India is home to scores of culinary styles stemming from its enormous cultural diversity. While some of these gastronomies have garnered immense popularity over the years, several still remain to be discovered on a larger scale. One such cuisine that implores exploration is that of Kokani Muslims inhabiting the west coast of India, predominantly Raigad and Ratnagiri districts of Maharashtra. The delicacies of this ethnic group have an understated intricacy and are largely shaped through use of staples like rice, seafood and coconut.
In this article, I will acquaint you with some of the classic sweet delights of this community. These sugary treats involve use of humble ingredients like rice, coconut milk, grated coconut, jaggery, bottle gourd, eggs and much more.
GHAVNE – These are layered pancakes of ground rice, jaggery, coconut milk, green cardamom powder and eggs. A skillet is heated and laced with generous amount of ghee(clarified butter). This sweet is also part of a significant ritual in the community. Apparently, immediately after the wedding when the groom and bride come to the bride’s house for a stay, this sweet is served for breakfast on the day the couple is meant to leave for the groom’s home and is aptly termed pathavniche ghavne.
DHAPKYA CHI SHAAK – A thick bottomed braiser pan is lined with deseeded calabash/bottle gourd cubes (4x4 inches) in size. A mixture of chopped onions, jaggery, grated coconut, green cardamom powder and pinch of salt is prepared and filled in each of the deseeded cubes as well as layered on top to completely cover the stuffed pieces of gourd. Thick coconut milk is then poured over this entire preparation. The dish is then simmered for hours till the coconut milk evaporates completely. At this stage ghee (clarified butter) is added to bring a nice glaze to the preparation. The dish is cooked further on low flame till a dense caramelization develops. The preparation is then served garnished with dry fruits and khuskhus (poppy seeds).
GHAARI – These are crispy pancakes of grated, overripe cucumber, rice flour, jaggery and green cardamom powder. A thick batter is prepared by mixing all aforesaid ingredients. Heat a pan and add ghee(clarified butter) to it for shallow frying. Once the butter has melted, spoon enough batter to create palm-sized discs and cook on medium heat. The final outcome should be a crispy pancake with a nice, dark caramelization.
KHAJOORI – A dough of wheat flour, semolina, butter, eggs, saffron dissolved in milk, green cardamom powder and sugar is made and rolled into half inch thickness. Palm-sized triangles are cut from the dough and are shallow fried in ghee (clarified butter) until they develop nice crust of golden brown color. On cooling these treats can be packed in airtight containers and consumed for about a week.
The aforementioned dishes are just a small glimpse into the elaborate gastronomy of the Kokani Muslims. I hope to unearth many such fascinating dishes and cuisines as I continue on my path of culinary discoveries.
Till then, HAPPY EATING...
- Regional Indian Food & Travel enthusiast