Food: Fish for stories with the Pathare Prabhus

As a weekend lunch pop-up celebrates the cuisine of a local Maharashtrian community, here’s looking at what makes it a delectable affair

The guide logoDid you know that Pathare Prabhu cuisine can be traced back to the 13th century? Or that one of their staples is a spice mix known as Parbhi Masala featuring 20-odd ingredients? “Pathare Prabhu is a spicy and tasty coastal cuisine that’s been around for centuries but not many have heard of it,” shares Ameya Deshpande, co-founder of Authenticook, a city-based dining experience service that will present the third edition of the Pathare Prabhu seafood lunch pop-up (maximum capacity of six diners), this Sunday.

A Pathare Prabhu seafood meal
A Pathare Prabhu seafood meal

Helmed by 59-year-old banker-cum-home chef Geeta Dhairyawan, the spread features varieties like Kolumbi Cha Lonche (prawn pickle), Kolumbi Cha Kaalvan (prawn curry), Paplet Cha Bhujna (pomfret cooked in Pathare Prabhu-style spicy red curry) and Sol Kadi. Though the latter isn’t native to the community cuisine, it will be served as a digestive cooler. “Pathare Prabhu is a Maharashtrian community. Like the Kolis, they are some of the oldest residents of the original island city, and are believed to have settled here in the 13th Century AD. Pathare Prabhus arrived in Mumbai from Patan in Gujarat. This Maharashtrian community predominantly settled down in present day Thakurdwar, Mahim, and Dadar,” informs Dhairyawan, who was introduced to the cuisine post her marriage into the community.

Chimbori Cha Khad Khadle derives its name from the crackling noise of crabs when added to a pan
Chimbori Cha Khad Khadle derives its name from the crackling noise of crabs when added to a pan

A to Z of Pathare Prabhu cuisine
>> The cuisine includes a balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food dominated by seafood, which can be attributed to the proximity to the coast. Even among seafood, prawns are added to most recipes. For instance, Bhanavle is a pie-like dish featuring cabbage, gram flour and prawns.

Kolumbi Cha Kaalvan (Prawn in green curry)
Kolumbi Cha Kaalvan (Prawn in green curry)

>> Most cooking techniques are simple with focus on basic ingredients like onions, chillies, coriander, ginger and garlic. There is little stir-frying or sautéing of onions, tomato or spices. A special spice mix, known as the Parbhi Masala is made using 16 to 20 ingredients (including whole wheat and split Bengal gram). It lends a distinct flavour and aroma to the cuisine.

>> Like other coastal cuisines, coconut is widely used in Pathare Prabhu meals. However, it’s used in the form of coconut cream and milk, rather than grated coconut, as is the case with Goan cuisine. The curries are usually made with coconut milk flavoured with cauliflower, pineapple or tomato (sambare).

>> One of the dishes called Khad Khad Le is a typical Pathare Prabhu recipe. The dish derives its name from the crackling noise the kolumbi (prawns) or crabs make when added to the pan.

>> The meals are predominantly eaten with rice and chapatis called khakra because they are slightly toasted with ghee.

On: January 31, 1 pm to 3.30 pm 
At: 7 Bungalows, Andheri (W). 
Call: 9819497968
Cost: Rs 899

Paplet Cha Bhujna

>> Fresh Corriander (cut)
>> 1 or 2 medium-size green chillies cut in about half inch size
>> 3/4 garlic pods (increase the number depending on quantity of fish)
>> Turmeric as per taste
>> Red chilli powder as per taste
>> Onions (sliced or chopped)
>> 3 tbsp oil (for small/medium size pomfret cut in slices)
>> Salt to taste.
Note: You can substitute pomfret with prawns

>> Cut pomfret in slices. 
>> In a pan, pour oil. Add crushed garlic, cut coriander, chopped onion and chillies. Add turmeric, chilli powder and salt (Don’t put it on the stove as yet).
>> Add the pomfret slices to the mixture. Rub the mixture on the fish with your hands. 
>> Add some water and place it on the stove. Cook over medium flame for about five to seven minutes till you get the aroma of Bhujna.

Recipe courtesy: Home chef Geeta Dhairyawan

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