Saraswats versus Pathare Prabhus Home Chef Potluck
Our Potluck group of Home Chefs has been meeting for a while.We believe in three things:
1.We have no rules 2.There is no such thing as too many friends 3.Food is everything :)
Earlier we just got our favorite dishes to the meet up but this time we had a theme....Saraswats versus Pathare Prabhus.In the former team were Smita Hegde Deo and Roopa Nabar and in the latter,Bimba Nayak and Soumitra Velkar.Smita has written a beautiful book "Karwar to Kolhapur to Mumbai" talking about her journey from childhood to married life,with brilliant photographs and perfect measurement recipes.Roopa is well known for her You Tube videos on Coastal Cuisine (the Coastal Diva) via India Food Network and Sanjeev Kapoor's Kitchen.She has designed menus for cancer patients.
Bimba Nayak was well known as Master Cutter as she designed baby clothes but then turned to food and made a mark in sugar craft (she makes edible art) and professional cooking courses including Pathare Prabhu cuisine.Soumitra Velkar conducts pop-ups on his community cuisine (Pathare Prabhu) through Authenticook and with his wife also supplies exciting yet healthy tiffins in Andheri
For the longest time,I have written about Pathare Prabhu food,thanks to my association with Bimba Nayak and Soumitra Velkar whose community association is very active in conducting food programs every year.This potluck gave me an opportunity to learn more about Saraswat cuisine,something I have also relished for a long time.Like Pathare Prabhus,Goud Saraswats are Aryan migrants from Central Asia who came via the Hindu Kush mountains and Khyber pass and settled along the Saraswati river.They were Brahmins but thanks to a famine leading to shortage of vegetables,they started eating fish.As the river starting drying out,they migrated to other places including Goa.With the Portuguese taking over,some of them moved to Maharashtra and some to the South of Goa.Smita is from Karwar in Karnataka and Roopa's dad is a Saraswat from Rajapur and her mother from Karwar.
Saraswats eat a lot of vegetables.Earlier these used to be grown in their backyard.Kurush Dalal,the food historian in our group told us that they were "Gourd Saraswats" thanks to the huge amount of gourds in their cuisine,be it ash gourd (kuvalya),ridge gourd (ghosalya) or ivy gourd(tendli).....to which Roopa playfully added "We are 'God Saraswats' ....meaning sweet in Marathi :).They also love their greens, be it spinach,fenugreek or amaranth!
Tropical fruits also feature in Saraswat cuisine such as jackfruit (fanas)and breadfruit (neerfanas).These are cooked and made into curries or fried.These can be bought at Matunga,Vile Parle or Dadar (W).They also eat bamboo shoots and banana flower.
It was drizzling on the day of our potuck.Potatoes,brinjals,breadfruit and banana were served as "Kaap" by Roopa,made with their special masala and quickly got over
She also served prawns fried with their masala.
Pathare Prabhus are a community that also has Aryan origin and came via the north to Rajasthan and Gujarat and from there to Maharashtra.Their dialect has words from all three languages.They owned a lot of land in Mumbai earlier and were well known for their lavish lifestyles.Breakfast was European with jam,toast and eggs.The men and women spoke English and French as well.Their cuisine evolved with their journey so Gujarati and Rajasthani influence is seen.They would eat 'khakras" at main meals which were layered crisp chapatis,stacked together and curry was poured on top.
Pathare Prabhus use a lot of technique to make their starters as was evident by the dishes Soumitra made: Prawn Patwad which consisted of colocasia leaves covered with gram flour and prawns which are rolled,steamed and then fried.They also make them with kheema or bombil.
The other dish was Shindyas wherein kheema (minced meat) or peas are stuffed into pastry and baked.British influence,I guess.These are made during Diwali
Bimba made Jawla Bhajji (shrimps fried in gram flour batter).Seafood are an important part of Pathare Prabhu cuisine.
Jawla Bhajji fans....Rhea and Kurush
Smita made mutton chops which were delectable! Mind you,she is vegetarian and only cooks based on the aroma not taste!
Roopa served lipsmacking Sol Kadi,an appetizer made with kokum berries and coconut milk.Saraswats also make a drink called Panak which is made of lemon,jaggery and spices.Pathare Prabhus make Koval....out of coconut milk,tamarind,onions and coriander
Breakfast of Saraswats traditionally consists of Polas or Dosas,Idlis,Upma,Poha or Thalipeeth.They also make Khotte or Idlis made in Jackfruit Leaves
Pathare Prabhus like to serve contrasts like Sweet Rice with Mutton or Sheera with Loncha (pickle)
Both communities are family oriented.While families have gotten nuclear,large family gatherings are much looked forward to.
Our group has two main raconteurs.....Bimba Nayak and Kurush Dalal.Kurush is an archaeologist and caterer and keeps his audience spellbound!
Saraswats use Ukada Tandul or Red Rice which is far more nutritious than the usual one.Dalitoy is made of tur dal (pigeon peas) and coconut oil and is an important part of the daily Saraswat meal .On the other hand,Pathare Prabhus have Sambhare out of coconut milk and fruit/vegetables (pineapple/beetroot etc) as part of their daily meal
Saraswats relish tender cashew nuts,which are not easy to source nowadays.They make a vegetable with peas or tender coconut.Roopa made this and it just blew my mind! I had some for breakfast the next day!
Smita made delicious,delicately flavored Valval,a curry with cashew nut paste,coconut milk and vegetables.No onion or garlic.
The Saraswat Fish Curry was of Surmai,triphala and kokum.Coconut based of course.Their gravies have various names :Ambat (red chillies,onion,kokum and coconut),Tamboli (onion and coconut) and Udid Methi (fenugreek and udad dal) are some.Saraswats eat all kinds of fish,large and small,including Pedve,Verle,Mandeli,Bangda and Surmai.Pathare Prabhus traditionally ate pomfrets and surmai,crabs and lobsters.
Over time, habits have changed.The younger generation is looking for less oil and carbs,which is surely welcome and necessary but as Soumitra pointed out,the cooking techniques may be lost unless the younger generation learns and documents them
Curries of Pathare Prabhus are as follows: Bhujane (onions,garlic,green chillies,coriander,chill powder,turmeric),Aatle (all above + Pathare Prabhu sambhar masala + tamarind+jaggery),Khadkhadle (garlic,red chill powder,turmeric and PP Sambhar) and Methkut (PP Methkut masala+ garlic,red chilli and turmeric).For the potluck he made Gode Batati for the vegetarians,as seen below.Pathare Prabhu curries are simple to make and are colorful
An unusual seasonal dish that Soumitra made was the mouthwatering Kairi Kanda.....prawns with mango and onion
Bimba made a superb Prawns Khadkhadle,Bombil Methkut (Bombay ducks with special PP masala) and Kheema Pathare Prabhu style.....
The outstanding desserts were made by others in the group.Pia Promina Dasgupta-Barve made chocolate eclairs,Pallavi Lotlikar made caramel salt ice-cream and Rhea Mitra-Dalal made lemon blueberry cake,served with Madhumita Pyne's Honey Butter Sauce.
It was a lovely evening of warmth,laughter,great conversations and good food at the Nabars'.No one wanted to leave! Who won? Saraswats or Pathare Prabhus? Doesn't really matter!! :D We are now making plans for our next get-together!!