Modak, the shiny, translucent and sweet dumpling called ‘the pure food of the gods’ and considered a favorite of Ganesha, is quite simple to prepare. But when it is made outside the house, it does not taste the same. No matter how strictly you follow the preparation formula, but it is called mother’s touch. Yet it is one of the oldest sweets in India’s culinary heritage.
That’s why Vivek Garge of Bombay Tapri has always trusted his mother to prepare modaks the way they should be. With Cloud Kitchen in Greater Noida, he prepares authentic home-style Maharashtrian food for customers in the National Capital Region (NCR) and keeps modaks only for Ganesh Utsav.
The garage’s only outlet is at Dilli Haat in INA, simply called Maharashtra Food Stall, which was long run by his mother and has become a consolation for Maharashtrians in Delhi in search of the comforts and familiarity of home. Gone.
bite sized energy ball
Garge says modaks are always ground-bound and have two varieties – steamed and fried.
“Boiled Konkans are prepared along the coast and made from rice flour, which is then turned into flour with milk. A local sticky rice called Ambemohar is used. It is then rolled out as a wrapping film, which is molded and filled with fresh coconut, jaggery, khus, nutmeg and cardamom. As modaks came to North India, people started adding cashews, raisins and dry fruits to the stuffing. Apart from this, boiled modaks are eaten hot by adding homemade ghee on top. In the Ghats or inland areas, locals fry their modaks, which are made of wheat flour, sugar or khand and dried coconut powder with cardamom. Fried modaks were made for the food of travelers as they did not use fruits or milk, but were made entirely of dry and storable ingredients like rice, lentils, sesame and coconut,” says Garge.
Nutritionally, modaks were energy-sized balls that kept the traveler going on his long journey when he could not find an inn or restaurant. “Rice flour gives you essential carbohydrates, coconut is loaded with micronutrients and fiber while jaggery provides iron. It’s a complete meal,” says Garge.
It emerged as the healing food of the wise Ganesha, says food historian Madhulika Das. “If you read the Charaka Samhita, you will understand that modak was viewed as balancing your mind and body. What is rice but glutamate that is good for your mental health and aligns your circadian rhythms. It is flexible and can be easily digested. This is the time of seasonal changes, flu and indigestion. Then there are planetary changes and modak helps the body to adjust to these changes. When you eat it as Ganesha’s favorite. As the temple priests performed the ritual of food discipline, then everyone would have it,” says Dash.
History of Modak
Tracing Modak’s travels, Das says, “You will see idols of Ganesha with Modak as early as the 6th century Common Era (CE), in the Ellora Caves and during the reign of the Yadavas (1187–1317). 13th century K. Cholas, a maritime merchant, took the Ganesha idol with Modaka to Southeast Asia. In addition, Ganesha was considered the patron deity of the ganas, or warrior-counsellors of kingdoms. Gautam Buddha’s father was one such gana. And this is the reason why a young Siddhartha fell in love with modak. It is still offered to Buddha statues as his favorite food.”
In fact, the spread of Buddhism to the Far East, South and Southeast Asia is the reason why modak was transformed into an Asian dessert and traveled all over Japan. “Who knows, there may be common connections between modaks, dumplings and bao buns,” says Dr. Ashish Chopra, another food historian.
There is, of course, a reason why modaks acquired pan-India relativity. As Dasha says, “Ganesh is considered the mascot of the most democratic and diversity of the gods, with his stomach and the head of an elephant. Modak became a food that broke barriers, especially of casteism, and brought peace. came to be regarded as an offering of
Even political history has shaped the relevance of the sweet dumpling. Ganesha became the patron deity of Pune along with Chhatrapati Shivaji and then Peshwas in the 17th century. But it was not until Bal Gangadhar Tilak started Ganeshotsav as a community festival that modak gained its relevance. Seen as a tacit assertion of Indian identity against the British Raj, worship became a public matter and a cause to unite people. “That’s when modak became a common man’s bhog and was made with love in every household,” says Dash.
Shivaji always carried his own food and carried the modaks across the country, whether north or south, as far as Thanjavur. Of course, in North India, the authentic version was retained as the second version of Khoya Barfi.
Multiple versions of modaks
Garge recreates the authentic version on order only. This distinctiveness continues in Maharashtra Sadan and Maharashtrian communities across the capital. “Gurgaon, Dwarka and Paschim Vihar have home chefs who make modaks to order at this time of year,” he says.
But then there is always room for experimentation. So, try the fusions and variants with ragi flour and chocolate, made by artisan brands like Gur Cheeni, which have branches in Defense Colony, Punjabi Bagh and MG Road. Khoya Mithai is a Chanakyapuri based luxury brand offering the most attractive fusion box in Chanakya and Oberoi patisserie. Try Kamala Sweets at Chittaranjan Park to at least guess the authentic variety.
Masters of knowledge will certainly appreciate keeping their food alive and relevant.