buy a dozen or two dozen fresh crabs from the market and salt them. Fry the crab masala and then add in the two dozen humongous crabs. Regular curry. But mom’s secret recipe includes adding in garlic and onion paste and slit green chillies. It adds so much to the flavour!
Mom also makes a better tasting version of sorpotel. Her secret ingredient, my homemade wine instead of vinegar? I absolutely love sweet sorpotel, as do most of my friends that gorge on her food. So different!
But since I haven’t had the chance to put up mom’s recipe, click here to see the step by step sorpotel recipe with pictures from Uncle Jude in Australia.
Goat tripe curry or vajri khudi is a food that my relatives have a love-hate relationship with. Me, some days I love it, some days I don’t. It’s hard to decide. To judge for yourself, read the vajri khudi recipe here.
Chicken tope, much like mutton tope is an easy all in one recipe. Be it for lunch or dinner, it’s the East Indian quick fix or all in one dish. Chicken, poha, and bottle masala. What else do you need?
Remember the heat of summer that’s only cooled by that refreshing mango salad? Here’s my dad’s version of the traditional East Indian kadmat recipe.
Easter to the East Indian Catholic Christians is very different from Easter in Western countries. Food wise, I mean food wise. I know we’re all celebrating the resurrection of the Messiah. I was talking about food, or rather sweets. Our Easter Eggs are not normal eggs that are painted or any of those sweet chocolate eggs. Our eggs are made or marzipan, a yummy cashew or almond based sweet that is homemade and shaped into Easter Eggs, bonnets, bunnies and chicken.
There’s a lot to be said about the traditional East Indian pancake that’s filled with a lush sweet coconut filling. But why say anything, when I can just go and share the recipe with you. Click here for the East Indian Pancake recipe.
East Indian Christmas Sweets
Where do I start? Mass pav, tartlets, cordial, vanilla cream, sojee halwa, cashew rock, thalie sweet, date rolls, too many delicious East Indian sweet desserts to name. I’m trying to make a good long list of everything. If you have a bit to contribute just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org If you want to read what I’ve assimilated so far, the super short list is here.
Snow balls or honey balls or aitolas or popoges. Whatever you call them, they taste awesome. So here’s a post of my sis making my grandma’s version of honey balls. The ones my aunts loves as much as we do. That’s why we make them ever so often and take them over. Here’s granny’s honey balls.
Little golden fried balls of dough that are soft as heaven and disappear as quickly as they’re placed on the table, that’s foogias. Foogias are just one of the many traditional East Indian varieties of bread; the others being handbreads or apas, chitaps, orias, and more.
The foogias batter is a mixture of maida (refined wheat flour), a little bit of rice flour, coconut juice or milk, sugar and yeast that is mixed and left to rise overnight. In the morning the dough is formed into small balls by squeezing it through the thumb and forefinger and fried till golden brown. The foogias are eaten with dinner or lunch and go especially well with moile or sorpotel.
Quite similar to mulled wine or brandy, the East Indiankimad is a mix that will warm your bones on the cold winter nights. This warm drink is made with a mix of spices and country liquor. And is almost always served at the East Indian umracha paani before the weddings.
Gluten Free Chitaps or Rice Crepes
These light and fluffy crepe like savories are yummy, tasty and a whole lot more. I’ve always loved chitaps and find them delicious. So this time I made them myself using a gluten free recipe.
Okay, this one isn’t original East Indian food, is it? But it’s made using the East Indian jungle khudi masala, so it’s sort of a derivative of our lovely cuisine. I love the BBB curry. Goat brains, balls and boobs in that spicy gravy. It’s so much better than eating them on a shig.
Dry Bombay Duck Pickle
The East Indian Bombay duck pickle or Dry Bombay Duck Pickle or Sukha Bomblache Lonche is a yummy pickle made of dried Bombay ducks and also works well in chilly fries and other dishes. Click here to get the recipe.
East Indian Mango Chutney
Another favorite pickle is the East Indian Mango Chutney. It’s so like the murabba or varenye isn’t it? We make kilos of it in May and expect it to last through winter. But most times it’s gone by the end of the monsoon. Have to probably make a few more kilograms next year. Recipe link here.
I have no idea where the pic of the whole stuffed roast chicken went. So here’s the pic of just the roast chicken thighs. Always tastes amazing with the kashmiri chillies, doesn’t it? Especially with the caramelized onions. And me, I just love those roast chicken skins, almost as much as roast pigling skin. Don’t you?
On that note, I need to go look for the missing chicken. Hopefully it’s not roaming headless somewhere, spilling stuffed liver pudding from its insides. 😉 Maybe we’ll catch up again sometime soon for other East Indian food? Maybe sorpotel pav or chitaps?
Links to the Recipes:
- East Indian Mango Chutney
- Sorpotel aka Sarpatel
- Goat Tripe or Vajri Khudi
- Special East Indian Chicken Tope
- Kadmat or Cuchumber
- Dry Bombil Pickle
- East Indian Mango Chutney
- East Indian Kimad Liquor
- Gluten Free Chitaps or Rice Crepes