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Malvani Cuisine: The Coastal Indian Cuisine We Deserve To Know 
Updated : October 31, 2022 05:10 IST
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Malvan is said to be a mix of ‘Maha’ and ‘Lavan’, where Maha means a large piece of land (Marshy area of Malvan) and Lavan means Salt, which describes the production of salt produced in the Malvan regio
India is the land of multiple states with distinct cuisines, boasting unique flavours and preparations. If one has to understand the regional cuisines of India in a true sense and detail, then merely knowing their geographical locations is not enough. The sub-regions and communities define many indigenous cuisines of India, some influenced by the regional produces, others impacted by the immigrational history of its population. If we can experience and understand the finer nuances of the food culture of India, we will truly understand the greatness of our country and its myriad culinary gems.   
Malvani cuisine is one of India’s finest gifts to the gastronomical dictionary, and if it is the first time you hear about this cuisine, be ready to be surprised. Those who love spicy food, and coastal seafood dishes, are certainly in for a treat if you walk into a Malvani cuisine restaurant. Malvan, the epicentre of the Malvani Cuisine, is a small town in the Sindhudurga district of southern coastal Maharashtra, known for the historical sindhudurga fort, built by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It is a smaller region within the larger, more oversized Konkan belt (From Daman in Gujarat to Karwar in Northern Karnataka); many aspects of the cuisine overlap. It is correct to say that Malvan cuisine is part of Konkan cuisine, but all Konkan cuisine dishes are not part of Malvani cuisine. 

Malvan is said to be a mix of ‘Maha’ and ‘Lavan’, where Maha means a large piece of land (Marshy area of Malvan) and Lavan means Salt, which describes the production of salt produced in the Malvan region. The food is usually spicy, with extensive usage of red chillies and spices. The neighbouring region of Goa gives the zing of Vinegar, the Saraswat Goud community gives the sweet and sour flavour, and the Karwar region influences the use of fresh coconut in the Malvani cuisine. Proximity to the sea provides Malvan with fresh seafood, making Malvani cuisine a sought-after coastal cuisine of India, with many incredible dishes in its vast culinary marvels.  
Malvani Masala  
Malvani Masala is a widely popular proprietary masala readily available in Maharashtra and  Malvan/Sindhudurg region. Malvani cuisine relies on the famous Malvani Masala for its delicious spicy taste. It is a mix of many different spices like Coriander seeds (Dhaniya Seeds), Poppy Seeds (Khus Khus), Dagad Phool (Stone Flower), Caraway Seeds (Shah Jeera), Fennel seeds (Saunf), Mustard Seeds (Rai), Bay Leaves (Tej Patta), Cardamom (Ilaichi), cinnamon (Dalchini), black peppercorns (Kali Mirch), Mace (Javitri), Star anise (Chakra Phool), cumin seeds (Jeera), cloves (Laung) Kashmiri chillies and Pandi chillies, Sichuan pepper (Triphala), Turmeric (Haldi), Nutmeg (Jaiphal). Etc. In most dishes, ‘Kokum’ is used to give the required sour flavour and, with Vatan (onion, Ginger, garlic, and coconut paste) as base masala.  
Sol Kadi 
Try the coconut and Kokum-based tempered beverage ‘Sol Kadi’, served as a welcome drink and a delicious and effective aperitif. ‘Kokum’, also known as ‘Garcinia Indica’, is a fruit providing sourness to dishes with great effectiveness.  
Kombdi Vade 
Spicy chicken curry is prepared using small pieces of chicken with bones, eaten with ‘Vada’ and ‘poori’ made from wheat and Ragi flour. The addition of Ragi gives a slight crunch to the fried vadas. Alternatively, lentil or gram flour is added in recipes to provide a crunchier texture and wholesome taste. Enjoying the spicy Malvani chicken curry and ‘Sol Kadhi’ makes for an ideal introduction to the profile of the Malvan region. 
Seafood 
Malvani cuisine is one of the country’s prominent coastal cuisines. Try the crispy and delicious ‘Bombil Fry’. Bombil fish, also known as the Bombay duck, is a delightful batter fried fish. Many coastal cuisine restaurants in Mumbai boast of the renowned ‘Bombil fry’, a must-try dish at their restaurant. 
Mackerel, or ‘Bangda fry’, is another popular Malvani seafood dish. The head of the fish is removed, the whole fish is fried, coated with semolina to provide a crispy outer layer, and the juicy spicy marination provides the Bangda fish with its exquisite taste. 

‘Paaplet Saar’ is a pomfret fish dish cooked in a traditional spicy curry flavoured with Coconut. Dishes such as  Surmai (Seerfish), Jhinga fry (Prawns), and Crab curry (‘Chimbori Masala’ or ‘Kurlya Rassa’) are a must try. ‘Tisrya Masala’ (Clams) is a medium spicy curry, while ‘Tisrya sukkah’ (Clams Sukkha) is the dried version cooked with grated coconut shavings, spices and chillies, elevating the flavours. 
A delectable Malvani seafood preparation, ‘Mori / Mushi masala’ (Shark Masala)’ is a spicy and sour seafood curry prepared with baby sharks.  
Meat and Poultry 
The famous Malvani Mutton curry, or Mutton Rassa, uses freshly prepared Malvani Masala, with the addition of ‘Kopra; (Desiccated coconut) and Vatan to create a spicy mutton curry, to be enjoyed with ‘Bakhri’ (Mix millet bread). Malvani chicken curry is prepared in the same manner.m 
A Local Konkani bird called ‘Khavda’ is also cooked to create an incredible khavda curry dish. 
Vegetarian food 
Contrary to popular belief, the Malvan region offers plenty of vegetarian dishes. ‘Phanasachi Bhaji’ is a typical tropical Jackfruit curry with spices and chillies. 
‘Shevgyachya Shenganchi Amti’ is a sweet, sour and spicy ‘toor dal’-based dish with Drumsticks. ‘Bharali’ means to stuff, and this method of cooking is applied to prepare stuffed vegetable dishes, such as Aubergines (Bhareli Vangi) and tomatoes (Bharele Tomator), ‘Mulyachi Bhaji’ is a vegetable curry made of Radish (Mooli) 
One popular and much loved Malvani dish is a vegetarian preparation called ‘Kala Vatana Ussal’ (dried black peas) cooked in spicy gravy with onions and tomatoes. The tangy flavour balances the dish’s spice quotient. 
Palwal Bhaji (Pointed Gourd), ‘Olya Chi Bhaji’ (Cashew Curry), ‘Gawar Bhopla Chi Bhaji’ (Cluster beans), and ‘Vaal Chi Bhaji’ (Hyacinth Beans) are some other interesting vegetarian options to enjoy in the Malvan cuisine. 
Rice Bhakri is also prepared in Malvan to enjoy with ’Rassa’, whereas ‘Amboli’, a mixed lentil pancake, makes for a delicious and healthy breakfast. ‘Dhondas’ are a unique preparation of cucumber and semolina cakes, which can be enjoyed sweet. 
‘Puran Poli’ is served as dessert, along with ‘Amti’, ‘Aamras’, or ‘Shrikhand’, a classic combination in Maharashtra. ‘Ras Poli’ or ’Ras Khaproli’ are rice and lentil pancakes served with sweetened coconut milk. Being south of Ratnagiri, the Malvan region gets high-quality Alphonso mangoes, which can be enjoyed as delicious sweet produce or used to flavour desserts, as well as other curry and lentil dishes from the region. 
A trip to Malvan would be an ideal foray into the cuisine of the region; If you are in Mumbai, Goa, or Karnataka, you would not be far away from a decent Malvani cuisine restaurant to enjoy the flavour riot on your palate. Unfortunately, not many Malvani restaurants exist outside of the influential core region of the cuisine; however, I hope we will find flavours of Malvan reaching every corner of the world in the coming years.  
Sidharth Bhan Gupta, Founder of 361 Degrees Hospitality, is a Hospitality / Food and Beverage / Restaurant Consultant.
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