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The Times of India, December 18, 1995

Malvani Food: To The Editor of The Times of India

Sir,- The report, Malvani Food becomes hot Favourite (December 6), made mouthwatering reading.

Malvani cuisine, like Malvani Konkani, is a variation of the Karwari and Goan cuisines peppered with associations with the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin community.

This is perhaps the only region in which boiled fish is used for the famous coconut-based curries. In most other regions and styles, fish is generally fried before being cooked into the curry. What distinguishes Malvani fish curries is not just the variety of gravies but also the variety of recipes for the same kind of fish made by a dazzling permutation and combination of spices and ingredients and "dry to wet" cooking styles.

Mackerel alone is made with more than 50 recipes; the more popular of these are Udad Methi, Tikhalen, Kalputi, Dabdabeet, Suken and Tirphalanche. Shell fish is another speciality of the region. The speciality of Malvani food is its delicately balanced punch. If this fiery flavour is tempered to suit blander or less adventurous palates the repast ceases to be "Malvani". As in Goa, some chicken, mutton and wild boar preparations called Xacuti are available. Derived probably from Portuguese etymology, the dish is equivalent to the Marathi Saguti.

In my opinion Saraswat cuisines have reached the gastronomic acme at Pernem or Pende near the northern border of Goa, on the outskirts of Malvan and Sawantwadi. My idea of the world's greatest dream food is what is known as Pednekari cuisine. Some years ago, Pernemchi Xacuti used to be available on the menu of one of the five-star hotels in Bombay.

Every Malvani-Karwari-Goan or Saraswat meal is rounded off with a delicately fragrant, carmine coloured brew, the Solkadhi. This is made from Kokum, the dried peel of the luscious red fruit, Ratamba or Garcinia, which the Portuguese brought into India along with chilies and potatoes from the land of the Incas and Aztecs.

Suresh Desai, Bombay