Maharashtra’s culinary map holds out fresh surprises at every stop in the sweep over hills, plains and coast. But all these offerings converge on one signature quality: khamang. The word, many will say, is hard to translate, the experience however, graciously yields itself to the discerning culinary bounty hunter.
A while back, I believe I had successfully picked out a signature taste that appeared in some of my favourite Maharashtrian savoury foods. Could it be the spice mix, goda masala, which animates many a Marathi curry? But I have yet to establish whether it is this magic mix or a combination of other factors, not least of which is a certain care in preparation and presentation.
Maharashtrian cuisine is high on taste and nutrition yet delicately flavoured, with each ingredient making its presence felt. A normal lunch or dinner usually begins with poli or chapati made of wheat or bajra, accompanied with one or more bhajis or cooked vegetables and the absolutely essential koshimbir or vegetable raita, along with side dishes. Sada varan (mild dal) or amti (a spicy dal), rassa (curry with gravy) and rice follow in the second course.
Maharashtrian recipes range from mild to spicy: from the plain dal or varan to the fiery Kolhapuri mutton, spicy chicken like kombdi rassa and Malvani seafood like mori masala. Kokum is regionally favoured over tamarind as a souring agent in meals. The use of jaggery, coconut and curry leaves also adds distinct touches to Marathi food.
On the occasion of the month-long Maharashtra Day celebrations at ITC Maratha, dig your heels into all this and more – there’s bangda/mackerel fish fry, Bombil fry (fried Bombay duck fish), paplet saar (pomfret curry), usal (a sprouts-based dish), fish koliwada and tandalachi bhakri (rice flour roti). Wash it all down with sol kadhi, a pink drink made from the kokum fruit and coconut milk, which can be had as appetiser before or even during a meal. It is also a must-have finale to a particularly hot and spicy Konkani/Malvani meal. Of course it wouldn’t be complete without a good sweet dish such as the unmissable Malvani malpua.
Here’s what you will say at the end of it all: Khamang.
For more information, please visit the Gourmet Guide.