If you have been to Goa, then you must have tried feni – the local Goan fiery brew made from either cashew or coconut. However, I sincerely doubt that you have had Goan Urak, truly the Taste of Summer.
Having been to Goa for the last 23 years myself, I am ashamed to say that it was only this year that I discovered this local Goan elixir. My friend John Pollard kept raving about it on Twitter. He praised it to high heavens, even going so far as to call it the Taste of Summer !!! I had heard enough and when I went to Goa at the end of March, the first thing I did (okay, maybe not the first!) was to head to my local pub and order myself a bottle of Urak.
Unlike feni, which is clear, Urak which is the first flush of feni is a cloudy beverage with sediment floating at the bottom. Wine lovers may know federwasser or sturm and feni is the Goan, cashew equivalent. While its cloudy character may put off a few, connoisseurs are able to look beyond the cosmetics and accept this natural Goan spirit for what it is.
Goan Urak, unlike feni, is meant to be drunk with Limca or lemonade. While you pour only a quart of feni, Urak servings are a taste more generous, filling almost half the glass, since the volume percent is only 12 – 15 % when compared to around 45 % of feni.
I topped my glass up with chilled Limca or lemonade and took my first, deep gulp.
And I was in seventh heaven!
Truly, Goan Urak was the most amazing thing I had ever tasted in my 25 years ! I love my malt whisky and my Goan feni, but Urak was just something different. It was the Taste of Summer and something beyond.
The head of summer was quite at its zenith but one glass of Urak with lemonade was indeed the cure. The taste of Goan Urak is difficult to describe. It has a pungent aroma of young cashew tinged with a slightly lemony bitterness. But the bitterness is only slight. While the lemonade cuts out most of the bitterness, I found myself searching for the taste of Urak amidst the sweetness of Limca.
I don’t know how Urak does it, but suddenly I didn’t feel the latent heat of the Goan summer anymore. The Urak went down my throat so smoothly that before I knew it, I had finished the bottle and was feeling an eerie sense of bliss!
It was only at around midnight or so that I felt a nice buzz in my head. Later I learnt that Urak, unlike goan feni, does not give you a high immediately. It is only when you sit in front of a fan or let the breeze blow over you on the beach that you feel nice and high.
I enjoyed Goan Urak many more times on that trip to Goa and indeed, sometimes I can still feel the taste of Urak on my tongue.
Ah, the pleasures of Goa!
P.S. Please note that one is not advised to drink Goan Urak and sit on the beach after that. My bartender told me that Urak and the sea breeze can be quite a lethal combination that has indeed led to many deaths. So please stay safe and don’t try this.