With love, from a veggie Malwan

Updated: Sep 05, 2019, 16:57 IST | Prutha Bhosle | Mumbai

From pop-ups in Mumbai to Kolkata, homechef Rashmi Patkar's coastal Maharashtrian dishes are a hit among vegetarians

Malwani thali. Pics/Sanjay Ramachandran
Malwani thali. Pics/Sanjay Ramachandran

When a strict vegetarian goes out for dinner with her hardcore meat eater husband, she is served disappointment. So, every time Rashmi Patkar went out on dates with her better half, Yaduraj, she would ensure she had a full homecooked meal before hitting the town. The reason being she was sure that no restaurant in the city would be able to offer her anything apart from a dry sabzi and runny dal.

"On the contrary, my husband, who loves eating Malwani food, would get a gorgeous looking prawn and crab curry on the table," Patkar laments. But last year, she decided she had had enough. "For someone like me who has her roots from the coastal town of Vengurla in Maharashtra, my love for Malwani cuisine goes way back. But there are not enough options available for a vegetarian. So, I started cooking kala vatana (black peas), bharli vaangi (stuffed brinjals) and other vegetarian dishes at home."

Malwani thali and Kobi chi vadi
Kobi Chi Vadi

Patkar was born and raised in Kemps Corner. She was only 13 when she made her first batata (potato) bhaji. "I grew up in a typical Maharashtrian family, and was always passionate about cooking. While we had many cooks at home, I would enjoy experimenting. This is something I learnt from both my maternal and paternal grandmothers," she shares. After the Maratha girl got married into a Gaud Brahmin family, her passion for cooking grew by leaps and bounds. "Finally, I got the kitchen to myself, and I began using it to fuel my passion. I used to go to people's homes for lunches and dinners and come back and make notes of the things I liked. Then I would add my own twist to the dishes and make my husband and daughter taste it."

Last year, with her daughter having finished her Std X exams, Patkar's husband told her to take her cooking seriously. Her brother, who works in the event industry, started putting up pictures of her home-cooked Malwani food on social media , and her Instagram account suddenly drew attention. "If I am cooking for a few people at home, I might as well make an extra portion for those who liked my dishes. So I started catering, but the biggest boost was my first-ever pop-up in February this year." At Grand Peninsula, Patkar's one-week-long pop-up was extended to one month. All thanks to the guests, who loved both her vegetarian and non-vegetarian Malwani dishes.

Rashmi Patkar. Pic/Ashish Raje
Rashmi Patkar. Pic/Ashish Raje

"There is a Mahesh Lunch Home for authentic south Indian food, but where do you get restaurants serving coastal cuisine? I thought I should explore and expose everyone with this food in Mumbai. At this pop-up, I served bharli vangi, solkadi, kharvas, usal and poha and batata papad. For non-vegetarians, there was crab curry, prawn curry, and almost anything that would make you feel you are eating at a Maharashtrian home," she adds.

So in May this year, her catering page—The Dabbawali—came into being. Subsequently, Patkar did her first cross state pop-up, in Kolkata. "Bengalis loved my Malwani food and in fact found similarities with their homestyle cooking. For us, it's prawn curry, and they have something like a malai curry. Here, we make kobi (cabbage) vadi, and there they make it without the veggies, but with besan (grand flour)."

While she loves the colour of her recently-made pomfret curry, her favourite invention is a vegetarian dish—mirchi chi amti (chillies in coconut curry). "It looks as good as a prawn curry, minus the prawn. Yesterday, I got a call from a friend who had my food, and said, 'I don't need to go to Gajalee anymore'. I think it is the best compliment I have got so far."

If you want to attend her next pop-up, write to her at rashmi.pat25@gmail.com

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