Hi Koli konachi?

Updated: 13 September, 2020 08:10 IST | Prutha Bhosle | Mumbai

With galyan sakhli sonyachi, a 50-year-old Versova fisherwoman is creating ripples online, thanks to her authentic seafood recipes

The Tapke family, Rajhans, Tanay and Harsha, have started the Bombay State Fisheries channel on YouTube to take Koli culture and cuisine to a wider audience
The Tapke family, Rajhans, Tanay and Harsha, have started the Bombay State Fisheries channel on YouTube to take Koli culture and cuisine to a wider audience

For someone who grew up in a Koliwada, which essentially means a home that opens to the sea, engaging in fishing and trading was an obvious choice of livelihood in the '70s. "Born and brought up in Versova [formerly Vesave], I would frequent the weekend fish market with my parents. On a platform, my mother would have her paraphernalia spread, and I would look on as she sold her catch. By the time I was 13, I became an important ally. Soon, I started selling fish independently," remembers Harsha Tapke. With an experience that spans over 35 years, Harsha, who turned 50 this year, says the Koli community has seen major changes. "The younger generation is no longer interested in the profession; they'd rather take up corporate jobs. But our time was different. We took pride in selling fish. Back in the day, small boats that went into the sea returned in just a couple of hours stuffed with big catch. Today, the boats return after 10 days and with barely anything. The aboriginal community has begun to get wiped out, their livelihood threatened. It's the rising pollution and commercialisation of the sea that are responsible."

The nationwide lockdown, announced on March 24, added to the woes of the community. "After fishing was banned for two months, and the markets shut down, we were out of business. Very recently, we have resumed fishing, but the loss is irreparable," Harsha rues.

Harsha Tapke, now 50, has been hawking fish since she was 13. Pics/Sameer Markande
Harsha Tapke, now 50, has been hawking fish since she was 13. Pics/Sameer Markande

As the ambitions of the fisherfolk become as elusive as the dwindling fish in the sea, pushing many families into poverty, Harsha dreams of reviving the authentic Koli culture. The time is ripe, she feels, when asked about her new YouTube channel she has called Bombay State Fisheries. Started on May 30, the channel is run by her 25-year-old son, Tanay. "The debut video featured a recipe for sukha bombil batata. A culinary saviour for the Kolis, it is a dish of dried Bombay duck and potato. Dried bombil sees the seafood-loving community through the monsoon when fishing isn't permitted. While Harsha has always spread the love for Koli recipes informally among her patrons, the time the lockdown gave her and Tanay had them realise that it was time to share their knowledge formally.

This is not the first venture that Harsha has backed. In 2016, along with her sisters and mother, she tied up with Authenticook to host a Dine with Kolis experience. "We invited guests over to our home and served them a traditional Koli spread. With this, we gained popularity. So when Tanay launched our YouTube channel in May, people knew of us, and began subscribing."

The Koli community has its own special masala (a blend of 18 spices). The food habits of this seafaring community are based on what they are able to harvest or forage. Unlike Konkanis, who add coconut to their dishes, Kolis use a paste of onion and garlic. "We make a lot of different recipes with mandeli, bombil and mushi (shark), whose recipes we are sharing via the channel."

Bombay State Fisheries not only features new recipes every Sunday, but also creates informative videos around Koli culture. "My husband, Rajhans, who is a member at a couple of Koli organisations, discusses the origin and history of our community. He also highlights factors that have affected our livelihood. After all, it's important to remember where Mumbai's original inhabitants come from!"

Kanda jawla Koli style

Kanda jawla Koli style

Ingredients
250 gm jawla (dried mini prawns)
2 big onions
3-4 green chillies
1 inch ginger
5-6 garlic cloves
1 cup coriander
Turmeric
Koli masala or red chilli powder

Method
Slit onion vertically, slit green chillies. Finely chop garlic and ginger. Kanda jawla needs a lot of oil for perfect taste. Heat the pan, add 4 tbsp oil, add onions, chillies, ginger garlic and cook for 5-7 minutes. After that, add washed jawla and sauté well. It will start to lose some water on its own; let that water also dry completely. Then add 1 tbsp turmeric and 1 tbsp Koli masala and salt as per taste. Stir everything well and cook for 10-15 minutes on low flame. Finally, garnish with finely chopped coriander and close the lid for 2 minutes on low flame. Serve hot with rice bhakri.

Lobster curry Koli style

Lobster curry Koli style

Ingredients:
Medium sized 5-6 lobsters
1/2 cup fresh coconut
3-4 green chillies
1 inch ginger
4-5 garlic cloves
1 cup coriander
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 medium onion
1 bayleaf
Turmeric
Koli masala or red chilli powder
Garam masala

Method
Heat the pan, add 3 tbsp oil, add onion and bayleaf and cook on slow flame. Add slit lobsters to the pan. Close the lid and let them cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare masala using coconut, green chillies, ginger, garlic, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, coriander, and grind them all. Add this masala to the lobsters and stir well. Add 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp koli masala, 1 tsp garam masala powder, salt as per taste. Sauté everything well and cook for 5 minutes until masala is cooked.
Add 500 ml water. The lobsters should sink in completely. Cook for 15 minutes and let the gravy boil. At last, garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

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First Published: 13 September, 2020 08:10 IST

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