Of misal and vada pao

May 2016

By Naini Setalvad

While the street food of Maharashtra has travelled far and wide, the healthy and nutritious everyday fare of this region is less known. Naini Setalvad explores


As a child, our kitchen was run by Hira mausi and Gaya ben, one from the Konkan region and another from Vidharbha, and so I became very familiar with Maharashtrian cuisine, especially since I live in Mumbai. One of the most remarkable aspects of the cuisine is its diversity, based on the various different communities, castes, classes and regions of this large state measuring over 300,000 kms.

Here are some of the dominant communities and their distinctive foods:
Pathare Prabhu: This community from Mumbai has a very distinctive cuisine. It is spicy using onion, garlic, red chili with a small amount of coconut. Some popular dishes are battatyachi popti (fried potato chips), aluwadi (colocasia leaves with gram flour paste steamed and fried ), bombil (Bombay duck), kolambi (prawns similar to a Sheppard’s pie), sabudana wada (fried sago balls). The sweet dishes are appe (fried semolina with sugar) and basundi (sweet made from thickened milk). They commonly use ghaati masala (dry spicy chutney using dry coconut, salt and spices).

CKP or Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu incorporated foods from the different rulers of India as they worked as diwans (administrative heads of states). Their cuisine was influenced by the British as well as the Muslims. Kheema chi wadi is mince mutton and potato patties flavoured with onions and coriander, dipped in egg batter, rolled in bread crumbs and fried. They love fish, chicken as well as mutton, and are predominately non vegetarian though they use kadve vaal (bitter cluster beans or its pulse). The use of poppy seeds, and tamarind is quite common. They favour rice and rice rotis. Brinjal is a popular vegetable. A common snack is thalipeeth (lentil and grain flour bhakri(thick roti). A popular sweet is tel poli (wheat roti stuffed with jaggery and sesame)

Saraswat Goan: This community hails from Goa. They use a lot  of coconut, coconut milk, cashew nuts, tamarind, and curry leaves. The food is less spicy than that of the other communities. Being Brahmins, they are primariy vegetarian, though the coastal influence has predisposed them to fish. Influenced by Mangalorean, Portuguese and Goan Catholic cuisines, they use locally grown vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, sprouts, lentils and fish. Rice is the predominant grain and they make rice bhakris (thick roti). The tamato saar (curry) is distinctively a Saraswat Brahmin curry. Coconut-based sweets are popular.

Marathawada area: This spreads over Aurangabad, Nanded, Hingoli, Parbhani, and Latur. The cuisine here is influenced by the North as Moghul rule was prevalent here. Pulaos and biryanis, bread and rotis  made in tandoors and mutton-based curries are quite common in this area. The most popular sweet is
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