There's No Such Thing As Maharashtrian Cuisine Or It Is There?

Maharashtrian cuisine is the cuisine of the Marathi people, who are native to the Indian state of Maharashtra. The food is known for its spicy, flavorful dishes and ingredients that have been used for centuries, making it a unique and delicious cuisine.

Yet, there is some debate about whether there is a distinct "Marathi cuisine" as such and whether or not Marathi cuisine does have a distinct identity.

Others say that it is more of a mix of influences from different places and cultures, such as Hindu, Muslim, and Portuguese.

In this article, we will explore the different dishes that Maharashtra is famous for, as well as some of the reasons why people might think that "Marathi cuisine" might be a misnomer.

 Introduction To Maharashtrian Cuisine

Maharashtra is a state in western India with a rich and diverse cuisine that reflects the cultural and regional influences that have shaped the region. Its cuisine was and is influenced by the geographical features of the state, such as the coastal regions, hills, and forests, resulting in a variety of dishes with unique flavors and ingredients. 

The cuisine has been around for centuries and has been shaped by various influences, including the Marathi people and other cultures. The cuisine is known for its use of spices such as red chilies, garam masala, coriander, and cumin.

History Of Maharashtrian Cuisine

The history of Maharashtrian cuisine dates back to ancient times, when the region was home to a variety of different cultures and communities, including Hindus, Muslims, and Portuguese colonizers. Maharashtra's food is unique and full of flavor because of all of these different cultural influences.

One of the key ingredients in Maharashtrian cuisine is peanuts, which are widely used in a variety of dishes, including curries, chutneys, and snacks. In Maharashtrian cooking, rice, wheat, lentils, vegetables, and spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili powder are also often used.

Overview of the Different Regions of Maharashtra and Their Food  

While it may be true that Marathi food and cuisine are not as famous as other Indian cuisines, it is vital to keep in mind that Marathi food is heavily influenced by the local culture and climate of the region, which means dishes are quite unique and may not be as familiar to people not from the area. 

To understand how many different cultures, languages, and foods there are in one state, it's important to know that Maharashtra is made up of four main geographical regions:

North Maharashtra: Nashik, Dhule, Nandurbar, and Jalgaon are the four districts that make up North Maharashtra. The culture there is similar to that of North India, and it shares a border with Gujarat.  

Konkan: The Konkan region includes the western coastlines of Maharashtra, Goa, and Karnataka; Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, is located there.

Marathwada: Its largest city is Aurangabad, and both Marathi and Urdu are widely spoken in the Marathwada region, which lies between the states of Karnataka and Telangana.  

Vidarbha: Located in eastern Maharashtra, Vidarbha is bordered by Madhya Pradesh to the north, Chhattisgarh to the east, and Telangana to the south.   

Why is Maharashtrian food not as well-known as other Indian cuisines?  

There are a number of reasons why Maharashtrian food may not be as well-known or as popular as other Indian cuisines.  

One of the reasons that some people say that there is no such thing as Marathi cuisine may be due to the fact that the state of Maharashtra is home to a diverse population with a variety of cultural and regional influences. Because of this, it might be hard to come up with a single, cohesive way of cooking that is uniquely "Marathi."  

Another reason may be that Maharashtrian cuisine is not as widely represented in restaurants and other food establishments outside of Maharashtra as other Indian cuisines, such as North Indian or South Indian cuisine. This lack of representation may make it difficult for people to try and learn about Maharashtrian cuisine.  

A third reason may be that Maharashtrian cuisine is less well known outside of India due to a lack of marketing and promotion of the cuisine. Many popular Indian cuisines, such as North Indian and South Indian, have strong diaspora communities around the world that have helped to promote and popularize these cuisines internationally. In contrast, Maharashtrian cuisine may not have as strong a diaspora presence, which may make it less well-known outside of India.  

It's also possible that Maharashtrian cuisine simply hasn't gained as much popularity as other Indian cuisines due to a variety of cultural, historical, and social factors. For example, some foods may be more popular because they are shown more in the media or because they are a bigger part of the culture in some places.

Some of Maharashtra's Most Unique and Varied Dishes 

For those who aren't from Maharashtra, the first thing that likely comes to mind is vada pav, a popular street food consisting of a spicy potato fritter served in a bun with various chutneys and condiments.

However, there are a number of lesser-known options that truly shine due to their distinctive aromas, tastes, and preparations, and these include:

Tambda Rassa/Kombdi Rassa: Chicken and a wide variety of fragrant spices are the basis of the traditional Kolhapuri non-vegetarian red curry dish known as Tambda Rassa. The popularity of Tambda Rassa/Kombdi Rassa spans the entire state of Maharashtra. In Marathi, Rassa refers to a light sauce; Kombdi is chicken; Tambda refers to the color red; and Rassa means red sauce.  

Bharli Vangi: Brinjals (eggplants) are stuffed with spicy masala and slowly cooked to create one of the most flavorful Maharashtrian vegetarian delicacies, served with roti or chapati, either dry or with extra gravy. Typical side dishes for this dish include Panchmel Dal, Boondi Raita, and Phulkas.

Tuvar Dal Amti: Easily identifiable by its distinct and delectable aroma, Amti, or tuvar dal, flavored with kokum, coconut, and goda masala, is the ultimate comfort food for any Marathi, and it's also incredibly easy to prepare. Aamti is a simple but tasty dish made with lentils. It is a Maharashtrian dish that started in the Vidharba region and spread to other parts of Maharashtra, as well as to Goa and Karnataka.  

Pandhra Rassa is a coconut milk-based, mildly spicy chicken or mutton gravy. Kolhapur is known for serving up delicious dishes like this one. Pandhra Rassa is a Kolhapur-originated Maharashtrian specialty that goes well with either brown or white rice.  

Pitla: One of the most well-known and loved dishes from Maharashtra is pitla, a curry made with gram flour and served with jowar roti or bajra roti and spicy chutney. Kanda (onion) Besan is a dish that is commonly prepared with gram flour and onions.  

Solkadhi, a traditional drink from the Konkan region of Maharashtra, is best enjoyed chilled and serves as an appetizer. Kokum fruit, coconut milk, and spices like garlic and cumin go into making Solkadhi. Since the food in Konkani and Malvani is mildly spicy, the cooling effect of solkadhi is welcome after a satisfying meal. Additionally, kokum facilitates the digestive process.  

Kothimbir Vadi: Gram flour (besan), coriander leaves, peanuts, sesame seeds, and spices come together to form this delicious savory crisp snack from Maharashtrian cuisine. Besan benefits those with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity because of its high content of complex carbohydrates and low glycemic index. Besan has a higher protein content than whole wheat flour.  

Sabudana khichdi: Traditionally, Maharashtrians will soak sabudana (tapioca) overnight before using it to make a dish called khichri. This dish is popular in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat and is eaten by those who are "fasting" during Shivratri, Navratri, or a similar Hindu religious occasion. Sabudana is high in energy, simple to digest, and also helps keep you cool.

Veg Kolhapuri: You've probably heard of or tried Veg Kolhapuri, a spicy vegetable curry with origins in the city of Kolhapur. The gravy in Veg Kolhapuri is hotter than the traditional Handi mixed-vegetable style dish because it is made with Kolhapuri Masala, which is made with ground whole spices and dried coconut.

Maharashtra is also known for its sweet treats, including shrikhand, a creamy and sweet yogurt-based dessert that is often flavored with saffron, cardamom, and other aromatic spices; puran poli, a flatbread with a sweet lentil filling of hulled and spilt Bengal gram or chana dal, jaggery, and ground spices; and Tandalachi kheer, a traditional Maharashtrian recipe made from rice.   

Ultimately, whether or not Marathi cuisine is considered a distinct culinary tradition may depend on one's perspective and definition of what constitutes "cuisine." Regardless of how it is defined, however, the food of Maharashtra is widely celebrated and enjoyed by people all over the world.