Purtassi Goolgoola Wooranda the Jekyll and Hyde of Fritters

The Purtassi 2020 fasting season for Hindus commences 17 September until 16 October and that too under the lockdown. During this special religious period, Hindu followers observe Saturday prayer during the fasting where prayers are dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Here’s Pravasan Pillay munching on these two delicacies that emerge during the fasting season of Purtassi.

GOOLGOOLAS are one of those staples of Hindu prayer-time that I have a soft spot for. Sure, these deep-fried balls of batter are not the most decadent sweet treats out there, but come time for prayers I can’t stop myself wolfing them down one after the other. Goolgoolas, if made well, is comprised of crispy, brown skin and a light, spongy dough inside. I like them served with a hot cup of tea and eaten alongside other prayer favourites such as vadas and bhajias.

I feel ill just typing out the word “wooranda”. What is it, you ask?

But let’s be honest here, the goolgoola’s continuing popularity within the Indian community has little to do with its taste. It’s basically an Indian version of the humble and rather boring fritter. Instead, I suspect that its popularity has everything to do with its name. I contend it’s impossible to say the word “goolgoola” without smiling or laughing to yourself. It’s just one of those words that are undeniable funny, much like “jalebi” or “gadra beans”.

Find the recipe here

If you’re sceptical you should try it for yourself. Go on, put down this column and that cup of tea and utter “goolgoola” out loud to yourself or the person sitting next to you. Enunciate each syllable or blurt it out really fast.

It doesn’t make a difference how you do it. It’s just pure hilariousness.


If I was a stand-up comedian my act would consist of 30 minutes of myself repeating the word goolgoola to the audience – and I’m sure I would kill it and have them rolling in the aisles.

But, as we well know, the world consists of good and evil. For every thing that brings joy such as the goolgoola there is something that brings pain and suffering. In the case of the goolgoola, the evil to its good, the Joker to its Batman is the wooranda.

I feel ill just typing out the word “wooranda”. What is it, you ask? Wooranda, which is usually prepared for Purtassi prayers, exactly resembles a goolgoola on the outside, but the dough inside has an absolutely disgusting filling.

According to my recipe book that filling consists of gram dhal and elaichi among other ingredients. Gram dhal? Really? In sweet baked goods? And why am I not surprised that elaichi is involved when it comes to a foul-tasting filling?

How could two things that look so similar on the outside be so opposite from each other? It almost sounds like the plot of a B-grade Bollywood movie.

Picture it: twin brothers separated at birth. The one named Goolgoola is a good-hearted, cheerful chap who becomes the top detective in Mumbai while his long-lost brother, Wooranda, evil to his core, slowly works his way up the ladder in the city’s criminal underworld, until one day he’s the big boss. Now these brothers, born from the same batter, will have to put aside their kinship and destroy each other until there is only one fritter standing.

I probably wouldn’t hate woorandas so much if they looked different from goolgoolas.


The problem is that you just can’t tell them apart. I always feel like I’m being tricked into eating them. I can’t count the number of times during prayers that I picked up one of these deep-fried balls, thinking it was a goolgoola, and finding out to my horror after biting into it that it was, in reality, a wooranda. At the very least, can’t we start putting warning signs on woorandas? Perhaps paint on a skull and bones or a few words of caution like they do on cigarette packets. Something simple like: “Eat at your peril.”

So if any of you want to start a petition to clearly label wooranda’s I will be the first to sign it.

This brilliant piece first appeared in the now-defunct Sunday Times Extra. May that South African Sunday paper rest in peace, no matter how much we loved it.

By Pravasan Pillay

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