Goa has an interesting food culture – one which is deeply influenced by the Portuguese, yet is distinctly Indian. Most Goan sweets are made with tropical ingredients like coconut, cashew nuts and jaggery or molasses. Dodol, is one such sweet, which is hugely popular among locals. It is less known to outsiders and tourists because it isn’t produced on a large scale, packaged or exported like the more popular bebinca. Dodol is made by boiling together coconut milk and dark viscous jaggery till it turns almost black and can be set to make a block. Sometimes a few cashew nuts are thrown in for texture. (My grandmother remember her mother sprinkling the top with sesame seeds.) This rich earthy sweet looks almost like blood pudding and is quite an acquired taste – I’ve always loved it though, right from when I was little.
Recently I travelled to Sri Lanka, and found so many of parallels between the Sri Lankan and the Goan way of life – both cultures are sleepy, laid back and highly dependent on the sea. The similarity however doesn’t really extend to the cuisines; except that fish, rice and coconut are the most important ingredients in both. So I was taken by surprise when I found Dodol in Sri Lanka – it even had the same name! The Sri Lankan version uses grated coconut as well as the coconut milk, is lighter than its Goan counterpart and has a grainy texture. It is wrapped inside dried pandan leaves and sets in the shape of a long cylindrical log. I fell in love with the eco-friendly, efficient packaging! I first noticed the sweet in a small grocery store at the Matara bus stop, and picked it up purely based on the way it was packed. It was only later that I read the label to discover the food of my homeland had followed me all the way to Sri Lanka.