Living in Mumbai, which is a cosmopolitan city, I haven’t been too exposed to the traditional Maharashtrian cuisine. In fact, one has to literally scavenge through the city to find the best of the cuisine, and no, I am not talking about the much popular cousin: Vada Pav. So when I heard that a popular hotel here is hosting a Maharashtrian Food Festival, I wished to try it out.
Here’s what I learnt from my interaction with Chef Rupesh of The Earth Plate at Sahara Star Hotel, Mumbai:
Maharashtrian cuisine has a distinctive attributes of it’s own but also shares much with the wider Indian cuisine. Whole grains such as wheat, millet, rice, jowar and bajra are staples along with seasonal vegetables, peanuts and coconut. The diversity in the Maharashtrian community results in diversity of the cuisine too which changed from household to household. Most Maharashtrians are non-vegetarians but the Brahmins are mostly vegetarians. The traditional food on Desh (Deccan Plateau) is usually bhakri (flat unleavened bread made of jowar or bajra), spiced cooked vegetables, dal and rice, whereas in the Konkan region rice and coconut, coconut milk form the staple and the Malvani food is pre-dominantly non-vegetarian.
There are a lot of chutneys which form a major part of the cuisine as accompaniment. These usually include raw mango chutney, mint, Tamarind chutney, Cilantro, panchamrit, and mirachi cha thecha. Dry chutneys include those based on oil seeds such as flax seed, peanut, sesame, coconut and karale (Niger seed). Chutney based on skin of roasted vegetables such as bottle gourd (dudhi) is also popular. All chutneys usually have green or red chilli pepper for their hot taste. Garlic is also added in many chutney recipes.
Moving on to desserts, typical Maharashtrian sweets include lentil and jaggery mix, stuffed flat bread called puran poli, a preparation made from strained yogurt, sugar and spices called shrikhand, a sweet milk preparation made with evaporated milk called basundi, semolina and sugar based kheer, and steamed dumplings stuffed with coconut and jaggery called modak. Traditionally, these desserts were associated with a particular festival, for example, modak is prepared during the Ganpati Festival.
Overall, I loved every bit of food that I tasted in the food festival and would recommend it to everyone.
Do visit Sahara Star Hotel in Mumbai for their ongoing Maharashtrian Food Festival.
Here’s a quick visual glimpse at all that I tasted yesterday: