I've been out of my home city for some 4 years now and while I surely don't miss the burgeoning crowds, the crazy way my heart would stay in my mouth until I boarded that local train and got inside the compartment or the fear of a bike running over my feet the second I stepped out of my building, I do miss the other things about the city. The beautiful open air markets is surely one of them. And the other is the food. Vile Parle, where I spent my last 4 years in Bombay was a veritable Mecca of street food and it's generally amazing how that city has something for everybody.
Now, Maharashtrian cuisine, is quite different from the Bombay street food. It is divided into several regions such as coastal, Kolhapuri, Puneri etc. While i'm not the best person to be talking about all the regional variations, I can tell you what my top favourites are - there's Kanda Pohe (Onion Poha) which with chai is the best breakfast I can think of. There's Misal Pav which is that perfect 4 pm snack, where you get a small deep dish filled with spicy peas with a little gravy, that's perfectly mopped up by a piece of bread (pav). Also, the Maharashtrian style of making rotis, or Tel PoLi as it is called, is simply a most amazingly soft, muslin handkerchief like Indian bread, made of whole wheat flour. I was quite thrilled to hear about a Maharashtrian home style restaurant opening near my place and I'm happy to report that their 'poLi' hits the spot. You could eat 3 of them and still feel there's space for more.
All that said, the ultimate delicious thing in Marathi cuisine for me, is this simple cucumber salad called 'Khamang Kakdi'. I tried this for the first time in the Marathi restaurant 'Diva Maharashtracha' in Mahim (Bombay) and fell head over heels in love with its taste & texture. While cucumber is a fairly palatable veggie as it is, in it's raw form, adding some condiments, some herbs and some spices to this, gives it a whole new personality. It goes as the perfect side dish to your regular roti and subzi. Try it and you'll not settle for any other random cucumber salad. I'm sure there are various ways to make this and many recipes, but this is how I make it.
Recipe for Khamang Kakdi (Maharashrian / Indian cucumber salad)
Time taken - Under 15 mins
2 large cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 tbsp freshly scraped coconut
2 tsp peanut oil or any other cooking oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
2 green chillies, finely sliced
pinch of asafoetida powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp chopped coriander
juice of 1/2 lemon or 2 tbsp yogurt (optional)
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely pound
In a big bowl, place the diced cucumber and coconut.
Heat the oil in a small pan. Temper the mustard and cumin seeds, curry leaves, chillies and add the asafoetida towards the end, just after you switch off the flame. Transfer this tempering over the cucumbers.
Add the salt, coriander and toss well, adding the lemon or yogurt if using.
Serve immediately or refrigerate, adding the peanuts and tossing well just before serving, so that they remain crunchy.
Serve with poLi/roti and vegetable curry or eat as it is as a snack time salad.