Author – Santhini Koshy
As the summer heat dissolves into soul-drenching showers, we can’t help but rejoice with nature. In India, the monsoon clouds inevitably bring with it the message of rejuvenation and hope while also kindling childhood memories of spicy foods and endless joys.
As an integral part of the land, the monsoons find expression in the land’s many art forms. And not surprisingly, in its food too because what is Indian culture without its food? It goes without saying, when the monsoons hit, our craving for seasonal traditional food goes up too.
So this monsoon season, take a look at some of the mouth-watering dishes from the Konkan Coast. They’ll not only give you a glimpse into the rich cooking traditions of South Indian states but also give you an urge to pack your bags and head south at a moment’s notice. If you are already there, you’ll be inspired to surprise your loved ones with a season’s special.
Konkani and Malvani Cuisine
Konkan cooking is infused with different varieties of masala including kanda lasun and goda (black Maharashtrian masala), with an abundant mix of spices and coconut going into the fiery Malvani cuisine, which is a speciality of the Western Coast of Maharashtra. Kokanis especially use Kokam (mangosteen), Tamarind and Kairi (raw mango) to add flavour and zest to their dishes. Interestingly, Malvani cuisine is similar to Kerala cuisine found further south on the Malabar Coast, and sea food plays a prominent role in both.
Flavoursome Seafood Varieties
Varieties of droolsome seafood dishes include Bangda (Mackerel fry), Surmai ambat (fish curry) and Kurkuron bombil (fried Bombay duck). Many of the dry fish varieties are sun-dried in advance for use during the monsoons and Kusbeer, a popular dish made from dry fish, deserves mention here. The fish curry, on the other hand, is made of ground coconut and red chillies with Kokam added in the place of tamarind.
If you want a real Konkani experience, you can’t hold back on seafood. Everything from the delicious crab coconut gravy and the tempting Mori masala (baby sharks in dry coconut gravy) to delectable prawn fries are out-of-the-world experiences. Or you can opt for the fish thali and bhakri, a popular round flatbread made of seasonal grains, often go-to meals for those who want a taste of Konkan in one quick platter.
Tasty Vegetarian Delicacies
Vegetarian delights range from Kothimbir Vadi (crispy coriander fritters), Zunka Bhakri (a Maharashtrian dish with a chickpea base tempered with onions, mustard seeds and ginger-garlic) Aamti curry made of lentil and often combined with mango, Fanas Bhaji, a spicy jackfruit dish with tamarind in it, Kelpoolachi Bhaji, a Konkan favourite made of banana flowers, Saandan, a jackfruit dish with coconut or cow milk, Puran poli(sweet flatbread stuffed with sweetened chickpea flour) and Usal or beans curry.
Ukadiche Modak and other desserts
You cannot come back from the Konkan coast without having a taste of the very popular Ukadiche Modak or steamed rice balls filled with grated coconut, jiggery and a dusting of cardamom. It is a succulent dessert that is much beloved by the Konkanis. Shrikhand is another popular sweet dish option, made either with jackfruit, mango or other fresh fruits and yoghurt as available.
But what is Konkani food without mentioning the satiating dish made of Kokam and coconut milk, sprinkled with coriander, known as Solkadhi. It is a side drink offered with every vade, bhakri, rice or thali that you order. To top of a meal with chilled Solkadhi is absolutely fulfilling. Besides, you would need it to balance out the spicy nature of Konkani dishes and helps as a digestive aide.
Panagi and Morning Delights
If you are wondering about a breakfast dish you cannot miss out on the traditional panagi, a sweet, aromatic and fluffy dish, made of rice flour. The dish especially owes its particular flavour to the banana or turmeric leaves on which it is steamed. Amboli is another staple of the Konkan coast. These soft, round pancakes are made of rice flour, coconut milk and buttermilk, and eaten with coconut chutney or gravy. Sannaas, a fluffy white Mangalorean bread and Neer Dosa are other breakfast items you can opt for as they come from surrounding areas on the Konkan coast.
Konkan is often called the California of India as it is blessed with the bounty of nature. There are abundant fruit trees all along the coast and the waters here are teeming with marine life. That is why people often talk of the breathtaking visual panorama of the Konkan Coast. But hidden away in the heart of this land is a food culture that is mind-blowing. And the best part is, you get to taste real Konkani cuisine while soaking in the romance of the monsoons.