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Cuisine Of Maharashtra

INTRODUCTION 

The culture of Maharashtra, which reveals itself in many ways, is also reflected in its local cuisine. Though most people are not very familiar with Maharashtrian cuisine and it has yet to find its way into five-star kitchens, there does exist a large and interesting culinary repertoire.

STATE

Overlooking the vast expanse of the Arabian Sea is the western state of Maharashtra, which presents a strong blend of the traditional and the contemporary—each co-existing with the other with surprising ease.

INFLUENCES

The cuisine of Maharashtra has its own distinctive flavors and tastes. It can be divided into two major sections–the coastal and the interior. A major portion of Maharashtra, which lies on the coast of the Arabian Sea, is loosely called the Konkan and boasts of its own Konkani cuisine, which is a homogeneous combination of Malvani, Gaud Saraswat Brahmin, and Goan cuisines. Besides the coastal cuisine, the interior of Maharashtra—the Vidarbha area, has its own distinctive cuisine known as the Varadi cuisine.

 

STAPLE FOOD

As in most of the other states of India, rice is the staple food grain in Maharashtra too. Like the other coastal states, there is an enormous variety of vegetables in the regular diet and lots of fish and coconuts are used.

Grated coconuts spice many kinds of dishes, but coconut oil is not very widely used as a cooking medium. Peanuts and cashew nuts are widely used in vegetables and peanut oil is the main cooking medium. Another feature is the use of kokum, a deep purple berry that has a pleasing sweet and sour taste. Kokum, most commonly used in an appetizer-digestive called the sol kadhi, is served chilled.

 

METHODS

Maharashtrian meals are scientifically planned and cooked—the golden rule being that the cooking medium must not be seen. The vegetables are more or less steamed and lightly seasoned so as to retain their nutritional value. There is almost no deep frying and roasting. Coconut is used in cooking and as an embellishment. Jaggery and tamarind are used in most vegetables or lentils so that the food has a sweet and sour flavor while the kala masala (special blend of spices) is added to make the food piquant. As opposed to the coastal cuisine, where fresh coconut is added to the dishes, in the Vidarbha region, powdered coconut is used for cooking.

SPECIALTIES

Among seafood, the most popular fish is bombil or the Bombay duck, which is normally served batter fried and crisp. Bangda or mackerel is another popular fish in coastal Maharashtra. It is curried with red chilies, ginger and triphal. Pomfret is another popular fish eaten barbecued, stuffed, fried or curried. Pamphlet triphal ambat is a traditional dish in which fish is cooked in creamy coconut gravy that greatly enhances its taste.

Besides fish, crabs, prawns, shellfish and lobsters are also relished by the coastal Maharashtrians. A popular prawn dish is the sungtachi-hinga kodi, which consists of prawns in coconut gravy, blended with spices and asafetida.

In the vegetarian fare, the most popular vegetables are brinjals. A popular style of cooking brinjals is bharlivangi or baby brinjals stuffed with coconut. Another typical dish is the Pachadi, which is tender brinjals cooked with green mangoes and flavored with coconut and jaggery. Besides, common vegetables are greatly relished by the Maharashtrians. A typical dish is the patal bhaji, which is a sweet and sour dish flavored with groundnuts.

All non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes are eaten with boiled rice or with bhakris, which are soft rotis made of rice flour. Special rice puris called vada and amboli, which is a pancake made of fermented rice, urad dal, and semolina, are also eaten as a part of the main meal.

Maharashtrian fare is incomplete without papads, which are eaten roasted or fried. A typical feature is the masala papad in which finely chopped onions, green chilies and chat masala are sprinkled over roasted or fried papads.

The most popular dessert of Maharashtra is the puran poli, which is roti stuffed with a sweet mixture of jaggery and gram flour and is made at the time of the Maharashtrian New Year. Other popular sweets are the ukdiche modak, the panpole ras, and the shreekhand.

Distinguishing features of the Varadi cuisine are the dishes made of besan (gram flour) like zunka bhakar and pathawadi and the vada-bhat. Non-vegetarian food is also very popular in this region. As seafood is not easily available here, chicken and mutton are commonly cooked.

SPECIAL OCCASIONS

In Maharashtra, festivals and food go together. During Ganesh Utsav, every Maharashtrian welcomes Lord Ganesh into his home and offers Modak–a favorite sweetmeat of Lord Ganesh that is made only during this festival. It has a rice flour casting that is fashioned like a large flower bud and stuffed with freshly granted coconut cooked with jaggery. The modak is placed on lightly greased banana leaves and steamed.

Shreekhand, a sort of thick yogurt sweet dish, is a great favorite at weddings and the Dussehra festival. Flavored with cardamom powder and saffron, this aromatic dish is served with piping hot puris. Traditionally, a wedding feast has to have five sweet delicacies of which a motichur laddu (sweetmeat balls made of gram flour) is a must.

 

HOW TO EAT WHAT

In Maharashtra, even an everyday meal consists of several accompaniments that are set out in a particular manner in the taat (platter). The taat vadhany (method of setting food on the platter) is an art. It starts with a bit of salt at the top center of the taat. On its left is set a small piece of lemon. Then follows the chatni (spicy accompaniment made of ground coconut and green chilies), koshimbir (salad), bharit (lightly cooked or raw vegetable in yogurt) in that order. The vegetable with gravy never precedes the dry vegetable because the gravy will run into it. Once everyone is seated the woman of the house will serve the rice, pour a little toop (clarified butter) and varan (lentil) on it and then the meal begins after a short thanksgiving.

The people of Maharashtra are known for aesthetic presentation of food. In formal meals, the guests sit on floor rugs or red wooden seats and eat from silver or metal thalis and bowls, placed on a raised chowrang, a short decorative table. To avoid mixing of flavors, each guest is given a bowl of saffron scented water to dip fingers in before starting to eat the next delicacy.

EATING OUT

Snacking is a favorite pastime of this city of Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra. Chaat is probably the most widely eaten food in the city, followed by bhelpuri, pani puri, pav bhaji, and dosai.

For those looking for non-vegetarian snacks, there are the Muslim kebabs, baida roti (an egg roti stuffed with minced meat), tandoori chicken, seekh kebabs, and fish koliwada.

In Mumbai, the paan culture has been raised to an art form. An example of this is the Cold and Sweet paan in which the sweet filling is chilled.

 

 
   
 
 
 

 


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