Exploring The Maharashtrian Mutton Thalis In Pune: An Irresistible Spice Affair
- Sidharth Bhan Gupta
Updated : August 26, 2022 12:08 IST
What comes to your mind when you think of Maharashtrian cuisine? To me, the first thought is of the excellent mutton thali restaurants spread throughout the state
What comes to your mind when you think of Maharashtrian cuisine? To me, the first thought is of the excellent mutton thali restaurants spread throughout the state.
Kolhapur is well known for its spicy curries, especially the world-famous Kolhapuri Mutton. The delicious and irresistible mutton curry is a delight due to its bold use of chillies. The indigenous Goda masala that goes into a variety of Maharashtrian dishes, including the mutton curries from Kolhapur, is a mix of aromatic spices and coconut, providing the masala with a spicy flavour with sweet afternotes, thereby lending the name Goda, etymologised from the word 'Goad' meaning Sweet in the Marathi language. When in Maharashtra, it’s always a quest to explore the state’s cuisine and enjoy the spicy culinary affair.
Mutton thalis have two variants, one with the spicy red mutton curry and the other with the fragrant and flavourful White ‘Rassa’ or Pandhra ‘Rassa’. Served on a steel plate, a bowl of mutton curry (Either red or white), ‘Keema’, ‘Bakhri’, and Rice is supplemented with unlimited servings of ‘Rassa’.
All across Maharashtra, restaurants serving mutton 'thali thrive. And to explore this culinary delight, we visited the Maratha Samrat Restaurant in Pune, a proud representative of the outstanding cuisine of Maharashtra.
The famous thali served at ‘Maratha Samrat’ includes their famed mutton curry, alongside two styles of Rassas,i.e., ‘Tambda Rassa’, ‘Pandhra Rassa’, and Mutton keema, all to be enjoyed with the traditional Maharashtrian bread, ‘Bakhri’. ‘Rassa’ is soup or curry made using mutton stock, providing it with a meaty flavour and a punch of herbs and spices; enjoying ‘Rassa’ with the meal makes for a delicious experience.
Mutton curry looked fiery! The tender pieces of mutton and the terrific-looking red curry tempted my palate, and we dug into the thali without further ado.
‘Bakhri’, a bread made of mixed millet flours, predominantly the coarsely ground ‘Bajra’ and J owar’, is a perfect accompaniment to the meal. Preparing ‘Bakhri’ is a skilful job, and who is better than a battalion of experienced women who work their crafty hands rolling out ‘Bakhris’ one after the other in a perfect clockwork style? Although options of chapatis are available for you to enjoy the mutton curry, ‘Bakhri’ can be best enjoyed by breaking it into small pieces and dipping it in the ‘Rassa’ until the morsels of bread become soft and soaked with the spicy ‘Rassa’. Mutton curry carried all the heat from the spices, and the palate’s balanced flavour made us want it more.
Alongside the mutton thali, we ordered a couple of traditional Maharastra dishes; Prawns, ‘Thecha Fry’ and ‘Koliwada Fish’. ‘Thecha’ is an authentic Maharashtrian preparation made of chillies; at ‘Maratha Samrat’, the prawns were tossed in a unique green chilli ‘Thecha’ and served with some raw onion rings to be enjoyed as a starter. It was a recommended dish, and the moment we tasted the first prawn, we understood the conviction behind the recommendation. Prawns were cooked to perfection, with the flavour of green chillies prepared our palate for the food that was about to come. ‘Fish Koliwada’, a crispy deep-fried dish from the Fishermen community, was coated with Rava (semolina), providing the crackling crispness, the USP of this fish starter.
Our meal was well paired with the traditional ‘Kokum’ flavoured beverage, The ‘Sol Kadhi’. Coconut milk and - ‘Kokum’ (A souring ingredient from the Konkan region) are combined and tempered with spices and topped with fresh coriander, making it a healthy and tasty beverage. ‘Sol Kadhi’ was a delightful companion, and we continued sipping on it throughout the meal for flavour and palate cleansing.
At ‘Maratha Samrat’, you can find an array of authentic Maharashtrian dishes such as chicken, mutton, and seafood. A dish that excited us enough to try it out was the ‘Gavran chicken’, the countryside poultry or ‘Desi Murga’, which is cooked in the rustic Maharashtrian spicy curry, much like its mutton counterparts. Maratha Samrat is a haven for food lovers seeking a fine dining setting. Their delectable food and courteous hospitality will give you a memorable gastronomical experience.
Another restaurant you can visit is Hotel Shivendra, a spacious restaurant on the Pune-Sholapur Highway, At Handewadi. As I saw most diners asking for multiple servings of the flavourful ‘Rassa’, I understood the true essence of dining at a mutton thali restaurant like Hotel Shivendra. ‘Bakhris’, rice and ‘Rassa’ are served unlimited, while you can opt for the portion size of mutton curry according to your appetite.
‘Another favourite of mutton thali lovers is ‘Hotel Kaveri’ There is hardly any differentiation when it comes to these legendary restaurants, which have proved their mettle over decades of pleasing food lovers with their delicious cuisine. Pune is a great city to enjoy many different flavours of the fantastic Maharashtrian cuisine, and you must keep in mind to explore these culinary gems whenever you are there the next time.
Sidharth Bhan Gupta is a Hospitality/F&B Consultant travelling across India exploring regional cuisines.