This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.
E is for Egg Rassa and Eggplant Kaap
E is a hard letter! However, it does stand for two English words, Egg and Eggplant which hold great potential in Marathi food, so thats what I went with.
Eggs are a wonder food just like the beans we looked at last week: being nutritious, easily available and inexpensive. Egg curry-Rice happens to be my favorite comfort food. Every single region of India has its own style of making curries and thousands of recipes exist for egg curry. The one I have chosen is the curry or "rassa" ("ras" means juice and "rassa" is a juicy preparation...a curry) from my home-town. My home-town of Kolhapur is an ancient temple town...a city that grew around the famous Mahalaxmi Temple. For a temple town, Kolhapur has plenty unpious bad-boy attitude! It is a city well-known for its colorful language (the kind of profanity thrown around in routine Kolhapuri conversation would make a truck driver blush); bold folk dances called "lavnee"; a love of meat (vegetarians like myself are an exotic species in Kolhapur); and most of all, for its spicy spicy food. The typical feast meal in Kolhapur: a dry mutton dish, a mutton "tamda rassa" (red curry), a yogurt-based mutton "pandhra rassa" (white curry), rice and onion relish. How's that for a balanced diet?? As an aside, Kolhapuri women have a well-deserved reputation for being feisty ("Lavangi Mirchi Kolhapur-chi") as V found out the hard way :)
As a tribute to my Kolhapuri roots, I made an Egg rassa lunch. The curry is not hard to make at all, and the result is very fragrant and tempting. The deep flavors of this curry are very authentic. Anyone who does not care for eggs can easily put some veggies in instead...potato and cauliflower is a good combination.
E is for Egg Rassa
6 eggs, hard-boiled
2 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh/frozen grated coconut
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
8 whole cloves
8 whole peppercorns
6 dry red chillies
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
4 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
2 tbsp minced cilantro for garnish
1. In a pan, heat the oil, add cloves, peppercorns, chillies, poppy seeds and fennel seeds and saute till the spices are aromatic and sizzling.
2. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and fry well till browned.
3. Add the coconut and fry till well-toasted.
4. Add the tomatoes and continue frying for 3-4 minutes.
5. Grind this mixture into a fine paste, using some water as necessary while grinding.
6. Transfer the paste back to a saucepan, add salt and turmeric and enough water to make your desired consistency; bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
7. Peel the boiled eggs, halve them and add them to the curry. Simmer for another minute.
8. Garnish with cilantro.
To make a traditional Kolhapuri meal, serve this egg rassa with jeera rice and "dahi kanda" (yogurt-onion relish). Both are very easy to make.
In a saucepan, combine 1 cup long-grained rice (Basmati works best), 2 cups water, dash of salt, 1 tsp cumin seeds. Bring to boil, then simmer will rice is tender.
Slice some onion really really thin (a mandoline would be helpful here). Mix the onion with yogurt, a dash of salt, and some minced cilantro. Add some milk to thin the relish if the yogurt looks too thick.
The next "E" dish is also one of my favorites; because it tastes so good and because it is made in minutes. Kaap means "cut" in Marathi so this simply refers to cuts of vegetables which are pan-fried to make a side dish. This is one of those dishes that you make at the last minute to jazz up a simple meal of dal and rice, or when you need an extra side dish at the last minute.
serves 4-5 as side dish
1 large eggplant
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chilli powder/ cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
Oil for frying
1. Wash the eggplant and cut into slices crosswise. The thickness of the slices can be 1/4-1/2 inch thick, depending on whether you prefer the "kaap" crispier or "meatier". Set aside. Some people peel, salt and drain the eggplant but I have never found this to be necessary.
2. On a plate, mix the rice flour, salt, turmeric and chilli powder.
3. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a skillet.
4. Dredge each slice in the flour mixture, patting so that it gets coated on each side, and shallow-fry the eggplant on each side till crispy. Drain on paper towels.
Serve hot with rice and dal. Other vegetables that make good kaap are: raw plaintains, potato, yam, pumpkin. A mixed "kaap" platter is a real treat!
That concludes our "Egg-citing" E-journey. The next letter is "F". Hmmm...any ideas for this one?