“There is no sincerer love than the love for food” - George Bernard Shaw
The Konkan belt, dotted with beautiful beaches and ancient forts, stretches from Thane in Maharashtra right up to Mangalore in Karnataka. With influences from Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, the region is known to offer some of the best mouth-watering delicacies in the country!
Though Konkani food is popularly known for its non-vegetarian dishes, its lesser-known vegetarian dishes are equally noteworthy and are gaining in fame and popularity. What’s noteworthy is that vegetarian dishes (influenced by the Konkanastha brahmin style of cooking ) tend to be less spicy than the non-vegetarian ones.
Konkani food is usually prepared in two different styles - Karwar and Malvani.
The Karwar style of Konkan food, with its liberal use of fresh coconut, is influenced by Kerala and Karnataka food, while the Malvani style is closer to Goan or Maharashtrian styles. The Malvani style of Konkan cuisine also uses coconut liberally. However, the use of kokum, tamarind and raw mango is what differentiates it from the Karwar style of cooking. The Malvani masala is in fact a combination of around 15-16 coarsely ground spices that don’t necessarily render the dish spicy.
Here is a list of some of the delicious Konkani dishes that you may have tried without realising their history and origin:
1. Sol Kadhi or Kokum kadhi
Sol Kadhi is a mildly spiced drink made from kokum (mangosteen) and coconut milk, and is the most commonly found beverage in the Konkan belt. Owing to its digestive properties, Sol Kadhi is usually had at the end of a meal. It can be spiced using cumin seeds, coriander and even garlic. Simply put, it is the South Indian equivalent of the popularly known Chaach that is consumed in North India.
Kokum, when steeped in water and spiced with cumin or coriander, can be served without coconut milk as Kokum Sherbet. The pink colour of the drink and the tangy flavour derived from kokum makes for a delicious and refreshing drink.
2. Bombil Fry
Bombil, also known as Bombay Duck, is a popular variety of fish that is found and consumed in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. Why the fish is known as the ‘Bombay Duck’ is a mystery with several debatable theories! The fish is usually marinated in a combination of spices and then coated with rava (coarse semolina) before it is fried and served as a snack along with lemon wedges.
Patholi is a thin rice pancake that is rolled, filled with desiccated coconut and jaggery, wrapped in turmeric or banana leaves and then steamed. This aromatic and flavourful dessert is served along with dollops of ghee and is relished on festive days that fall during the monsoon season.
Airavat is a chutney made from a combination of tamarind, jaggery, ginger and dates. It is popularly enjoyed during festivals, ceremonies and weddings as a tangy and delicious accompaniment.
5. Bharli Vangi
This is a stuffed eggplant dish that has its variations across different parts of the Konkan region. The dish is typically made using the spicy Malvani masala along with roasted peanuts. However, some variations also consist of poppy seeds, sesame seeds and niger seeds in the gravy. The Karwar style of cooking Bharli Vangi comprises a milder coconut-based gravy.
Kadamb, also known as Dhondas is the Konkani take on South Indian idlis. It is prepared using rice flour, jaggery, cucumber and coconut. These Konkani idlis are steamed in turmeric or banana leaves, garnished with mustard seeds and enjoyed at breakfast along with a wide variety of chutneys.
Just like the Kadamb, Kolombo is the Konkani answer to sambhar. However, the Konkani sambhar is quite different from the typically Tamilian sambhar in the way that a lot more vegetables go into the making of this dish unlike the typical sambhar. It is also spicier and lot more flavourful than sambhar.
8. Clams Masala
One cannot talk about Konkani food without talking about seafood. Clams are widely used in Konkani cooking and clams masala, in particular, is a famous Konkani delicacy. Clams can be of three types - Khubbe, Tisre and Kalva Sukke. Khubbe clams are those that do not have lines on the shell, Tisre clams have several lines on the shell and Kalva are those that are found on big stones on the seashore. Clams masala is typically prepared using the Kalva Sukke variety but the other varieties are also used nowadays. The masala for the dish is prepared using coconut and other spices and can be eaten either as a gravy dish or in a dry/semi dry form.
Influenced by the Portuguese style of cooking, Sorpotel is a tangy and spicy pork curry wherein the meat is made with a lot of red chillies, spices and vinegar. Interestingly, the curry develops its full flavour and tastes even better after three to four days of preparation! Sorpotel is usually served during weddings and other festivities and is served along with rice or sannas (fermented and steamed savoury rice cakes)
Xacuti pronounced as ‘Shakuti’ is derived from the Portuguese word ‘Chacuti’. Xacuti is the name given to any gravy that is made using red chillies, poppy seeds, coconut, onion, cinnamon, tamarind and nutmeg. Chicken, prawn and pork are popularly added in the rich aromatic Xacuti gravy and had along with bread or rice.
Ambot can be literally broken up into ‘Ambot’, which means sour and ‘Tik’, which means spicy. The gravy is made with a lot of masalas, tamarind and chillies and is usually made for shark fish but can even be found in vegetarian versions. The Ambotik is best enjoyed with rice, appams and sannas.
Similar in appearance to the Kolombo, the Khatkhate is the most commonly found mixed vegetable curry in the region. It is made using at least five seasonal vegetables, grated coconut, jaggery, kokum, triphala and spices. Khatkhate goes best with rice and is commonly feasted on during weddings and other festivities.
Is your mouth watering as yet? A quick getaway to the Konkan region or cooking some of these lesser-known delicious Konkani dishes is definitely on the cards for us this weekend!