Jul 11, 2014

Maharashtra: One State, Many Cuisines

The Indian state of Maharashtra is located to the west of the country. With Mumbai as its capital, Maharashtra is India’s wealthiest and most developed state – and its residents take their food very seriously. Food is considered equivalent to God and traditionally offerings are made at mealtimes. The cuisine of the state is divided into segments based on the region and city, but there are some key ingredients that are common in all food across the state. These include peanuts, cashews, coconuts, seasonal vegetables and grains such as bajra and jowar.

Another characteristic that is common in the cuisine of Maharashtra is that food is often bitter in taste. This is due to the use of tamarind and kokam, which is balanced out with a subtle sweetness of gur. In addition, ghee, peanut oil, groundnut oil, ginger and garlic are all staple ingredients in kitchens across Maharashtra. The culinary regions of the state all have their own unique style and tradition.

The historic city of Kolhapur is highly regarded for its cuisine – especially its speciality mutton dishes. The ancient Kolhapuri cuisine features two curries of particular noteworthiness – tambada rassa and pandhara rassa. The former is a red curry made using powdered red chillies, and the latter is a white curry, a soup-like dish made from mutton stock, ginger, garlic and coconut milk, as well as spices such as cinnamon and coriander. It is served as a starter but is also believed to have medicinal uses to help cure coughs and sore throats. A Kolhapuri thali will typically include hot and fiery dishes. These might include fried fish, kharda (minced green chillies lightly fried with chopped garlic) and bread such as bhakri. 

Move further west and you come to the coastal Malvani region. Cuisine of this region is part of the wider Konkani cuisine, which favours fish, seafood, coconut and spices. All types of coconut are used in the food of the region – dried, fresh, paste or milk – and the dishes are generally made spicy with generous helpings of chillies (and other spices). The heat from Malvani cuisine is balanced by a drink called sol kadhi, made from kokam fruit and coconut milk.

In central Maharashtra you will find the Varadi region – again keen on its spicy cuisine. Signature dishes of the area include zunkar bhakar, pathawadi and vada bhat and recipes often include powdered coconut, daal and besan (gram flour).

Finally, we come to Parsi cuisine – an integral part of Marathi cuisine with a large Parsi population living in the state. No meal is complete without rice, potatoes and a helping of the famous kachumbar salad. Some particularly popular Parsi dishes are patra ni machhi (fish and green chutney steamed in a banana leaf), khichdi (rice and lentils), and jardaloo sali boti (lamb with apricots and almonds).

For a taste of the food of Maharashtra you can book a table at one of London’s fine-dining Indian restaurants. Here the chefs will be able to produce dishes identical to those served in Maharashtra by cooks who know these authentic recipes like the back of their hands.

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