A step south-east to fiery Kolhapur: Maska Maarke with Kunal Vijayakar
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A step south-east to fiery Kolhapur: Maska Maarke with Kunal Vijayakar

I call this the land of three Ms — Machismo, Misal and Mutton. The food here is robust, with a bold and fearless use of spices; the curries are bright and glistening in oil.

mumbai Updated: Nov 30, 2018 21:39 IST
Kunal Vijayakar
Kunal Vijayakar
Hindustan Times
Food,Food column,The Foodie
The Mutton Thali at Padma Guest House, Kolhapur. No thali here is complete without the Tambda Rassa (an intensely stormy red gravy with a tarri floating on top) and Pandhra Rassa (a delicately spiced, white, buttery gravy of coconut and garam masala).

Last week I wrote about Khandeshi food from northwestern Maharashtra. This week I bumped into Aditya Mehandale, a food connoisseur who lives in Pune and has roots in Maharashtrian nobility. In a book called Rare Gems, he has documented heirloom recipes from various parts of the state — Kolhapur, Nagpur, the Malwan, the Konkan, and the Raste Wada nobles as well, to name a few. Rare dishes like the Baroda Pulao, created together by the Muslim and Hindu cooks in the Peshwa’s army (it uses dried coconut, never used in a biryani or pulao). Unusual recipes like the Nagpuri Kaala Pulao, a dish from the kitchens of the Bhonsles of Nagpur; Konkani Khekda Masala, stuffed crab cooked in tangy tomato and tamarind sauce; and a Muttonache Taaze Lonche (Fresh Mutton Pickle).

At the Trident Hotel in BKC, Aditya took me through a Maharashtrian food festival he had curated. I gorged on Sheng Mutton, cooked in spices with small pieces of drumstick. Kolambiche Tondak, a Saraswat recipe of prawns with coconut and spices, often cooked with potato. The famed Kolhapuri Tambda Rassa (red curry) and Pandhra Rassa (white curry). So this week, I thought we’d explore Kolhapuri food.

This district in southwest Maharashtra, amid the Sahyadri mountains of the Western Ghats, was the seat of power of the Bhonsle dynasty, and is a land of Sardar warriors and hunters, a temperament reflected in its cuisine. The food of Kolhapur is robust in taste, appearance and presentation. The curries are bright, glistening in oil, and bold, with a fearless use of spices and dry coconut. I call Kolhapur the land of three Ms — Machismo, Misal and Mutton.

The Kolhapuri Misal is far more audacious than the Puneri one. It is a mix of fried farsaan and usal made with moth beans or moong, topped with a fiery red gravy called Kat. ( Aarti’s Kitchen Secrets )

Having dealt with machismo, let’s start with the Misal. The Kolhapuri Misal is far more audacious than the commonly found Puneri one. It is a racy mix of fried farsaan (sev, chivda, papadi) and usal. The usal is made with moth beans or moong, cooked with coconut and tempered with spices. The farsaan-usal mix is topped with Kat, which is what gives this misal distinction and fire. Kat is a red hot fiery soup made with dry coconut, onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, coriander and cumin, garam masala, hing and lots of oil. The Kolhapuri Misal is served with slices, not buns, of bread. A really good Kolhapuri Misal should bring tears to your eyes, nose and mouth. Dynamite!

Another Kolhapuri snack is the Bhakarwadi. I know the popular choice for Bhakarwadi is Pune’s famous Chitale Bandhu, but I don’t call that bhakarwadi at all. It’s nothing more than a glorified kachori.

The real Bhakarwadi (my mother used to make it) can be had in Kolhapur, is freshly fried and cannot be stored in Tupperware. It’s a roll made with besan and flour, stuffed with dry coconut, fresh chopped coriander, green chillies, garlic, sev (optional) and spices. The roll is then sliced into inch-long bits and deep-fried, to be eaten fresh. It’s lethally spicy and devastatingly delicious.

HOW TO MAKE KOLHAPURI BHAKARWADI

The virility in the cuisine of Kolhapur comes from mutton; most of my Kolhapuri friends look down on chicken with disdain. Why, even I grew up thinking of chicken as a post-Partition invasion from the north. Mutton is eaten in Kolhapur in many forms, be it rough-pounded kheema with bones, or small koftas in rice to make a Mutton Goli Pulao.

In Kolhapur, most mutton is served with a Rassa, often a thin coconut curry. There are at least 14 kinds of Rassa in Kolhapur. Tambda, Pandhra, Pivla, Hirva and Kaala (red, white, yellow, green and black) are the most common. But the one most fascinating to me is the Chikna Rassa or Charbichi Amti, a curry made of fat. Mutton fat and soup bones are cooked with fried onion, garlic, dry roasted coconut and spices to create a sticky, viscid curry. It’s like eating a fatty soup with the taste of Maharashtra.

I’m also terribly intrigued by a dish now rarely found — the Motichur Pulao. Here goat intestines are cleaned and washed, then filled with edible colours, knotted on both sides and boiled till the intestines have contracted. They are then cut into small pieces and mixed into or placed atop Pulao Rice to make a rich biryani full of savoury, meaty flavours.

But what I cannot resist when in Kolhapur are the Mutton in Kanda-Lasun Masala, and the Fried Mutton or Mutton Pickle. The Kanda-Lasun (Onion Garlic) Masala is a crimson, moist spice chutney made by pounding together, among other spices, Byadagi chillies, dry coconut, oil, roasted sesame seeds and dry sea salt. Mutton cooked in this spice is fiery red and spicy and must be eaten with hot Jawar Bhakris or Chapatis.

Kolhapur’s famous sukka mutton is the Mutton Loncha or Pickle. The meat is fried in oil, then cooked with dry coconut, ginger, garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, red chilli powder, turmeric and Kanda-Lasun Masala. It is served with two kinds of thin gravies, Tambda Rassa (an intensely stormy red gravy with a tarri floating on top), and Pandhra Rassa (a delicately spiced, white, buttery gravy of coconut and garam masala), and together these form the foundation of a typical Kolhapuri meal. Killer flavours, deadly spice.

So the next time you’re in the region, use your tongue as your sword and get ready to attack with the fearlessness and valour of the Maratha Sardar.

First Published: Nov 30, 2018 21:39 IST