That’s an interesting thought. what would Marathi readers have made of words such as “Aund” and “Oph” (the closest I can come to how “and” and “of” were expressed) let alone all the other more complex words.
Mine is the 14th edition from 1962 (inherited from my mother). I wonder whether the first edition had a similar title page.
Before I devolve further into cookbooks, MAHARASHTRIAN (adopting the excited capitalization of the title) food is to me just food.
I have it often these days, and for the first twenty years of my life I had it at least seven thousand times.
Just today, one of us at home needed soft, non-spicy food. So:
1:1 ratio of basmati rice and masoor dal, soaked, rinsed and drained multiple times, then added to a pot where 2 cardamom pods, 1 clove, and fragments of cinnamon were sizzling in ghee. Added 5 parts water, a generous pinch of turmeric, salted it all, brought to a boil, covered, lowered heat to the lowest my stove allowed on its smallest burner, then simmered for 30 minutes.
Along with it mock kadhi: Sizzled mustard seeds then curry leaves, turned off the heat then stirred in full fat yoghurt.
Varan ( simple Maharashtrian toor dal). This version with tomatoes is one step up from the basic one.
Cauliflower, carrot, potato bhaji made like this cabbage recipe.
Plain bhat (rice) and South Indian yogurt rice.
Varan-bhat and yogurt rice are just warm hugs in a bowl.
A fraction of my cooking for many years has been mock-Maharashtrian: dishes inspired by those of my youth but freely altered and adapted to use what I have on hand, how much time I have, etc. In that spirit I made last night an adaptation of the Maharashtrian patal bhaji (“thin vegetable”), normally made with leafy greens, a combination of dals, coconut, peanuts, besan (chickpea flour), a bit of tamarind for sourness, and bit of jaggery for sweetness. There are easily found recipes on the Internet for standard versions.
I had no greens on hand, except a small amount on top of a radish bunch. I simmered those, along with a small head of broccoli (cut into pieces), a quarter cup each of toor dal and chana dal, a half cup of dried, unsweetened coconut flakes, three dried red chillies, a pinch of asafoetida, a big sprinkling of turmeric and some salt. Simmered for an hour, then blended with my immersion blender. Added a handful of raw peanuts and simmered for another 20 minutes. Not having tamarind on hand, but desiring some sourness, I mixed in a cup of yogurt at the end. Tempered with mustard seeds and cumin, and garnished with cilantro.
That’s an interesting question for all masalas from goda to garam. One uses small quantities of this or that in the masala, and then another small quantity of the resultant powder in a recipe. What’s the fraction of cumin or clove or kalpasi that ends up in the dish, and can you taste it? One likes to think (or, at least, I do) that one’s ancestors arrived at these formulae after long, patient experimentation, but, of course, there was never the time for that. A culture may extend back a thousand years (or more), but its cuisine is likely to be more recent. The complexities of a cuisine, in my view, should be taken as suggestions, not fiat.
Following my own fiat, I’ve been paring down in my own cooking in recent times, partly because I’m tight on time but partly to see what exactly tastes like what.
[Before people throw dagads – stones – at me for being a phool (sorry!), let me weakly assert some claim to being a serious fellow by saying that I’ve done a lot of elaborate cooking in my time, including an elaborate Kolhapuri mutton (goat) feast – Kolhapur is a city and a district in Maharashtra – complete with pandhra rassa and laal rassa (white sauce/gravy, and red).]
To pick up on my immediately preceding post, I was in the mood for puri-bhaji the other day, a pretty standard Marathi dish. We’d take it on long train journeys as our first meal because it kept well. The puris are small, deep fried disks of simple dough (flour, water, a pinch of salt). The bhaji – vegetable dish – for train journeys was simple, often just potatoes with a mustard-seed-curryleaf temper and chillies for heat and turmeric. But it could be more elaborate. Mine, the other day, included cauliflower, grape tomatoes, dried fenugreek leaves, whole coriander seeds, and two tablespoons of dagad phool (stone flower – see discussion above). Despite the aggression of the fenugreek, there was a distinct earthy taste from the dagad phool.
Since the puris involved a wokful of oil, and I had fish fillets and eggplant on hand, I added to the meal a fish and eggplant fry. I rubbed the fish with a ginger-garlic-salt-lime-green chile paste, let it sit for 15 minutes, then rubbed it and the salted eggplant slices with a turmeric-red-chile powder and used a “breading” of equal parts rice flour, semolina, and chickpea flour.
With all the fried stuff, not the lightest of meals, but tasty.
Thank you for that very considered response! As someone who is just trying to learn how to cook dishes that are not of my own cultural background, my feeling is that I feel confident enough to try to track down ingredients that need to be in a recipe. However, I also am not knowledgeable enough about new to me ingredients to know if something is going to throw something off in terms of expected flavor if I leave it out. It might be a negligible amount; it might be a lot - I don’t know the ingredient!
On the other side of the coin, this is a tweet that came across my feed the other day that I’ve also spent some time thinking about (if only because I’m not sure which chefs/cookbook authors are being called out here):
I don’t want to dumb anything down, but I know I don’t know enough to know if/when it is ok to simplify and say I made “the dish”. Lazy pierogi, sure. Amti? Not so much.
Given this, your work on this thread is quite remarkable. I’m not a hat-wearing man, but were I wearing one I’d doff it to you.
Preeti Mistry’s rant is a little over the top. She says “The most celebrated mainstream Indian cookbook of the current times is basically a joke to most Indians that actually know how to cook.” Which is that book?
She also says “If you see the recipe using olive oil instead of a neutral oil or ghee, swapping out curry leaves for makrut or bay leaves like it’s no big deal othen you know they don’t know what they are talking about.” That’s quite true (ditto turmeric for saffron), but, really, how often do you see this these days? The Internet is a vast cavern of dark and creepy things, but how often are bay leaves suggested as a sub for curry?
I do agree that Indian food is still broadly misunderstood and misinterpreted in the U.S., and the “Unapologetically Indian” schtick all the rage in NY these days isn’t helping (although, I guess, I offer two cheers to their understanding of the market), but things are not quite as bad as Mistry seems to suggest. The NYT Cooking site, mainstream if there is a mainstream left in America, has a lot of decent stuff, for example, mostly unobjectionable.
Thank you! I’m having fun with it (and BF reaps the benefits)! In a perfect world, I’d have the opportunity to travel a lot more and try things at their sources, but that is not feasible for my situation right now, so I have to make do with trying to find good recipes to follow. That’s why Preeti Mistry’s tweet caught my attention. Much of that tweet thread feels like a subtweet and shad directed at someone. I don’t really care about drama, but, if she is alluding to sources I might otherwise be using, I guess I am at least curious.
Is the “Unapologetically Indian” thing about particular restaurants that have opened? If it is, will that find its way to the Boston area? I might consider trekking down off my hill if that happens. You know, for science.
Also, just to get this back on the topic of Maharashtrian cuisine, here is a post about Marathi Kolambi Bhaat from Maunika Gowardhan’s website I made in November 2022. It’s a sort of shrimp pulao. I think I will revisit it soon and use one of the ground masala powders I’ve made from this quarter when I remake it.
The “unapologetic” description has spread beyond Dhamaka to a mini empire. Each of these restaurants has opened to much fanfare, and much praise from the NYT and suchlike. Here’s the latest. Sorry, this is extreme thread wander from Maharashtra to Bengal.
To return to Maharastra your Kolambi Bhaat brings back memories. It was a regular, if not frequent treat when I was growing up.
[Don’t know if it’s appropriate to bring up pronunciation on a cooking thread but Marathi has a couple of sounds unique to it, especially its Ns and its Ls.]
[[In Hindi “black” is kala. In Marathi it’s kaLa, where the “L” (as opposed to “l”) is expressed by curling your tongue to the back of the top of your mouth, then flicking it forward. The L in KoLambi is pronounced likewise. Just an FYI.]]
Thanks (also to @small_h ) - yes, I think I have seen some YouTube videos with vloggers visiting Dhamaka and Semma now that I think about it. Didn’t realize there was a whole branding thing involved!
I really enjoyed the Kolambi Bhaat. I love rice. I love shrimp. We did not have shrimp all that often when I was growing up (and my mom only bought Uncle Ben’s - it was the 70s and 80s). I can see where this particular dish would absolutely be a wonderful food memory!
And, I am always appreciative of pronunciation tips!
I’m really curious what brought this on (I’d wager that she’s talking about “Indian-ish”, though there are other contenders, but it’s been out for a while now — maybe that author’s new book was a trigger?)
(And I’m racking my brain to remember who wrote about the lasagna noodle-as-(dal) dhokli “hack” which I remember reading out to my mother, who couldn’t even – and she loves pasta AND hacks…)
I want to know too! Indian-ish calls for “ghee or olive oil” in SOME recipes. I don’t see bay leaves anywhere. But Indian-ish also bills itself as an Indian-American cookbook. Thus the “ish”. Surely no one is touting it as being authoritative on Indian cuisine.