Located in western India, the state of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital is the country’s wealthiest and most developed state – this means that the people of Maharashtra take their food very seriously indeed.
The cuisine enjoyed throughout the state varies according to region and city, but there are some similarities in the style of cooking and ingredients used that can be said to be distinctly Maharashtrian. For example, cooks throughout the state use cashews, peanuts, coconuts, seasonal vegetables and grains such as bajra and jowar in their recipes.
Another defining characteristic of Maharashtrian cuisine is that it often has a bitter taste, largely as a result of the tamarind and kokam used by chefs and home cooks alike. This is counteracted with the subtle sweetness of gur, and ghee, peanut oil, ginger and garlic, which also help round off the bitter flavours.
Despite being relatively near the coast, the city of Kolhapur is actually known for its delicious mutton dishes. The cuisine of this historic city features two distinctive curries: tambadarassa – a red curry made with powdered red chillies - and pandhararassa, a white, soup-like curry made with mutton stock, coconut milk, garlic and ginger, as well as cinnamon and coriander. The latter is usually served as a starter but it also thought to have medical purposes for helping to relieve sore throats and coughs. In Kolhapur you can also enjoy a Kolhapuri thali, which usually includes fiery dishes such as kharda (minced green chillies with garlic), alongside fried fish and breads like bkahri.
Further west lies the Malvani region, art of the wider Konkani cuisine which favours seafood, fish and coconut. Coconut is used in all its forms – fresh, dried, paste and milk – to add a soothing element to the spiciness of dishes made with generous helpings of chilli. Coconut milk is also used in the popular drink sol kadhi, featuring the kokam fruit.
In the centre of Maharashtra, you’ll come across the Varadi region, another big fan of fiery foods. Signature dishes of the Varadi include includezunkarbhakar, pathawadi and vadabhat, and coconut also features prominently, although usually in powdered form.
The final cuisine of Maharashtra is Parsi, which plays an integral role as the Parsi people make up a large proportion of the state’s population. Parsi meals always feature rice and potatoes, as well as a hefty portion of the famous kachumbari salad. Other popular dishes in Parsi cuisine include patranimachhi (fish and green chutney steamed in a banana leaf), khichdi (lentils and rice), and jardaloosaliboti (lamb cooked with apricots and almonds).
For a taste of Maharashtra without travelling all the way to India, make a short visit to our capital to enjoy London’s best fine-dining Indian restaurants. The chefs here prepare authentic dishes that are influenced by those served in Maharashtra and the other states of India, all with a modern touch that stays true to classical Indian tastes and techniques. So if you’ve only tried your standard Indian curries until now, prepare to enjoy a truly memorable dining experience.