‘Phodi’ or ‘Fodi’ are pan-fried discs of vegetables that are often served as an accompaniment to a traditional Goan meal. Covered with a coating of crisp semolina, the vegetables are fried to perfection on a hot tawa (pan) and are quick as well as easy to prepare. The Phodi can be made using a wide variety of vegetables- potatoes, breadfruit, raw plantain, pumpkin and even cauliflower florets! Phodi form a popular vegetarian substitute for fried fish. They are even prepared as a part of the meal offered to our Deities during festivals like ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’. Whether made to celebrate a festival, a wedding or just to add some extra crunch to a simple vegetarian meal of ‘kodi ani xit’ (curry and rice), these Phodi are a favourite part of our unique cuisine!
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“Stay calm! It’s all going to be alright!” thought Urvi to herself, as the howling of the jackals grew closer and louder. She looked around in desperation, finally finding a long stick that she could use as a weapon. Gripping the stick in her hands, she shouted, “Hatt! Hattt! Haatttt!!”as loudly as she could, trying to scare the animals away, hoping someone would hear her cry for help. “I can do this! It’s just a short distance to the Shantadurga temple and then I’ll be safe. Just a short distance further!” she thought, although she could feel her hands shake with fear.
Taking determined steps down the forest path, she kept praying in her mind, shouting loudly now and again. But the jackals, as determined as she seemed to be, grew even bolder, howling menacingly as they crept closer to poor Urvi. Hidden from view by the dense undergrowth, they surrounded the poor girl as the sky above darkened and it rained even more heavily. With her back against a broad tree trunk, she tried her best to shout louder, hoping it would keep the jackals away. There would be no point in trying to run now. The sly creatures would simply outrun her and gain confidence from her fear. With her heart racing and fear coursing through her veins, she began to realise that she might not escape this time!
AND THEN…!! Nearly on the verge of tears, Urvi suddenly heard a familiar sound- the tinkling of a cycle bell! “Deva (Oh God)! Please help me! Help me!” she thought to herself as she hurried towards the tinkling sound. Startled by the sound, the jackals fell back into the jungle, still calling out to one another but wary of the cyclist. “Hanga asa hav (I’m here)!” she shouted, as loudly as she possibly could. She nearly burst into tears as the cyclist came into view, just beyond a curve in the forest path. “Ago bai (dear lady)! I’m so glad I found you! The elders sent me to look for you. What are you doing here, in this heavy downpour?! That pack of jackals might have got you!” exclaimed the old village Poder (baker). “Don’t cry,” said the kind old man. “Hurry now, it’s getting dark and the cycle bell won’t be enough to keep the jackals away for very long!” he said, leading Urvashi down the narrow path towards the temple.
The Nayak elders, who’d been anxiously waiting for Urvi , breathed a sigh of relief as they saw her small figure approach the house. Aai had sent the Poder to look for her as soon as it had started to rain. The forests and fields weren’t safe to wander in, especially with the jackals that stalked the lonelier parts of Kavalem. Urvi, shaking with fear and cold, was handed a pelo (tumbler) of hot adrak cha (milky, sweet ginger tea). Sipping on the tea, she felt relieved to be amongst family, especially after the ordeal she’d just been through. She was safe now and that’s all that mattered.
The women of the family bustled around her, giving her more cups of warm adrak cha to prevent her catching a cold. Having changed into warm clothes, she offered heartfelt thanks to the family Deities in the Devachikud (prayer room). She was then summoned by Dada (grandfather), who could not bring himself to shout at Urvi, looking at the tears in her eyes. Instead, he held the young girl’s hands in his own and gently warned her not to venture out into the forest on her own again. It had been a terribly worrying day for the entire family.
But what the members of the Nayak family prized as much as safety, was the prospect of warm, nourishing food. Now that Urvi was safe, the family members could rest and restore their spirits with a delicious evening meal. Urvi quietly relished a meal of solkadi, phodi ani xit (curry, fritters and rice), feeling guilty that she’d caused her family much anxiety but happy that she was home, safe and sound.
Far across the fields, the jackals continued to howl into the night as the rain lashed against the forest trees. Never again would anyone take their ferocity for granted in the little village of Kavalem.
Phodi (Vegetable Fries) Recipe
- 1 large Aubergine (Brinjal)
- 1 large Onion
- 3/4 cup fine Semolina
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- 2 teaspoons Red Chilli Powder
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder (Haldi)
- 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
Wash the aubergine (or other vegetables of your choice) and peel off the outer layer of a large onion. Slice the vegetables into discs, about 1/4 of an inch thick. Coat the vegetable discs with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon red chilli powder and 1 teaspoon turmeric powder. Keep aside while you prepare the semolina coating.
Pour the fine semolina onto a wide plate. Add in the rest of the salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder, stirring well so as to flavour the semolina coating. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed, non-stick pan. Meanwhile, coat the vegetable discs with the semolina mixture, pressing the coating down onto each slice.
Once the oil has heated, place the discs of vegetable on the hot pan and fry, without disturbing the pieces, for 3-4 minutes. Carefully use a spatula to turn each vegetable slice, drizzling another tablespoon of oil over the slices and leave to fry on medium-high heat for another 3-4 minutes. To check if the aubergine discs have cooked, gently pierce a disc with a toothpick. If the toothpick goes through easily, you’ll know the aubergine has cooked. The onion discs usually tend to cook faster as compared to the aubergine.
Once the vegetable slices have cooked through and browned evenly, take them off the heat and drain on a length of kitchen roll. Fry all the coated vegetable slices in this way, working in batches to make sure the pan is not too crowded at any point. Serve the phodi immediately, as the crispy semolina coating tastes best when the fritters are freshly made!
Phodi can be made with a number of vegetables such as potatoes, raw plantains, breadfruit or even cauliflower. A teaspoon of Tamarind paste (chinch) can be added to the spice powders used to marinate the vegetable discs before being coated with the flavoured semolina. The coating can be made out of a mixture of semolina and rice flour (we’d go for 1 part semolina to 1 part rice flour) to give the fries extra crunch and texture. This recipe is very easy to scale up or down, as per the number of people to be served and is a popular vegetarian substitute for fried fish.
Our stories, set in the early 1900s, are entirely fictional & inspired by childhood tales, local legends and books.