Maharashtrian or Marathicuisine is the cuisine of the Marathi people from the Indian state of Maharashtra. It has distinctive attributes, while sharing much with other Indian cuisines. Traditionally, Maharashtrians have considered their food to be more austere than others.
The urban population in metropolitan cities such as Mumbai, Pune and others has been influenced from other parts of India and abroad. For example, the Udupi dishes idli and dosa, as well as Chinese and Western dishes, are quite popular in home cooking and in restaurants.
Distinctly Maharashtrian dishes include ukdiche modak, aluchi patal bhaji and Thalipeeth.
Occupying a vast area with distinct geographical differences and food availability, the Marathi people from different regions produced a diverse cuisine.The diversity extends to the family level because each family uses its own unique combination of spices.The majority of Maharashtrians eat meat and eggs, but the Brahmin community is mostly lacto-vegetarian.
The traditional staple food on Desh (the Deccan plateau) is usually bhakri, spiced cooked vegetables, dal and rice. However, North Maharashtrians and urbanites prefer roti or chapati, which is a plain bread made with wheat flour.
In the coastal Konkan region, rice is the traditional staple food. Wet coconut and coconut milk are used in many dishes. Marathi communities indigenous to Mumbai and North Konkan have their own distinct cuisine.[note 1] In South Konkan, near Malvan, another independent cuisine developed called Malvani cuisine, which is predominantly non-vegetarian. Kombdi vade, fish preparations and baked preparations are more popular there.
In the Vidarbha region, little coconut is used in daily preparations but dry coconut and peanuts are used in dishes such as spicy savjis, as well as in mutton and chicken dishes.
Lacto-vegetarian dishes are based on six main class of ingredients including grains, legumes, vegetables, dairy products and spices.
Staple dishes are based on a variety of flatbreads and rice. Flatbreads can be wheat-based, such as the traditional trigonal ghadichi poli or the round chapati that is more common in urban areas. Bhakri is an unleavened bread made using from ragi or millet, bajra or bajri orjwari – and forms part of daily meals in rural areas.
Traditionally, the staple grains of the inland Deccan plateau have been millets, jwari and bajri. These crops grow well in this dry and drought-prone region. In the coastal Konkan region the finger millet called ragi is used for bhakri. The staple meal of the rural poor was traditionally as simple as bajra bhakri accompanied by just a raw onion, a dry chutney, or a gram flour preparation called jhunka. This meal has now become popular as street food in Maharashtra.
Increased urbanization has increased wheat's popularity. Wheat is used for making flatbreads called chapati, trigonal ghadichi poli , the deep-fried version called puri or the thick paratha. Wheat is also used in many stuffed flatbreads such as Puran poli, Gul poli (with sesame and Jaggery stuffing), and Satorya (with sugar and khoya (dried milk)). Wheat flatbreads are also made with vegetable stuffings such as peas, potatoes and Gram dal. One of the ancient sought-after breads was Mande. As with rice, flatbreads accompany a meal of vegetables or dairy items.
Bhatwadhi, a spoon for serving rice
Rice is the staple food in the rural areas of coastal Konkan region but is popular in all urban areas. Local varieties such as the fragrant ambemohar have been popular in Western Maharashtra. In most instances, rice is boiled on its own and becomes part of a meal that includes other items. A popular dish is varan bhaat where steamed rice is mixed with plain dal that is prepared with pigeon peas, lemon juice, salt and ghee.Khichdi is a popular rice dish made with rice, mung dal and spices. For special occasions, a dish called masalebhat made with rice, spices and vegetables is popular.
Milk is important as a staple food. Both cow milk and water buffalo milk are popular. Milk is used mainly for drinking, to add to tea or coffee or to make homemade dahi (yogurt).Traditionally, yogurt is made every day using previous day's yogurt as the starting bacterial culture to ferment the milk.The yogurt is used as dressing for many salad or koshimbir dishes, to prepare cultured buttermilk or as a side dish in a thali. Buttermilk is used in a drink called mattha by mixing it with spices. It may also be used in curry preparations. Milk is also the starting material for butter and Ghee (clarified butter)
Common vegetables used as seen on a market cart in Pune
Until recently, canned or frozen food was not widely available in India. Therefore, the vegetables used in a meal widely depended on the season. For example, in Maharashtra spring (March–May) is the season of cabbages, onions, potatoes, okra, guar and tondali,shevgyachya shenga, dudhi, marrow and padwal. During the Monsoon season (June–September) green leafy vegetables, such as aloo (Marathi: आळू), or gourds such as karle, dodka and eggplant become available. Chili peppers, carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower, French beans and peas become available in the cooler climate of October to February.
Vegetables are typically used in making bhaajis. Some bhaajis are made with a particular vegetable, while others are made with a combination. Bhaajis can be "dry" such as stir fry or "wet" as in the well-known curry. For example, fenugreek leaves can be used withmung dal or potatoes to make a dry bhhaji or mixed with besan flour and buttermilk to make a curry preparation.Bhaaji requires the use of goda masala, consisting of a combination of onion, garlic, ginger, red chilli powder, green chillies, turmeric and mustard seeds. Depending on a family's caste or specific religious tradition, onions and garlic may be excluded. For example, a number of Hindu communities from many parts of India refrain from eating onions and garlic altogether during chaturmas, which broadly equals the monsoon season.
Many vegetables are used in salad preparations called koshimbirs or raita. Most of these have dahi (yogurt) as the other main ingredient. Popular Koshimbirs include those based on radish, cucumber and tomato-onion combinations. Many raita require prior boiling or roasting of the vegetable as in the case of eggplant. Popular raita include those based on carrots, eggplant, pumpkin, dudhi and beetroot respectively.
Along with green vegetables, another class of popular food is various beans, either whole or split. Split beans are called dal and turned into amti (thin lentil soup), or added to vegetables such as dudhi. Dal may be cooked with rice to make khichadi. Whole beans are cooked as is or more popularly soaked in water until sprouted. Unlike Chinese cuisine, the beans are allowed to grow for only a day or two. Curries made out of sprouted beans are called usal and form an important source of proteins. The legumes popular in Maharastrian cuisine include peas, chick peas, mung, matki, urid, kidney bean, black-eyed peas, kulith and toor (also called pigeon peas). Out of the above toor and chick peas are staples. The urid bean is the base for one of the most popular types of papadum''.
Chicken and goat are the most popular sources for meat in Maharashtrian cuisine. Eggs are popular and exclusively come from chicken sources. Beef and pork are mainly consumed by Christian minorities and some Dalit communities. However, these do not form part of traditional Maharashtrian cuisine.
Other ingredients include oil seeds such as flax, karale, coconut, peanuts, almonds and cashew nuts. Peanut powder and whole nuts are used in many preparations including, chutney, khosimbir and bhaaji. More-expensive nuts (almonds and cashew) are used for sweet dishes. Flax and karale seeds are used in making dry chutneys. Traditionally, sugar cane based jaggery was used as the sweetening agent, but has been largely replaced by refined cane sugar. Fruit such as mango are used in many preparations including pickles, jams, drinks and sweet dishes. Bananas and jackfruit
are also used in many dishes.
Urban menus typically have wheat in the form of chapatis and plain rice as the main staples. Traditional rural households would have millet in form of bhakri on the Deccan plains and rice on the coast as respective staples.
Typical breakfast items include misal, pohe, upma, sheera, sabudana khichadi and thalipeeth. In some households leftover rice from the previous night is fried with onions, turmeric and mustard seeds for breakfast, making phodnicha bhat. Typical Western breakfast items such as cereals, sliced bread and eggs, as well as South Indian items such as idli and dosa are also popular. Tea or coffee is served with breakfast.
Urban lunch and dinner menus
A Maharashtrian vegetarian meal with a variety of items
Vegetarian lunch and dinner plates in urban areas carry a combination of:
Aamti or varan soup based on toor dal, other dals or kadhi. When usal is part of the menu, the aamti may be omitted.
Vegetables with gravy based on seasonal availability such as egg plants, okra, potatoes, or cauliflower
Dry leafy vegetables such as spinach
Usal based on sprouted or unsprouted whole legumes
Apart from bread, rice, and chutney, other items may be substituted. Families that eat meat, fish and poultry may combine vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, with rice and chapatis remaining the staples. Vegetable or non-vegetable items are essentially dips for the bread or for mixing with rice.
Traditional dinner items are arranged in a circular way. With salt placed at 12 o'clock, pickles, koshimbir and condiments are placed anti-clockwise of the salt. Vegetable preparations are arranged in a clockwise fashion with a sequence of leafy greens curry, dry vegetables, sprouted been curry (usal ) and dal. Rice is always on the periphery rather than in the center.
Rural lunch and dinner menus
A typical simple Maharashtrian meal with bhaaji, bhakari, raw onion and pickle
In the Konkan coastal area, boiled rice and rice bhakri,nachni bhakri is the staple, with a combination of the vegetable and non-vegetable dishes described in the lunch and dinner menu.
A Maharashtrian kitchen in rural part of Maharashtra in 2011
Open stove cooking is the most commonly used cooking method. The traditional three-stone chulha has largely been replaced by kerosene or gas stoves. A stove may be used for cooking in many different ways:
Phodani – Often translated as "tempering", is a cooking technique and garnish where spices such as mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, and sometimes other ingredients such as minced ginger and garlic are fried briefly in oil or ghee to liberate essential oils from cells and thus enhance their flavours. Other ingredients such as vegetables and meat are then added to the pan.Phodani may be the first step in making a bhaaji, aamti or curry. It may also be the last step, as part of a garnish.
Simmering – Most curries and bhaajis are simmered for the meat or vegetables to cook
Deep frying – This is used for making fritters such as onion bhaji, or sweet fried dumplings (karanji)
Pan frying – This is characterized by the use of minimal cooking oil or fat (compared to shallow frying or deep frying); typically using just enough oil to lubricate the pan. This method is used for cooking delicate items such as fish.
Tawa – This is usually a concave metal pan used on an open stove for making unleavened flatbreads such as ghadichi poli, chapatis or bhakris.
Various vegetable curries or gravies are eaten with rice, usually at both lunch and dinner. Popular dishes include:
Amti – Lentil or bean curry, which is made mainly from toor dal or other lentils such as mung beans or chickpeas. In many instances, vegetables are added to the amti preparation. A popular amti recipe has pods of drumsticks added to the toor dal.
Kadhi – This type of "curry" is made from a combination of buttermilkyoghurt and chickpea flour (besan). In some recipes fried balls based on besan are added.
Solkadhi – This cold soup is prepared from coconut milk, garlic,cilantro, and kokam concoction, and is a specialty of the cuisine from the coastal region.
Saar – Thin broth-like soups made from various dals or vegetables.
Chutney and preserves – Popular chutneys and preserves include raw mango chutney, mint, tamarind chutney, cilantro, panchamrit, and mirachicha thecha. Dry chutneys include those based on oil seeds such as flax seed, peanut, sesame, coconut and karale. Chutney based on the skin of roasted vegetables such as bottle gourd is also popular. Most chutneys include green or red chili pepper for their heat. Garlic may also be added.
Metkut – A dry preparation based on a blend of dry roasted legumes and spices.
Lon'che (pickle) – Maharashtrian and Indian pickles in general are prepared using a base of salt, oil and spices. Vegetables and fruits commonly used for pickling in Maharashtrian cuisine include unripe mango,lemons, Aonla, green chillies and Bhokar. Less commonly garlic, ridge gourd etc. are also used.
Muramba ― Made with unripe mangoes, spices, and sugar.
Kairi cha panha summer drink based on unripe mango and jaggery
In Maharashtra,the traditional offering (for a guest) used to be water and jaggery (Gulpani). This has been replaced by tea or coffee. These beverages are served with milk and sugar. Occasionally, along with tea leaves, the brew may include spices, freshly grated ginger or lemon grass. Coffee is served with milk or ground nutmeg.
Other beverages include:
Sugar cane juice – The juice is obtained by crushing peeled sugar cane in a mill.In Maharashtra in every town there are dozens of juice centers where freshly squeezed sugarcane juice is served.
Banana Shikran – This is consumed with chapatis or puri as part of a meal.
Masala doodh – Sweet and spicy milk.
Sweets and desserts
Desserts are an important part of festival and special occasion food. Typical sweets include , flatbread called puran poli with stuffed lentil and jaggery mix, a preparation made from strained yogurt, sugar and spices called shrikhand, a sweet milk preparation made with evaporated milk called basundi, semolina and sugar based kheer and steamed dumplings stuffed with coconut and jaggery called modak. In some instances, the modak is deep-fried instead of steamed. Traditionally, these desserts were associated with a particular festival. For example, modak is prepared during the Ganpati Festival.
Puran Poli is one of the most popular sweet items in the Maharashtrian cuisine. It is a buttery flatbread stuffed with a mix made of jaggery (molasses or gur ), yellow gram (chana) dal, plain flour, cardamom powder and ghee. It is consumed at almost all festivals. Puran Poli is usually served with milk or a sweet-and-sour dal preparation called katachi amti. In rural areas it used to be served with a thin hot sugar syrup called gulawani.
Modak is a sweet dumpling that is steamed (ukdiche modak) or fried. Modak is prepared during the Ganesha Festival around August, when it is often given as an offering to Lord Ganesha, as it is reportedly his favorite sweet. The sweet filling is made up of fresh-grated coconut and jaggery, while the soft shell is made from rice flour, or wheat flour mixed with khava or maida flour. The dumpling can be fried or steamed. The steamed version called ukdiche modak is eaten hot with ghee.
Chirote is a combination of semolina and plain flour.
Anarsa is made from soaked powdered rice with jaggery or sugar. The traditional process for creating the anarsa batter takes three days.
Amrakhand is Shrikhand flavoured with mango, saffron, cardamom and charoli nuts.
Ladu are a popular snack traditionally prepared for Diwali. Ladus can be based on semolina, gram flour or bundi.
Pedha are round balls made from a mixture of khoa, sugar and saffron.
Amba barfi is made from mango pulp.
Gul Poli is a stuffed wheat-flatbread with gul paste.
Amba poli or mango poli: Although called poli or flatbread, this is not one. It is more like a pancake. It is made in summer by sun-drying thin spreads of reduced mango-pulp, possibly with sugar added, on flat plates. (Traditionally large leaves were used instead of plates.) It has no grain in it. Since it is sun-dried in harsh summer, it is durable and can be stored for several months.
Phanas poli (Jackfruit poli) is similar to Amba poli but made with jackfruit pulp instead of mango.
Chikki is a sugar peanut or other nut preparation.
Narali paak is a sugar and coconut cake.
Dudhi halwa is a traditional dessert made with dudhi and milk.
In many metropolitan areas, including Mumbai and Pune, fast food is popular. The most-popular forms are bhaji, vada pav, misalpav and pav bhaji. More-traditional dishes are sabudana khichadi, pohe, upma, sheera and panipuri. Most Marathi fast food and snacks are lacto-vegetarian.
Some dishes, including sev bhaji, misal pav and patodi are regional dishes within Maharashtra.
Maharashtrian snacks and street foods are popular throughout the state, but most especially in Mumbai.
Pohe is a snack made from flattened rice. It is typically served with tea and is the most likely dish that a Maharashtrian will offer a guest. During arranged marriages, kanda pohe (literal translation, "pohe prepared with onion") is most likely the dish served when the two families meet. It is so common that sometimes arranged marriage itself is referred colloquially as kanda pohay. Other variants include batata pohe (where diced potatoes are used instead of onion shreds). Other famous recipes made with pohe (flattened rice) are dadpe pohe, a mixture of raw pohe with shredded fresh coconut, green chillies, ginger and lemon juice and kachche pohe, raw pohe with minimal embellishments of oil, red chili powder, salt and unsautéed onion shreds.
Upma, sanja or upeeth is similar to the South Indian upma. It is a thick porridge made from semolina perked up with green chillies, onions and other spices.
Surali Wadi is a chickpea flour roll with a garnishing of coconut, coriander leaves and mustard.
Vada pav is a fast food dish consisting of a fried mashed potato dumpling (vada), eaten sandwiched in a wheat bread bun (pav). This is the Indian version of a burger and is almost always accompanied with red chutney made from garlic and fried red and green chillies. Vada pav in its entirety is rarely made at home, mainly because home baking is not common.
Pav bhaji is a fast food dish consisting of a vegetable curry (Marathi: bhaji ) served with a soft bread roll (pav).
Misal Pav is a dish from Kolhapur. It is made from curried sprouted lentils, topped with batata bhaji, pohay, chivda, farsaan, raw chopped onions and tomato. It is sometimes eaten with yogurt. Usually, the misal is served with a wheat-bread bun.
Thalipeeth is a type of flatbread. It is usually spicy and eaten with curd. It is a popular traditional breakfast that is prepared using bhajani, a mixture of roasted lentils.
Bhelpuri: Bhelpuri (Marathi भेळ) is a savoury snack, and is also a type of chaat. It is made of puffed rice, chopped vegetables such as tomatoes and onions and a tangy tamarind sauce. Bhelpuri is often associated with Mumbai beaches, such as Girguam or Juhu.Bhelpuri is thought to have originated within the cafes and street-food stalls of Mumbai, and has spread across India where it was modified to suit local food availability. It is also said to be originated from Bhadang (भडंग), a spicy puffed-rice dish from Western Maharashtra. Dry bhel is made from bhadang.
Sevpuri type of chaat. It originates from Mumbai. In Mumbai, sev puri is strongly associated with street food, but is also served at upscale locations. Supermarkets stock ready-to-eat packets of sev puri and similar snacks like bhelpuri.
Ragda pattice is a popular Mumbai fast food. This dish is usually served at restaurants that offer Indian fast food along with other dishes. It is a main item on menus of food stalls. This dish has two parts: ragda, a spicy stew based on dry peas and fried potato patties.
Dahipuri is a form of chaat and from Mumbai. It is served with mini puri shells that are more-popularly recognized from the dish pani puri. Dahi puri and pani puri chaats are often sold from the same vendor.
Sabudana vada is a deep-fried snack based on sabudana. It is often served with spicy green chutney and hot chai and is best eaten fresh.
This festival falls on January 14 of the Gregorian calendar. Maharashtrians exchange tilgul or sweets made of jaggery and sesame seeds along with the customary salutation, tilgul ghya aani god bola, which means "Accept the tilgul and be friendly." Tilgul Poli or gulpoli are the main sweet preparations. It is a wheat-based flatbread filled with sesame seeds and jaggery.
As part of Holi, a festival that is celebrated on the full moon evening in the month of Falgun (March or April), a bonfire is lit to symbolize the end of winter and the slaying of a demon in Hindu mythology. People make puran poli as a ritual offering to the holy fire. The day after the bonfire night is called Dhulivandan. Marathi people celebrate with colors on the fifth day after the bonfire on Rangpanchami.
Modak offered to Lord Ganesha
Modak is said to be the favorite food of Ganesh. An offering of twenty-one pieces of this sweet preparation is offered on Ganesh Chaturthi and other minor Ganesh-related events. Various Maharashtrian communities prepare different dishes specially for Gauri poojan.
A typical Diwali plate of snack (faral ). Clockwise from top: chakli, kadboli, shev, gaathi, chiwda and in the center are yellow besan and white ravaladu.
Diwali is one of the most popular Hindu festivals. In Maharashtrian tradition family members have a ritual bath before dawn and then sit down for a breakfast of fried sweets and savory snacks called as Diwali Faral. These sweets and snacks are offered to visitors and exchanged with neighbors. Typical sweet preparations include ladu, anarse, shankarpali and karanjya. Popular savory treats include chakli, Shev and chiwda. High in fat and low in moisture, these snacks can be stored at room temperature for many weeks without spoiling.
Many Maharashtrian communities from all social levels observe the Khandoba Festival or Champa Shashthi in the month of Mārgashirsh. Households perform Ghatasthapana of Khandoba during this festival. The sixth day of the festival is called Champa Sashthi. For many people, the Chaturmas period ends on Champa Sashthi. It is customary for many families not to consume onions, garlic and eggplant during the Chaturmas. Following the festival, the consumption of these foods resumes with ritual preparation of vangyache bharit (baingan bharta) with rodga.
Traditional wedding menu
The traditional wedding menu among Maharashtrian Hindu communities used to be a lacto-vegetarian fare with mainly multiple courses of rice dishes with different vegetables and dals. Some menus also included a course with puris. In some communities, the first course was plain rice and the second was dal with masala rice.) The main meal typically ended with plain rice and mattha. Some of the most-popular curries to go with this menu and with other festivals were those prepared from taro (Marathi: अलउ) leaves. Buttermilk with spices and coriander leaves, called mattha, is served with the meal. Popular sweets for the wedding menu were shreekhand, boondi ladu and jalebi.
^Fish Koliwada is not part of traditional Maharashtrian cuisine, however, it is an iconic appetizer from Mumbai created by the Singh brothers, Bahadur and Hakam in the 1950s. In 1955, Bahadur Singh along with his brother Hakam Singh folded up their small dhaba near Delhi–Uttar Pradesh highway and moved to Sion in Mumbai where many from his community had already taken shelter after the Partition of India. The brothers started selling the fried fish from a bare-boned makeshift stall. The popularity of their crispy fried-fish led to their first eatery at Sion Koliwada in 1970, aptly named Mini Punjab.
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