Malvani & Konkani Cuisine
Malvani Cuisine is the cuisine of the Konkan region of India situated along the western coast of the country and spreading across Maharashtra and Goa, and the northern part of West Karnataka. The name of the cuisine has been drawn from the name of the Malvan town situated in the Sindhudurg district on the west coast of Maharashtra. Since this cuisine belongs to the Konkan region, it is also referred to as the Konkani cuisine and sometimes it is also referred to as the Malvani and Konkani cuisine. The Malvani & Konkani cuisine is primarily non-vegetarian, but contains a large number of vegetarian dishes. This cuisine, though influenced by the cuisines of Maharashtra and Goa, has a distinct identity of its own.
Since Malvan is a coastal area in Konkan region, the method of cooking food has a coastal touch to it. Coconut being abundantly found in the region, the Malvani & Konkani cuisine uses coconut in various forms, such as grated, dry grated, fried, coconut paste and coconut milk to offer the cuisine a taste of its own. The cuisine is spicy in nature and uses a lot of spices like dried red chilies, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin, cardamom, ginger, garlic, etc. This cuisine also uses a lot of fruits to prepare the dishes. Fruits like kokum, dried kokum (amsul), tamarind and raw mango are effectively used to make the dishes more delectable.
Due to this region’s proximity to sea, fish and sea-food are predominant items in the cuisine of Malvan. The seafood curries are fiercely spicy in nature and yet are very tasty. This characteristic use of spices in the dishes has drawn its influence from the cuisine of Goa or the coastal South Indian cuisine. The uniqueness of the cuisine lies in the fact that it produces a balanced meal to the eater. Along with the meal comprising of fiery hot curries, an appetizer dish called Sol Kadhi is offered to soothe the taste buds. It is made from coconut milk and kokum fruit and its fresh taste and cool feel can make anyone feel relaxed and completely at ease. It is generally served either as an appetizer or as a main course dish. This dish is also known as the kokum kadhi.
But the cuisine also has dishes that are not spicy. Infact they give out a taste that is almost bland and yet succeeds in capturing the taste buds and impressing the palate like no other dish can. The Konkanastha Brahmin style of food is a delight in vegetarian food and can impress anyone with its bland but vey impressive taste.
The main dish and in a way the core of this cuisine is the vegetarian dish called Dalitoy. It is basically a lentil soup that is cooked in almost all Konkani hones. It transcends the barriers of class and economic status to establish itself as the binding factor of this cuisine. The simplicity of this dish and the taste has it brings to the food makes one’s stomach feel contended and the heart longing for more. A typical Konkani meal is considered to be complete when you have rice, dalitoy and upkari, which is a delectable vegetable dish made from vegetables and coconut. Dalitoy is a permanent fixture in the everyday meals of the Konkan region.
The cuisine mainly depends on the local varieties of vegetables and fruits and the seasonal items found in the region. One thing that can be noted about this cuisine is that it does not use dairy products in the recipes. Many recipes are cooked depending on the seasonal produce of the year. The most common items used in the daily cooking of the Malvani cuisine are rice, coconut, lentils, common vegetables like potatoes and onions and of course, spices like red chillies that form an integral part of this cuisine.
The recipes are generally simple combinations of various fresh vegetables, legumes, green leaves and coconut. The main non-vegetarian item is the fish. Meat is still a far second in comparison to the popularity of fish. One reason for this is the region’s closeness to the sea and the availability of various kinds of fresh fish. The other reason is that the Konkan region is dominated by Brahmins who still prefer their meals to be strictly vegetarian. Even onion and garlic is not allowed in the food of such pure vegetarians of the region. It is perhaps in this region of India that one can see the unique feature of a cuisine where the main course serves dishes that are primarily vegetarian and comprises of dishes based on lentils and vegetables and meat is served as a side dish. Fish and seafood dishes are included in the main course as well as side dishes of this cuisine.
The people of the region are adept in adding variety to their food. They have turned their limited resource and the restrictions of seasonal produce to evolve the cuisine into one which boasts of delectable items made with the same kind of vegetables used differently during different times of the year. For instance, mangoes are used in vegetable dishes, to cook dishes made of mangoes only and even as chutneys. They are also used to prepare various kinds of pickles. There are many other such items that are used innovatively by the local people.
There are a few common equipments that are found in the kitchen of any Konkani household. These equipments are used by the women folk of the house on a daily basis in the process of cooking food following traditional methods. A few such essential items are described below:
• Aadoli or Addoli: It is one of the traditional equipments that are used to cut vegetables. It can be used as a chopper as well as a grater.
• Daantey: It is the traditional grinding or milling stone used in the kitchen. It is extensively used to grind spices and other items that are then added to the dishes to enhance their flavor considerably. This tool is also called Zaatey in Goa.
• Chulha: It is cooking equipment that has an open flame and is made up of bricks, cow dung, mud, etc. Generally charcoal, wood, coal or cow dung cakes are added to the traditional chulha as fuel.
The food cooked with such traditional equipments has a flavor of its own and no modern equipment or blenders and mixers can match that flavor produced by the spices grounded freshly in a daantey and added to the dish instantly. Such items are what makes a cuisine stand out from all others in terms of individuality.
Some important dishes of the cuisine are mentioned below.
Main course dishes
• Kombi Vade or Murgh Malvani: It is basically a non-vegetarian dish popular throughout Maharashtra. The dish comprises of the traditional Malvani chicken curry (including chicken pieces with bones), vade (like a puri, which is a fluffy, fried bread of wheat and nachni flour), onion, lemon and the soothing drink of solkadhi.
• Mori Chi Aamti or Shark curry: A popular dish of the people belonging to the Konkan region.
• Solkadhi: It is a special dish that can be served as the appetizer as well as in the main course. While serving it as a main course item the tempering is added to the dish to make it more appealing to the taste buds. It is made from coconut milk and the kokum fruit. This popular item of the Kokum region can be served with steamed rice, a variety of fish dishes and mutton delicacies served in the main course.
• Bangda Fry: This popular dish is basically a fish delicacy where the head of the Bangda (mackerel) fish is rendered useless and the rest of the fish is fried as it is i.e., without making more pieces from the body.
• Malvani Mutton Curry: It is a delectable mutton dish served as a main course item. This dish is a favorite of the people of the Konkan coast. It is characterized by the use of various spices to give a fiery taste to the dish.
• Kavda Curry: This is a tasty dish made from the meat of the local Konkani bird called “Khavda”.
• Bombil Fry or Bombay Duck Fry: It is an extremely popular dish from the Konkan region. It is generally made with lots of spices.
• Paplet Saar: It is a main course item comprising of one of the most popular fishes of the Konkan region, pomfret. Pomfret fish is cooked in Malvani fish curry in the traditional manner and served with steamed rice.
• Phanasachi Bhaji: It is a vegetarian delight of this cuisine. It is made from a combination of jackfruit, chillies and spices and offers a wonderful taste. This dish is also very popular among the locals of the region.
• Kaju Chi Aamti: It is a delectable curry made with cashews and spices. This curry is particularly enjoyed by the people of the Konkani region.
• Fish Koliwada: It is an appetizer which has originated from Mumbai. The unique taste of the dish combined with the amazing flavors can make anyone fall in love with this item.
Breads and cakes
• Dhondas or Cucumber Cake: It is an extremely tasty preparation baked from cucumber and jaggery.
• Ghavan: It is a pancake having a net-like appearance and is enjoyed hugely by the people.
• Khaproli: It is a sweet dish having a huge following in this coastal region. It comprises of a lightweight pancake dipped in sweetened and yellow colored syrup.
• Tandalachi Bhakri: This item is made from rice flour and is popular throughout the region.
• Malvani Malpua: It is a sweet item deep fried in oil and is popularly liked by the people during the month of Ramzaan, when the people of the Muslim community observe fast throughout the days.