The twin ode to Konkan

Updated: Mar 29, 2020, 10:48 IST | Prutha Bhosle | Mumbai

Why two eateries that pay tribute to the food from Maharashtra's coast, new and old, are worth visiting

Kolambi, amboli and vadey
Kolambi, amboli and vadey

State on a plate

The real taste of Konkan away-from-Konkan is available at this gem of a restaurant in Thane. Will you travel for food? You should

The twin ode to Konkan

This writer's Maharashtrian Konkani roots makes it a ritual to start and end the week with seafood cooked in delicious coconut curries. But sometimes, you want to get out. After having eaten at almost every old-world eatery there is in Dadar, we decided to make it to Thane's Panch Pakhadi area.

Kath N Ghat is Sunny Pawaskar and Kiran Bhide's three-year-old eatery that celebrates food from along the rivers (kath) and the Sahyadri range (ghat). The dishes on the menu are native not just to the Konkan, but paschim Maharashtra, Vidarbha, Khandesh and Marathwada, too. The entrance is through a large wooden door, and the space inside sports heritage photoframes and Paithani saree "wall hangings".

Chicken roast
Chicken roast

The rich and creamy chimburay (crab bisque with Portuguese influence) is a good place to start. The steward scatters the table with an assortment of papad made of tandul (rice), jowar (sorghum) and urad dal (black gram), all commonplace in Marathi kitchens.

The kothimbir wadi (a light, flight cilantro-flavoured cake) is to be dipped in thecha (green chilli crush) before devouring. The chicken roast (marinated boneless chicken legs grilled over lava stones) has a slightly milder taste than the original, which calls for tikhat amba. The mocktail of mango juice, mint, ginger and Guntur chillies is a nostalgia spice-laden trip in a glass. It has been long since this writer enjoyed authentic Maharashtrian food outside of home.

The bhajaniche vadey (bhajani flour), tandlachi bhakri (rice roti), jowar bhakri (jowar roti) and amboli (fermented rice pancake) all go wonderfully with the khandeshi chicken gravy and bhajanichi kolambi or prawns. For those with a hearty appetite, we recommend the Nagpuri kala pulao, a robust medley of rice, roasted spices and chicken.

Puran poli ice cream. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Puran poli ice cream. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

After almost deciding to skip desert, we change our mind to try the puran poli ice cream. Although innovative, it sticks to the original sweet flatbread stuffed with dal. We are now veering towards an afternoon siesta, but the steward won't let us leave without a bite of the kharvas. No meal in the Konkan ends without this dessert made from the first milk of the cow after birth. And at Kath N Ghat, there is a sweeter twist to this dish. They urge you to soak it in a strawberry syrup before you have a bite. Heaven.

One of a kind in Nagpada

Nagpada loves its kebabs and yakhni pulao, but a pair of Maharashtrian entrepreneurs is keen that the locals become fans of eats from the Malvan coast

Bangda thali
Bangda thali

Sofia Zubair Road is central to Nagpada's culinary contribution to the city. It's where half-a-century-old Mughlai restaurants have made permanent base. It's unlikely that a new establishment will dare to set up shop here and challenge the veterans.

But, Pradeep Patil and Amit Haralkar have taken the leap of faith, deciding to serve a Malvani menu dominated by seafood in a neighbourhood that loves it kebab and yakhni pulao. The Malvan coast in Sindhudurg district offers its people abundant, fresh seafood, that they turn into delicious, fiery gravies redolent with the scent of grated coconut. Since the coast stretches hundreds of miles, the culinary traditions of Maharashtra, Western Karnataka and Goa influence the cuisine.

Prawn masala
Prawn masala

Patil and Haralkar's new eatery is aptly called Masoli (fish) and sits opposite Nagpada police station. It's the neighbourhood's five day-old baby. Focussed on everything Malvan, the menu is made up of a variety of seafood thalis—pomfret, bangda, chicken prawn, mandeli, surmai, with the additional chicken, mutton, egg and vegetarian thalis. "When I was a kid, I remember standing next to my mother, watching her spell bound as she cooked," says Haralkar, 32, a former photojournalist.

From sourcing fish from Mazagaon's Bhaucha Dhakka to cooking the stock in the kitchen and getting their spices pounded in Lalbaug's masala chakkis, Haralkar is a one-man-show. His wife, Shweta, accompanies him sometimes to share the load. "But I love it when I am cooking; time flies here," the Rajapur-born Haralkar says with asmile. The  Haralkars once ran a similar eatery called Sugran in Malad. "In April 2018, the building that also housed a call centre, caught fire. We stretched our
services till March the following year, but the losses were too high to bear since most of our clients comprised call centre staff."

Kekda masala
Kekda masala

When Haralkar met Patil, 65, who owns a printing business in Lower Parel, the two decided to give restauranting another shot. The pair especially chose Nagpada with an effort to offer locals a change of taste.

The prawns masala is Haralkar's favourite recipe. It tastes best with the tandalachi (rice) bhakri dipped into the fiery curry. If you are looking for a dry side dish, try the shallow fried pomfret. Its flavours are packed beneath the crunchy rava layer. The kombadi (chicken gravy) is served with vadey, a puffy puri native to Malvan, but it's the kekda or crab masala that is a delight, despite us having to negotiate a stubborn shell to get to the flesh. Most dishes are priced at around R100, making this yet another addition to the city's affordable Malvani eating joints scene.

Kombadi vadey
Kombadi vadey

Pradeep Patil, who runs a printing business and Amit Haralkar, once  photojournalist, decided to give a neighbourhood that knows only Mughlai food, a taste of Malvan. Pics/Ashish Raje
Pradeep Patil, who runs a printing business and Amit Haralkar, once photojournalist, decided to give a neighbourhood that knows only Mughlai food, a taste of Malvan. Pics/Ashish Raje

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