Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Like my friend Cheri while I too love Madhur Jaffrey's Recipes (they are simply AWESOME) our Cuisine is different because I belong to a a very individualistic Community of Hindus called The Goud Saraswat Brahmins---and we are the only Brahmins who ate Fish in Ancient times.We are so called because we are the descendants of a community of Brahmins that lived along the banks of the legendary Saraswati River now extinct.We worshipped the Dieties Shiva,Vishnu,Devi,Surya and Ganesha.After the River dried up,following instructions of our patron Sage Saraswati Muni we panned out--some migrating further North in The Punjab and Kashmir but a large segment moved West to the coastal belt called the Konkan and settled in the Konkan belt of the States of Maharashra,Goa,Karnataka and Kerala--all speaking different dialects of a basic language Konkani.
We also retained our individuality in our form of cooking--besides the other Aromatic Spices the main base for our Spice or Masala Powders is the liberal use of Coriander and Sesame Seeds as well as Dry Red Chillies.This sets our cuisine apart from the other South Western Cuisines and makes for a really spicy,pungent and hot cuisine which can at times set one's taste buds scorching due to the heat involved.The Food cooked by our Northern cousins--the Kashmiri Pandits---- too has a deliciously unique taste but the Western one has a robustness of texture and flavour thanks to the liberal use of Spices.We use stuff like Nag Kesar or tiny Cassia Buds,an edible Lichen dried to produce Dagad Phool or Stone Flower as well as the round brownish Tirphal or Tepal--a form of Chinese Szechuan Peppers found in the coastal belt of the Indian West Coast.Thus the large number of Spices that we use in varying proportions can be pretty bewildering till one gets the hang of it!!
Besides in our home we cook according to 3 different styles--Mumbaikari,Kolhapuri and Konkani.Sudhir's family settled generations back in Mumbai--hence that branch belonged to the "Mumbaikari" Saraswats. These people were very fond of Food and used the traditional base of Coriander and Sesame Seeds along with 4-5 other Spices to enhance their cooking.They even cooked green Cashews, Green Almonds and Green Pistachioes as dry Vegetables or Curries specially during their Weddings. Basically Fish eaters very few of them ate Meat,Chicken and Eggs--and this included Sudhir's father and my maternal Grandma.My father hailed from Kolhapur and as a result the Food had Spices but also a lot of Red Chillies in the preparations--so again the Spice Quotient differed!!Finally the Konkanis--Mummy hailed from Saawant Waadi in the Konkan and therefore this form of cooking is a paradox--the simplest as well as the most complex!!It is the Konkani Fish Curries and certain Vegetable Curries that are the best cooked in that style I must also mention the delicious mixed Grain deep fried Puri like "VadeY eaten with a spicy Chicken Curry.This dish is called "Kombdi Vadey.While I love Konkani Food I simply adore the Mumbaikari way of cooking Shell Fish--specially Crabs which always turn out so delectably delicious and succulent--the Spices just enhancing their basic flavour!!For Meat and Chicken nothing can beat the fiery robustness of the Kolhapuri style--why just Meat and Chicken--- even the Vegetarian stuffed tiny Egg Plants taste simply divine when cooked according to this method!!
Making these 3 different type of Spice Powders or Masalas need precision for even a wee bit extra of any spice can alter the equation and throw it out of gear.Most of my recipes are cooked using the measures used by my Great Grandmas,Grandmas,MIL and my mother--I have inherited a very cherished Mantle from the Matriarchs in our family---hence mine not to alter anything but the amount of Ghee,Oil and Coconut content!!
P.S. If you need a particular Spice Powder recipe do ask me--it will be shared with you honestly--no Secrets shall be held back!!