April 25, 2022

#BlogchatterA2Z: U for Urrak - the ‘spirit’ of Goa.

For most people visiting Goa for the first time my topic today is going to be a revelation of sorts. 

So read the post till the end. You can thank me later. 

With just 5 more days of the A-Z series, I am feeling a sense of wistfulness and nostalgia flood me. It has been an exciting journey writing about Goa, heady with its own set of apprehensions (to meet deadlines) and euphoria (when they were met). And so for ‘U’ (you) today, I chose a topic that resonates with that feeling which literally encapsulates the ‘spirit’ of Goa. 

If you somehow managed to skip the title to my post and are guessing this is about Feni, then you are in for a surprise. Your guess is wrong (but not entirely). 

My topic today is Goa’s refreshing summer beverage, a heady alcoholic drink prepared from the first distillation of the cashew apple, the slightly underrated sister-cousin of Goa’s much hyped Feni. 

Commonly referred to as ‘Jungle juice’, (although that is a misnomer), I’m talking about Goa’s unpretentious, unassuming, down-to-earth tipple, Urrak

With a pungent taste and strong aroma, Urrak heralds the start of Goan summers.

It has an alcoholic content of 15 to 25%, although when consumed does not render as much of an high. At least not initially. However, they say one should refrain from venturing near a breezy beach after downing Urrak as the breeze only compounds the inebriation and can cause sudden fainting which may even prove fatal. Being a teetotaller myself, I cannot personally testify this, but Urrak enthusiasts claim that this is just a myth. This said, ask them to prove it wrong and they will shirk away with a nervous laugh. 

The making of Urrak: 

The cashew plant is known to have been imported to Goa from Brazil by the Portuguese. Come summer and you will see a flurry of activity happening at Cashew estates. Fresh fruit is collected in wicker baskets by labourers employed to work on the farm. This is then taken to the farm’s local distillery where the process of making Urrak commences. Once the cashew nut is twisted off from the cashew apple, the separated apples are machine crushed, in order to extract the juice. The  juice is collected into a tank and left to be fermented for two days, following which it is distilled. 

A traditional distillation unit made of local material is employed for the purpose. The unit includes a madki; a round bottom clay flask, lavnni; a condensor with a mud pot (budkulo) and a coconut shell ladle (dovlo). Modern distillery units have a  copper pot replaciing the madki, and a brass or aluminium coil, condenser immersed in a water tank replacing the lavnni. 

The distillation is carried out through a series of elaborate steps that the workers know at the back of their hand from years of expertise. The first distillate that is hereby produced is called Urrak. 

When run over a second time, this turns into the widely acclaimed, Feni.

For most Goan locals, starting from Nero, progressing to Urrak and subsequently settling down with Feni is considered as a rite of passage.  But of course, this does not mean we are a bunch of drunks. It’s just the Goan way of things. 

For the uninitiated, Niro is the non-alcohol cousin of Urrak. Basically, it is slow-pressed cashew apple juice.  

Cashew apples are stomped by foot until the first press trickles out. This is then carried in terracotta pots and buried in the cashew estate and left to ferment for 2-3 days before it is distilled into Urrak.

Niro has an even shorter shelf life than Urrak, and has to be ideally consumed within a few hours. If not refrigerated at 8-10 deg C, the natural yeasts work on the sugar, producing CO2 and alcohol, which ferments into Urrak at room temperature.

Once the monsoon commences, the process of distillation has to stop. Urrack is distilled only in the months of March to May, as the cashew is a seasonal fruit and available only then. Also, Urrak must be consumed fresh, as it has tiny flakes of the cashew apple in it, which tend to sour if stored for too long. Once sedimentation starts, Urrak loses its fruitiness over a few weeks. 

It is because of these qualities, that Urrak is still unknown to a lot of tourists frequenting Goa in the rains or winter months. 

How Urrak is consumed: 

Traditionalists prefer to have Urrak in the age old style known to locals by mixing 1 part alcohol with 3 part Limca/lemon-soda. Ice cubes are then added. A tiny pinch of salt, a squeeze of lime, and a chilli split midway is stirred into the cocktail. 

However, modern variations that include an Urrak base with Kokum crush and Limca, with a sprinkle of rock salt and crushed cumin, or garnished with curry leaves, or sweetened with orange juice are available too. With each tavern or bar having their own style of serving, Urrak aficionados are spoilt for choice all season. 

If the word aficionado in the above para has made you laugh, then you will be surprised to know that it is a popular local belief that consuming Urrak keeps fevers and colds away. I am not sure if this is a well-guarded myth or an excuse to get drunk, but maybe if this were true, Goa would have been untouched by the Corona pandemic. Just saying! 

Be it for its medicinal properties or slow intoxication, for its seasonal quality or fruity flavour, Urrak is regarded for its uniqueness. And for that we say, ‘Obrigado, Goa!’ 

Stick around for another interesting topic on my lovely state.

Until then,

Mog aasu di.

(Let there be love!)  


I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z. 

My theme for the challenge is ‘Obrigado, Goa!’, under which I’ll be writing 26 posts on Goa (April 1-30th, excluding Sundays), each post corresponding to the letters of the English alphabet. You can read more about it in my theme reveal post.


Pandian Ramaiah said...

I admire your effort to bring the preparation process of the beverage in readers’ mind

Parag Chaware said...

Yes, heard a lot about Urrak from Goan friends. Didn't know the story of making it from Cashew fruit. So need to visit Goa in March or April.
Priyanka you are giving reasons for visiting Goa in every season😀😃😃😃

Tomichan Matheikal said...

Those names are fantastic, I must say: Nero [niro] and Urrak. I wasn't aware of them at all. I drank Feni a number of times.

Nandhini said...

That's something new I've never heard before. Interesting account, Priyanka!

Afshan Shaik said...

Wow.urrak what a name. Feels like it will calm all the nerves...sadly i am not a big drinker . I only taste. Am eager to taste this now after reading so much...ur description doubled its flavor ..

Dropping by from a to z "The Pensive"

Pri said...

Thank you, Pandian.
I'm glad I was successful in the portrayal. :)

Pri said...

Oh yes, Parag. It's definitely made from the cashew apple. But the zing ot 'high' is due to the fermentation. So try with caution if you are trying it for the first time. I don't want you cursing me later. 😀

Pri said...

Tomichan, there's always a next time. 😀

Pri said...

Thanks, Nandhini. I'm glad it piqued your interest! :)

Pri said...

I totally understand, Afshaan. I'm a teetolar myself. You can still enjoy a good non-alcoholic Niro when you're here. :)