Spice Up Your Life! 30

(This column brings you information on various spices, fruits and vegetables, along with recipes and home remedies. Readers are cautioned to use remedies with discretion)


Tirphal (Zanthoxylum rhetsa, Zanthoxylum limonella), or teppal, is grown in Goa and the forests of the Western Ghats. It comes from the same family (Rutaceae) as the well-known Szechuan pepper. Even though it looks similar to the peppercorn, it is does not belong to this family. It is a fruit that grows in bunches on a thorn-filled tree. The fruit is dried, leading to the green outer part (husk) turning a brownish black colour and opening up. The husk is used in cooking, while the seed is discarded.

Although part of dishes such as fish curry and lentil and bean dishes, tirphal itself should not be consumed when eating the meal. It is used for its lemony-woody flavour without excessive spice. Consumed in excess, it can have a sharp taste and a numbing effect. It can be lightly toasted before adding it to a dish.

Tribes in India have used parts of the tree from which teppal is obtained for medicinal purposes.

  • Tribal people are known to use the chewed bark on snake bites.
  • Chemicals in the bark give it antiseptic and antimicrobial properties.
  • Its anti-inflammatory property allows it to be used to alleviate rheumatism, toothaches and skin problems.
  • Used in cooking, the fruit helps in digestion.
  • A decoction of the bark of the trunk or root acts as a diuretic and flushes out toxins from the kidneys.
  • A paste of the prickly thorns of the tree can be applied to relieve women of pain in the breasts and increase lactation.
  • The bark is also used as an aphrodisiac.
  • Components of the tree have been traditionally used for its antidiabetic and antispasmodic properties.

Portuguese-Goan Recipes

Caldo (serves 4-5)

Ingredients: 6 cups of beef or chicken stock, 2 tsp of cornflour, 1 ½ cup of milk, 1 Maggi cube, ¾ tsp of butter, and salted biscuits or crackers (optional).

Method: Take a saucepan and dissolve the cornflour in ¼ cup of water. Add the milk, stock, Maggi cube and butter. Stir these in with salt to taste. Then place the saucepan on the fire and allow the caldo to boil while stirring continuously. Do this for about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve the caldo in bowls or cups with crushed salted biscuits or crackers sprinkled on top.

Fish Mayonnaise (serves 4-5)

Ingredients: ½ kg seer fish or salmon, 4 eggs, 4 medium potatoes, 6 medium bell peppers, 1 medium beetroot, 4 medium carrots, 500 gm of mayonnaise (fresh or readymade), ¼ tsp of pepper powder, 1 tsp of mustard powder, 1 tablespoon of salad or olive oil, salt to taste and 1 tsp of vinegar.

Method: Hard boil the eggs and keep aside. Finely dice the potatoes, beetroot and carrots, and boil them. Cut the bell peppers into slim rings.

Remove the head and tail of the fish, boil them and set them aside. Then boil the rest of the fish in ¾ cup of water with salt and vinegar on a low flame until the water evaporates. Let the fish cool. Then remove the bones and skin. Flake the flesh of the fish.

Peel and cut the hard boiled eggs. Remove the yolks and mix them with ¾ of the freshly prepared or ready-made mayonnaise, salad or olive oil, mustard powder, mustard and salt. To this mayonnaise and yolk mix add the finely chopped egg whites and potatoes.

Shape this mixture into the body of a fish in a flat dish, adding the boiled head and tail at respective ends. Cover the dish evenly with the rest of the mayonnaise. Place the bell pepper rings on the fish like scales and decorate the fish with the beetroot and carrots around the fish.



Ginger tea without milk or just ginger powder mixed in boiled water can alleviate the pain of a headache.

Peppermint oil (5 drops) mixed in 2 tbsp of almond oil or coconut oil can be massaged into the temples, scalp and back of the neck as a remedy for headaches. You can also steep 1 tsp of dry peppermint leaves in water and drink it to reduce the pain.