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When you have grown up in a resolutely vegetarian household, the occasional appearance of meat on your dinner plate always comes as a pleasant surprise. But what if your regular, vegetarian ghar ka khana were to be given a carnivorous twist?
A few restaurants in Pune are attempting to spruce up mainstream Maharashtrian dishes that originally belong to the ‘ghaas-phoos’ category by cleverly slipping in a meaty element or two. Surve’s Pure Non-Veg, for instance – a popular thali destination known for its spectacular goat meat fare – ‘mutton’ises two dishes: the puri bhaaji and missal. The former is a piece of culinary art – think fatty mutton slivers cosily ensconced in aloo sabji served with the beloved desi flatbread – while the Kolhapuri delicacy (usually comprising a fiery mixture of sprouts, potatoes, chivda, a smattering of chopped onions, tomatoes and coriander and, most importantly, a spicy red curry called ‘kat’) comes laden with an extra item of succulent mutton chunks here, best mopped up with fresh pao for some flavour balance.
Maratha Samrat, for its part, revamps every Indian diner’s favourite appetizer: the crisp, buried-under-masala papad here has hot and greasy mutton kheema or pieces of diced chicken mingling with the tangy-savoury, sev-packed toppings – a grand commencement to a meal if there was one. Newly opened Recipe Non Veg draws on the same concept, but replaces the mutton with dried fish bits that enhance the crunch factor of the dish. Plus, the fish is surprisingly non-pungent, combining seamlessly with the deep-fried goodness – ideal for those who get put off by the strong, ‘sukat’ whiff that typically emanates from this kind of preparation. Their pièce de résistance, however, is the vaanga bombil – fried bombil chips floating in a stuffed eggplant curry, resulting in a tasty amalgamation. If there is one sure-fire way of getting your kid to eat eggplant, it is this.
Another interesting gastronomic innovation involving seafood is the prawn alu vadi at Fish Curry Rice. So you have colocasia leaves smeared with a spicy-sweet paste made of gram flour and minced prawns, then stacked upon each other, rolled, steamed and finally deep-fried, resulting in a seriously lip-smacking entrée you immediately want to sink your fangs into. Finally, Satkar Rice Plate House rustles up a fantastic gaboli koshimbir. A Marathi summer salad conventionally made with cucumber or tomatoes, the koshimbir here has boiled fish roe tossed and tempered with chopped onion and grated coconut in a mixture of ginger-garlic paste and tart kokum – wholesome, dripping with fresh flavours, and extremely scrumptious.