The Lesser-Known Flavours Of Konkani Muslim Food
Image Credit: Peela Pulao with Imli Kachumber and Kulde from Ammeez Kitchen

When we think of Islam the only people who come to our mind are the Mughals and we end up thinking that they are the ones who got Islam to India. We tend to forget to look back in history when Arab traders made Indian their home along the Western coast on the shoreline of shores of Malabar, Tamil Nadu and of course the ever-flourishing Konkan (coastal region of Maharashtra). This region happens to see a very special lesser-known cuisine that sees Arabic influence in it. Mostly restricted to the homes of the small Konkani Muslim community, this one sees a rich history. 

Relatively unknown in the dining world, when it comes to what exactly to expect out of this the Konkani Muslim food, Shabana Salauddin, home-chef reviving the Kokani Muslim cuisine under the name Ammeez Kitchen says “Konkani’s being coastal dwellers are known to be ardent fishetarians/pescatarians be it fresh or dried with rice being the second in the list of our staple food. However, while we can never say no to seafood; meat and chicken are equally important. And a surprising fact is that our meal is incomplete without a vegetable preparation almost every single day. Also, use of coconut in every preparation is not necessary as many may think; it varies from village to village and family to family. We use Kokum instead of Imli for souring our food. And our desserts are quite low on the sweetness scale. Kokani Muslims are very particular of the meal combination. The day fish is cooked; it with mostly be served with choti methi (vegetable preparation) and Naarli Dhaan or Toor Dal Khichdi. If it’s simple Dal Chawal then meat or chicken sider or dried fish bhunaoed on open flame is a must. On any given day a usual plate in a Kokani Muslim house would have a Starter, Sabzi, Gravy, Rice, Roti, handful of condiments and a dessert. Condiments served with the meal called as “Tondi-lavayla” loosely means “for the tongue” would at times exceed more than the main dishes served. In a nutshell our food is very balanced and we give lot of importance to local and seasonal produces and maybe that is one of the primary reasons why many our dishes are seasonal”.

This cuisine might not have reached the five-star table but it surely is marking its presence. The ‘Kokni Muslims’ as the community is known are still carrying the legacy with much pride. With intricacies and more this unique cuisine draws a fine balance between Mughal, Arab, Maharashtrian and Konkani flavours, coexisting and also influencing the food habits from time to time the Konkani muslim food sees the use of one of the most important spice, the fennel that the Arabs used to eat/ use. Talking about that one specialty that highlights the food Shabana says “Any celebration in a Kokani Muslim family especially a wedding cannot be complete without Dhaan Shikori (Dhaan is Kolam rice and Shikori is a chicken or gosht gravy with a good layer of fat floating on top. In earlier days, when the entire village was called for a wedding; the host was considered as a very generous man if the grain of rice was ‘fine’. So finer the rice more ‘dildar’ is the host. Also, Saandan, the spongy steamed rice muffin like served as a dessert with sweetened cream or like a bread with meat gravy happens to be our specialty”.

Like all other Indian cuisine this one is also much diverse. Something like a Saravle, which is similar to a pasta is mostly made in all households. Even without proper formal documentation, it’s seen that till date most of the Konkan villages around the coast have safeguarded their heritage ancestral recipes. With few home chefs bringing this cuisine to the forefront more and more are getting aware of it. “We’ve served more than 50k Indian and international foodies. Most are amazed how every ingredient in Kokani Muslim cuisine has a reason and their health benefits. It’s been about 4-5 years that there is awareness and now people know that its different than a Malvani or a Goan cooking. Today we feel so proud that this food is getting its due reorganisation and even celebrity chefs are speaking about this cuisine which otherwise is restrained only to home kitchens of our coast”. 

Let the aroma of Kandi Kebab, Kekre chi Halduni, Ghaas ka Halwa and Pelve fly far.