Tonak, a term commonly used by the Hindu community in Goa, literally meaning gravy or curry. This piquant traditional stew has layers of flavours from the several roasted spices. Made with the local red cowpeas, which can be substituted with black-eyed peas, red kidney beans, dried white or green peas. Our Hindu neighbours always sent us some tonak in a stainless steel container with a lid and handle. It took me down memory lane when the aromatic fragrance of this dish filled the entire kitchen, while it was simmering on the stove. Quick, easy and absolutely delicious. Best devoured with steaming hot rice, puris, chapatis or pão.
(Serves 6 or 8)
2 cups alsande (red or white cowpeas)
few coriander leaves (chopped)
1 tablespoon sugarcane jaggery
Roast with a dash of oil and grind to a fine paste with some water
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
6 dried medium-sized red chillies
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 petals of star anise (chakra phool)
1 blade of mace (javitri)
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds (khus khus)
10 whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick (2.5-inch)
4 large cloves of garlic
1 onion (sliced)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (do not roast)
a small ball of tamarind (do not roast)
Soak beans in hot water for two hours ensuring to change the water after one hour. Alternatively, the beans can be soaked overnight. Drain out the water and cover beans with fresh water. Cook with salt for 30 minutes until tender. Discard the water (as it turns dark) and reserve the beans.
Transfer the beans to a pan with the ground spice paste. Rinse the blender jar with 1 cup water and add to the pan. Adjust the consistency of the gravy by adding water, as required. Simmer on low heat until thick. Adjust seasoning by adding jaggery and salt.
1 sprig of curry leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
a dash of asafoetida (hing)
2 tablespoons oil
Heat oil in a small pan, add asafoetida, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once seeds start to splutter and curry leaves are fragrant, pour the tempering into the tonak and stir.
Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.
- When tempering is not used in tonak, it is cooked with some freshly sliced onion besides what is roasted and ground with rest of the spices.
- Red variety alsande as seen scattered in the above pictures were used, which can be substituted with red kidney beans, dried white or green peas.
- Chillies from Goa (picture below) used in the spice paste.
- Roast all the dry spices in oil first, then garlic, ginger, onion and finally coconut.