Saturday, 11 May 2013




Most people relish roasted cashew nuts, but perhaps only few communities around the world are lucky enough to experience the marvelous taste of green cashew nuts. In the height of summer, just before the monsoon season, the cashew nut trees bloom and produce countless bunches of cashew fruits of different colours and sizes with a delicious cashew nut hanging beneath every single fruit. The cashew fruit is used to brew strong country liquor called fenny in the state of Goa while some of the farmers in Kerala and in Karnataka prepare a wine out of it which is subsequently distilled to form a liquor strong enough to knock out an elephant. The cashew fruit is also used to manufacture cashew candies.

         The cashew nuts are collected when the fruits ripen. Then go to large cashew factories where they are shelled, graded and packed for sale or for export. The cashew shells when heated yield a thick black tar-like oil which the local people use to coat wooden rafters and beams as an efficient organic termite repellant. This resin has also been used since ancient times by boat and ship builders to seal the joints of the wooden hulls to make them watertight.

         Cashew nuts contain antioxidants, essential minerals and vitamins. They are heart friendly and help resist cancer. However, patients suffering from piles should eat cashews only in moderation since overeating can heat up the body and aggravate piles.

         The Konkani people, during the cashew season, prepare delicious Bibbya Upkari at least once a year or more if they can afford it, since shelled green cashews are quite costly. It is generally a matter of prestige to a Konkani family to be able to serve Bibbya Upkari at a wedding feast or some other ceremony to hundreds of guests who anxiously await the arrival of the dish. So superb is the taste of Bibbya Upkari that gourmet or not, nobody can have enough of it. Green cashew kernels can also be used in stews, curries and in Valval. If you have a cashew tree in your compound, be sure to cook and enjoy this recipe.


If shelled green cashews are available, it is better to buy them. If not you can pluck them (see the bottom row in the picture) from your tree.

          You may need at least 100 to 200 nuts for a mid-size family. Cashew nuts turn grey and hard when they are fully mature. They need to be gathered when they are still green but not too soft or tender. This is to ensure that you receive a full grown kernel with a shell that is soft enough to cut into 2 halves. The outer shell contains an oily acid which can burn your skin and stain your clothes, so it is best to wear full sleeved discardable clothes or aprons. Use goggles and kitchen gloves or at least rub your hands with a little vegetable oil before you cut open the cashew nuts. Though you can use the cutting board and the chef knife, it is far better, safer and easier to simply use a rag or old towel folded several times.

          Hold the thickly folded towel in your left hand (if you are right handed), put a nut in the middle with the double curves facing upwards. Take a small, sharp knife in your right hand and press its cutting edge over the curves. Now press the blunt edge of the knife by folding the cloth over it with the fingers of your left hand and split the cashew nut into two equal halves.

Pry out the white kernel together with its inner skin and put it in a basin of water. Let soak overnight. The soaking helps you to remove with ease the thin inner shell or peel which is white on the outside and reddish brown on the inside.

This inner shell, like the outer one, is inedible and needs to be discarded. It is better to put back the clean white kernels in water as the water bath keeps them from browning due to oxidation.


     1)    Green cashew kernels (Bibbo in Konkani) – 400 gm.
     2)    Potatoes – 600 gm.
     3)    Tender ivy gourd (gentleman’s toes, Tendley in Konkani, Kovakka or Koval in Malayalam) – 400 gm.
     4)    Coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter) – 1½ tablespoons
     5)    Mustard seeds – ½ teaspoon
     6)    Dry red chilies – 6 to 8 nos (depending on the heat).
     7)    Salt – 1 teaspoon
     8)    Grated coconut (optional) - of ½ a coconut
     9)    Sugar (optional) – 1 teaspoon
     10)     Water – 300 ml.

To Cook:

          Wash the ivy gourd and cut them lengthwise into quarters. If too big, you can cut them into halves and then divide each half into 3 pieces. Take care to discard ripe ones (they are red inside) as they have a sour, rather unpalatable taste. Peel and wash the potatoes. Cut into juliennes roughly the same size as the gentleman’s toes. Drain the soaked cashew kernels and set aside.

          Break the dry red chilies each into 2 or 3 pieces. Set a cast-iron wok or a non-stick wok or a deep pan on high heat (Bibbya Upkari prepared in a cast iron wok tastes far better and is healthier too). Pour in the coconut oil and throw in the mustard seeds. As soon as they are about to finish popping, put in the broken chilies and stir once or twice. Now tip in the potatoes, the gentleman’s toes and the cashew nuts. Pour in the water and tip in the salt. Stir nicely and cover with lid. As soon as it comes to a boil, stir again and lower the flame. Let the upkari take its own time to cook beautifully on low heat. Stir once every few minutes to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Once the potato is cooked, taste and add more salt if required. Once all the major ingredients are well cooked (they should be soft), remove the lid, turn up the heat, stir and vaporize any water remaining at the base. If you are a coconut lover, sprinkle the grated coconut and stir. Turn off the heat and serve hot with rice.


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