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“There is so much more to Maharashtrian cuisine than vada pao and missal; so many communities and their countless quaint food traditions that we know nothing of. But dig a little deeper; and you will find a treasure trove of culinary gems,” smiles Aneesh Dhairyawa, whose Mumbai-based venture, Authenticook, was started in a bid to provide gourmands an authentic dining experience of a particular community or region right in the kitchens of talented home chefs specialising in the chosen fare.
Having dabbled in Bohri, Mangalorean, Tulu, Parsi, Iyengar and even Koli feasts in the past, Authenticook recently spread its wings and arrived in Pune, with a scrumptious ‘Pathare-Prabhu’ lunch marking its debut pop-up. Prepared by homemaker Geeta, it showcased the hidden gastronomic delights from this lesser known clan.
Counted among the original residents of Mumbai, the Pathare Prabhus contributed greatly to the seafood-heavy culture of Mumbai. What makes their cuisine stand apart is the fact that every dish is delightfully easy to prepare, does not contain a smorgasbord of spices, and involves very little cooking time. The technique is pretty simple, with focus on basic ingredients such as onions, chillies, coriander, ginger, garlic and liberal sprinkles of the ‘Parbhi masala’ made using 16–20 ingredients that lend a very distinct flavour and aroma to this food.
On a cloudy Sunday afternoon, as our host’s resident tom cat settled at our feet for a siesta, our meal began on a languorous note with a glass of pale wine-coloured kokum sherbet. A beverage I would usually gulp down in one go, this rendition was surprisingly more savoury than sweet – the perfect palate cleanser to nurse for an hour or two. Shiny steel plates with bowls and cutlery were then laid out on the dining table, which became gradually laden with hot, freshly prepared goodies right off the stove. The spread featured a light and delicate prawn green curry, a ‘bhujna’ (spicy red curry) prepared with an elusive deep sea fish called the ghol, and a simple, tasty prawn pickle – all to be mopped up with fresh chapattis and rice, with a fillet of rawas rava-fried to a golden crisp, some salad and creamy solkadi on the side.
While the meatiness of the chunks of ghol dunked into the greasy but flavourful, garlic-based bhujna gravy (featuring the juices of the giant spinal bone of the fish as a primary ingredient) made my taste buds do a little happy dance, the star of the lunch was definitely the pickle. With the zing of fenugreek seeds and a squeeze of lime replacing the fermenting agent vinegar, it was rather impossible to believe that this wondrous little item had been assembled in a matter of five mere minutes! The affair ended with bowls of home-made mango and lychee ice cream rustled up by the host’s next-door neighbour – as endearingly informal yet peppered with intriguing food trivia as any meal could get.
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