There’s a lot more to the food in Maharashtra than vada pav, or even sabudana and peanuts in everything. But how many types do you know of?
When you hear Maharashtrian food, it’s likely your mind immediately rushes to vada pav. But there’s so much more to that, given the state’s long standing almost religious love affair with food.
Widely regarded as one of the more flavourful and wholesome cuisines in India, Marathi food is known and loved for its tang, spice, and above all, balanced dishes.
What’s interesting is the variation in recipes, even when it comes to the classics. As you go through the state, you’ll find different masala, recipes, and tweaks in flavour across every household. Predominantly, however, there are five distinct regions in Maharashtra, each with their own take. While you might find certain similarities in terms of bhakris, rice, condiments, and the love for all things sour and spicy, it’s the littlest change that goes a long way in generating big flavours!
The Konkan region is the coastal belt of Maharashtra, which includes the districts of Raigad, Ratnagiri, and Sindhudurg and city of Mumbai and Thane. Given the location, fish is naturally a staple here. A common household meal would include traditional simple dishes like fish fry, fish curry with bhakri (bread) and steamed rice. The curries typically use jaggery and kokum (kokum is a fruit that is commonly used in cooking), which gives it a distinctly sweet and tangy flavour along with the punch from the spices.
Kombdi vade, which is fried bread served with spicy chicken curry is another gem of the Konkan cuisine. And of course, who can resist the refreshing Sol kadi (also known as kokum kadi), a beverage made from kokum, fresh coconut, cumin seeds, coriander, and mint. Several other offerings like Patholi, Airavat, Bharli Vangi, Ambotik and more are just some delicacies that will make you fall in love with Konkan food.
Paschim (west) Maharashtra, also known as Desh, includes Pune, Satara, and Kolhapur. With a rich history that lends to an interesting cuisine, it is also the sugarcane belt of the state. You’ll find many straightforward and uncomplicated dishes here that are wholesome and full of flavour. The famous Tambda rassa (red curry) and Pandhra rassa (white curry) are two amazing chicken/mutton curries to be savoured with Bhakri (bread). Any meal here would be incomplete with out Mirchi cha thecha (green chilli chutney) and Kanda Lasun thecha (onion-garlic chutney).
Another dish that’s as simple as it’s complex is the Jhunka or Zunka Bhakar. Jhunka is made from chickpea flour and red chilli powder, and is dry but spicy. Traditionally, it’s served with bhakri made of jowar, bajra, or nachni and raw onion along with green chillies. Dessert lovers, there’s nothing that can top a steaming hot and indulgently sweet Puran Poli, especially one topped with dollops of ghee!
Aurangabad, Latur, Beed, and Nanded fall under the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. Food over here may not be as spicy as Kolhapuri food, but it still packs a sizeable punch. Here’s where the famous Amti comes from! It’s also topped with a red chilli tadka for a rounded bold and spicy effect. Common sides here are the Shengdana (peanut) chutney and hirvya chinchecha thecha (green tamarind chutney).
Dhapte is a type of bread made from jowar, bajra, or wheat and onion, garlic coriander, and sesame seeds. It pairs extremely well with fresh coriander chutney and yoghurt. And rounding off the spicy meal is the unique Ghavle kheer. Ghavle are made by mixing semolina and maida (flour). Other delicacies from this region include but aren’t limited to the Kanda bhaat, Kanda pithla, Tomato rassa, Ussal, and Khavyachi poli.
Khandesh region is the northwest part of Maharashtra that includes Nashik, Jalgaon, Dhule, and Nandurbar. Similar to Desh, this region also produces sugarcane, fruits, and vegetables. Khandeshi food is extremely spicy, with all credit going straight to their Kaala Masala (Black Spices). Khandeshi mutton or chicken curry cooked in this particular masala is extremely famous across the state. Sort of the old school spice tolerance challenge! There’s also the Shev Bhaji, which is a spicy curry of besan (flour) rolls typically had with, you guessed it, bhakri!
Khandeshi Amti (daal) is another staple in the region, which is also spicy thanks to the kaala masala. But you can’t talk of delicacies here without mentioning the Khandeshi Bharleli Vangi (stuffed eggplant). Maharashtrians clearly love their sides, and in this case it’s the Mirchi lasun thecha (chilli-garlic chutney), Lassun (garlic) chutney, and Khurnashichi (niger seeds) chutney.
When in the area, do give the Golyachi bhaji, Khandeshi Khichidi, Khandeshi Chass, and Khandeshi style Puran Poli a shot!
Vidarbha region includes the districts of Parbhani, Yavatmal, Buldhanan, Nagpur, and Gadchiroli. Like most of the neighbouring regions, food here is not for the mild hearted. Breakfast kick off on a spice high with the Tari Poha, a staple and spicy dish where hot tari (curry) is served on top of soft poha. They literally have the spiciest misal in all of the state right here, i.e, the Nagpuri misal pav.
Another unique aspect is the Saoji food, prepared by the Halba Koshi community. Famous dishes include the Saoji chicken/mutton gravy, or the Pithla Bhakri combo. Pithla is basically lentils ground into a paste-like consistency, to be enjoyed with jowar or rice bhakri.