Mumbai Food: Home cooks on interesting dishes made with jaggery
Jaggery is the secret ingredient making Mumbai's fleeting winter a sweet one. We speak to chefs and home cooks about treats from across communities
Call it by no name
Goddess Jivati, worshipped among Mumbai's indigenous Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP) community, is said to protect children and often, a coconut is left at her feet for four weeks as an offering. It is this sacred coconut that finds its way into ninaav (R50) in the form of coconut milk, which is mixed with jaggery and other condiments and steamed on a tawa or baked to arrive at a creamy custard-like texture. Ninaav, meaning no name, has its roots in mythology.
"It is believed that goddess Parvati was very fond of the sweet but she couldn't decide what to call it, so she chose ninaav," says Shilpa Raje, co-owner of a joint in Thane that serves authentic CKP food. Loved by the older members of the community, the mithai, Raje believes, is losing significance among the younger generations. "We are trying to preserve our heritage and culture. No kind of food should go extinct," she asserts.
Time 10 am to 11 pm
AT Ruchkarraje, Panch Pakhadi, Thane West.
Like the milky way
A nutritious dessert, kharvas is full of protein and calcium and is good for overall immunity," says Pushkaraj Gaikar, owner of a Maharashtrian eatery, speaking about the dish popularly consumed in his community.
"Though common, kharvas (Rs 110) is chiefly consumed to mark the birth of a calf," Gaikar informs, adding that this is the reason why the creamy treat is made with the new milk extracted from a cow that has just given birth. Mixed with jaggery and flavoured with nutmeg and cardamom, the milk-pudding-like sweet dish is garnished with chopped pistachios and other nuts.
Time 11 am to 3.30 pm, 7 pm to 12 am
At Sarangaa, 384, Veer Savarkar Marg, Prabhadevi.
Come December and the humble satori (Rs 27) — a flatbread stuffed with a crunchy coconut and jaggery filling intrinsic to the Brahmins from Nasik, Jalgaon and other pockets in northern Maharashtra — gets a seasonal touch. In these months the sweet treat is served with sesame seeds or til.
"We enjoy satoris during Diwali and for Makar Sakranti, we garnish it with til because it is widely available during this time of the year. It is a very popular dish even among our patrons," shares Rajendra Parshuram Bhagwat, co-owner of a well-known haunt for Maharashtrian food in Dadar.
Time 10 am to 10 pm
At Trupti, NC Kelkar Marg, Dadar West.
Cool like that
Umber, a light and fluffy cake is (believe it or not) made with dark green cucumbers, fresh coconut, semolina or rice flour, ghee, nuts and jaggery. An East Indian delight served for breakfast or as dessert, the cake was born in the kitchen of East Indian farmers.
"Our community has different sects. The one I come from are landowners and known to be farmers. It's a simple cake made using fresh produce from the fields. That's why it's also sometimes called the farmer's cake," explains home chef Alefiya Jane, who is known in the F&B space for her mastery in making the unique dessert.
"I have been binging on this since I was a kid. Whereas someone would cringe at the sound of cucumber in a cake, I would be waiting with baited breath for umber to finish off in the oven. I still see fascination on people's faces when I mention cucumber cake. It's amazing how the dish lets me relive my childhood memories with every bite," she signs off.
At The Bottle Masala, Uttan Beach (delivery across Mumbai).
Cost Rs 450 (for 500gms); Rs 750 (for 1 kg)
Dhapkya chi shaak is a speciality comprising bottle gourd, chopped onion, jaggery, coconut, green cardamom and cinnamon. It is a decadent and densely caramelised treat that is garnished with dried fruits and poppy seeds. "It is a winter special among Konkani Muslims who traditionally use jaggery as the sweetening agent in their desserts," says Saher Khanzada, food blogger and researcher known for her work in the cuisine.
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