Exploring Koli Culture with Anjali Koli
Kolis (fisherfolk) are the first inhabitants of Mumbai.There have been several Koli Seafood Festivals all over Mumbai in the past few years which have been hugely popular.Mumbai now has its first Koli Restaurant Koli World at Oshiwara,Andheri.We wanted to learn more about their culture.
We set about shopping for fish with Anjali Koli at the Gopi Tank Market (Citylight) at Mahim.She is originally from Thal (Alibag)....same village by the sea that Anita Desai has written so beautifully about! She sources her ingredients from there and tries to help the women who make it,in her own special way.
Nirmala who has made an appearance on Discovery Channel helped us make choices.Anjali and she conversed in their sweet Koli language,a Marathi dialect.
Anjali showed us how to look for firmness in a fish for freshness and to check if the gills are red.We bought small crabs and learnt to distinguish between male and female crabs by turning them over.These were transformed
into a delicious coconut based crab curry which was finger licking delicious.
In the monsoons,one gets crabs,lobsters,clams and small fish like mandeli,nevta and khare.Khubi is a type of sea snail that they have.Kolis make a thin curry of the"Newta" (see picture below).During Shravan,they are vegetarian,which helps nature replenish fish.They have dry fish and pulses after Shravan,while the rains persist,for the same.
Kolis have rice and rice bhakris.We saw Anjali make rice by the yelni method,yielding rice from water.They say it's the best method and those that don't follow it are lazy :)
She used Ambe Mohar which has the aroma of mango trees.When she cooked it,the aroma pervaded the rooms.
She used Koli masala (a blend of 18 spices )for all the dishes.She blogs as Annaparabrahma and you can see all her Koli dishes here.We had pomfrets with Koli masala.Anjali herself is a vegetarian.She felt like giving up non veg while cleaning prawns one day.
She made a stir fry dish with Kolim (Javla or dried tiny shrimp),brinjals and spring onions...a dish with a refreshing new flavor.This is had at Koli wedding breakfasts and is served with Ghoad Ghari,made of wheat flour and jaggery.
We shopped,learnt how to cook the Koli way and ate.It was an afternoon all about fish and fish stories.There were three seasoned travelers with us,all adventurous about food...Pradeep,Shanky and Deepak.All extremely busy professionals who made time for exploring another culture.It was such a joy to listen to all of them.
In the end we received gift bags with Sode (dried prawns),Amboshi Cha Loncha (sun dried raw mango pickle) and the Koli masala.Can't wait to try them...