Maharashtrian cuisine at once reminds most of us of the typical Mumbaiya snacks like bhel, sabudana kichdi, pav bhaji and vada pav, which are immensely popular throughout India.
However, apart from these delightful goodies, Maharashtra has its own distinctive cuisine. Spicy and tangy like the food served in most of the other Indian states, Maharashtrian cuisine is mostly vegetarian and has an elaborate spread even on a day-to-day basis.
The first course of a typical Maharashtrian meal generally begins with bhaat (rice), varan (plain tur dal seasoned with ghee, cumin and mustard seeds) and tup (ghee). This is followed with amti, which is basically a curry. Amti, which is generally served with rice could be a lal bhopla amti (red pumpkin curry), pancha ras amti (mixed vegetable curry) or katachi amti (chana dal). The other delicacy that goes with the above is kadi.
Along with rice, wheat is also a predominant feature of Maharashtrian diet. Without bhakri (bajra or jawar roti) a meal is not considered complete. Chapatis usually complement a fried vegetable bhaji. A a leafy vegetable like spinach or methi is typically served with brinjal (e.g bharleli vyaganychi bhaji). Every Mahrashtra Meal is finished off with butter milk or curd rice. As with the other Indian states, every meal includes a range of condiments such as pappadams, pickles and chutneys will be served.
Maharashtra also has its share of desserts like kheer, shreekhand and basundi, and with the arrival of the festive season one can find an abundance of sweets in every Maharashtrian home.
Some of the important Maharashtrian festivals are Ganesh Chaturthi, Gudi Padwa (New Year), Diwali, Holi, Gokul Asthami and Nag Panchami, during which not only does one get to savour the choicest of delicacies but also witnesses a reunion of families and lot of fun and gaiety.
Some of the best Maharashtrian festival dishes are masala vangi, khamang kakdi, varan (a type of dal), cauliflower vatana rassa, mixed vegetable bhajis (mixed deep-fried vegetables), shrikand, kheer, basundi & modak.
Maharastrians, in accord with the other Indian states, pay a lot of attention to the presentation of food. Generally, rice is served in a taat or a plate and the curries are served in different vaatis or bowls. At festival time the presentation becomes even more important. The platter (taat), has white flowers around it and is decorated with various arrangements of rangoli. Food is served amidst religious chants and the aroma of incense sticks compliments that of the food, creating a most wonderful ambience.
Here is a recipe for stuffed brinjal, which is a typical Maharashtrian meal. Other typical meals include khamang kakdi, cauliflower vatana rassa, mixed bhaji, dry fruit sweet usal, shrikhand.
14 small brinjals
2 cups grated dried coconut
2 sliced onions
1 chopped onion
½ cup cashew nuts
1tbsp coriander leaves
1tsp turmeric powder
2 tsps chilli powder
¼ cup tamarind juice
½ cup oil
Salt to taste
Fry cloves, peppercorns, coriander seeds till brown, and then add sliced onions and dry coconut.
Fry till it becomes brown.
Cool the mixture and grind it into a fine paste.
Add turmeric, chilli powder, tamarind juice, chopped onions, coriander leaves, cashew nuts and salt.
Slit the brinjals into four, without removing the stem and fill the mixture.
Heat oil and deep fry.