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Maharashtrian or Marathi cuisine is the cuisine of the Marathi people from the Indian state of Maharashtra. It has distinctive attributes, while sharing much with other Indian cuisines. Traditionally, Maharashtrians have considered their food to be more austere than others.
Maharashtrian cuisine includes mild and spicy dishes. Wheat, rice, jowar, bajri, vegetables, lentils and fruit are dietary staples. Peanuts and cashews are often served with vegetables. Meat was traditionally used sparsely or only by the well off until recently, because of economic conditions and culture.
The urban population in metropolitan cities of the state has been influenced by cuisine from other parts of India and abroad. For example, the South Indian dishes idli and dosa, as well as Chinese and Western dishes such as pizza, are quite popular in home cooking, and in restaurants.
Distinctly Maharashtrian dishes include ukdiche modak, aluchi patal bhaji, Kande pohe and Thalipeeth.
See also: Thali
Since they occupy a vast area with distinct geographical differences and food availability, the Marathi people from different regions have produced a diverse cuisine. The diversity extends to the family level because each family uses its own unique combination of spices and ingredients. The majority of Maharashtrians are not averse to eating meat, fish and eggs, however, the staple diet for most people is mostly lacto-vegetarian. Many communities such as the brahmins, or the varkari sect members only follow the lacto-vegetarian diet.
The traditional staple food on Desh (the Deccan plateau) is usually bhakri, spiced cooked vegetables, dal and rice. However, North Maharashtrians and urbanites prefer roti or chapati, which is a plain bread made with wheat.
In the coastal Konkan region, rice is the traditional staple food. Wet coconut and coconut milk are used in many dishes. Marathi communities indigenous to Mumbai and North Konkan have their own distinct cuisine.[note 1] In South Konkan, near Malvan, another independent cuisine developed called Malvani cuisine, which is predominantly non-vegetarian. Kombdi vade, fish preparations and baked preparations are more popular there.
In the Vidarbha region, little coconut is used in daily preparations but dry coconut and peanuts are used in dishes such as spicy savjis, as well as in mutton and chicken dishes.
Maharashtrian lacto-vegetarian dishes are based on five main classes of ingredients that include grains, legumes, vegetables, dairy products and spices.
Staple dishes in the cuisine are based on a variety of flatbreads and rice. Flatbreads can be wheat-based, such as the traditional trigonal ghadichi poli  or the round chapati that is more common in urban areas. Bhakri is an unleavened bread made using grains such as ragi or millet, bajra or bajri or jwari – and Bhakri forms part of daily meals in rural areas.
Traditionally, the staple grains of the inland Deccan plateau have been millets, jwari  and bajri. These crops grow well in this dry and drought-prone region. In the coastal Konkan region the finger millet called ragi is used for bhakri. The staple meal of the rural poor was traditionally as simple as bajra bhakri accompanied by just a raw onion, a dry chutney, or a gram flour preparation called jhunka. Jhunka with bhakri has now become a popular street food in Maharashtra.
Increased urbanization of the Maharashtra region has increased wheat's popularity. Wheat is used for making flatbreads called chapati, trigonal ghadichi poli , the deep-fried version called puri or the thick paratha. Wheat is also used in many stuffed flatbreads such as the Puran poli, Gul poli (with sesame and Jaggery stuffing), and Satorya (with sugar and khoya (dried milk)).
Wheat flatbreads are also made with vegetable stuffings such as peas, potatoes and Gram dal. One of the ancient sought-after breads was Mande. As with rice, flatbreads accompany a meal of vegetables or dairy items.
Rice is the staple food in the rural areas of coastal Konkan region but is also popular in all urban areas. Local varieties such as the fragrant ambemohar have been popular in Western Maharashtra.
In most instances, rice is boiled on its own and becomes part of a meal that includes other items. A popular dish is varan bhaat where steamed rice is mixed with plain dal that is prepared with pigeon peas, lemon juice, salt and ghee. Khichdi is a popular rice dish made with rice, mung dal and spices. For special occasions, a dish called masalebhat made with rice, spices and vegetables is popular.
Milk is important as a staple food. Both cow milk and water buffalo milk are popular. Milk is used mainly for drinking, to add to tea or coffee or to make homemade dahi (yogurt). Traditionally, yogurt is made every day using previous day's yogurt as the starting bacterial culture to ferment the milk. The Dahi is used as dressing for many salad or koshimbir dishes, to prepare Kadhi, to prepare cultured buttermilk (Taak) or as a side dish in a thali. Buttermilk is used in a drink called mattha by mixing it with spices. It may also be used in curry preparations. Milk is also the prerequisite ingredient for butter and Ghee (clarified butter).
Until recently, canned or frozen food was not widely available in India. Therefore, the vegetables used in a meal widely depended on seasonal availability. In Maharashtra, spring (March–May) is the season of cabbages, onions, potatoes, okra, guar and tondali, shevgyachya shenga, dudhi, marrow and padwal. During the Monsoon season (June–September) green leafy vegetables, such as aloo (Marathi: आळू), or gourds such as karle, dodka and eggplant become available. Chili peppers, carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower, French beans and peas become available in the cooler climate of October to February. Coal fired roasted young cobs of Sorghum (Jwari) is a popular item during winter picnics to the farms. Vegetables are typically used in making bhaajis (Indian stew). Some bhaajis are made with a single vegetable, while others are made with a combination. Bhaajis can be "dry" such as stir fry or "wet" as in the well-known curry. For example, fenugreek leaves can be used with mung dal or potatoes to make a dry bhhaji or mixed with besan flour and buttermilk to make a curry preparation. Bhaaji requires the use of goda masala, consisting of a combination of onion, garlic, ginger, red chilli powder, green chillies, turmeric and mustard seeds. Depending on a family's caste or specific religious tradition, onions and garlic may be excluded. For example, a number of Hindu communities from many parts of India refrain from eating onions and garlic altogether during chaturmas, which broadly equals the monsoon season.
Leafy vegetables such as fenugreek, amaranth, beetroot, radish, dill, colocasia, spinach, ambadi, sorrel (Chuka in Marathi), chakwat, safflower (Kardai in Marathi) and tandulja are either stir-fried (pale bhaaji ) or made into a soup (patal bhaaji ) using buttermilk and gram flour.
Many vegetables are used in salad preparations called koshimbirs or raita. Most of these have dahi (yogurt) as the other main ingredient. Popular Koshimbirs include those based on radish, cucumber and tomato-onion combinations. Many raita require prior boiling or roasting of the vegetable as in the case of eggplant. Popular raita include those based on carrots, eggplant, pumpkin, dudhi and beetroot respectively.
Along with green vegetables, another class of popular food is various beans, either whole or split. Split beans are called dal and turned into amti (thin lentil soup), or added to vegetables such as dudhi. Dal may be cooked with rice to make khichadi. Whole beans are cooked as is or more popularly soaked in water until sprouted. Unlike Chinese cuisine, the beans are allowed to grow for only a day or two. Curries made out of sprouted beans are called usal and form an important source of proteins. The legumes popular in Maharastrian cuisine include peas, chick peas, mung, matki, urid, kidney bean, black-eyed peas, kulith and toor (also called pigeon peas). Out of the above toor and chick peas are staples. The urid bean is the base for one of the most popular types of papadum'.
Peanut oil and sunflower oil are the preferred cooking oils, however cottonseed oil is also used. Clarified butter (called ghee) is often used for its distinct flavor. It is served with Puran poli, Varan bhaat, chapati and many other dishes. Fresh home made butter is usually served with bhakri.
Depending on region, religion and caste, Maharashtrian food can be mild to extremely spicy. Common spices include asafoetida, turmeric, mustard seeds, coriander, cumin, dried bay leaves, and chili powder. Ingredients used especially for kala or black masala spice blend include cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, cardamom and nutmeg. Other spice blends popular in the cuisine include goda masala and Kolhapuri masala. Common herbs to impart flavor or to garnish a dish include curry leaves, and coriander leaves. Many common curry recipes call for garlic, onion, ginger and green chilli pepper. Ingredients that impart sour flavor to the food include yoghurt, tomatoes, tamarind paste, lemon, and amsul skin. or unripe mangoes.
Chicken and goat are the most popular sources for meat in Maharashtrian cuisine. Eggs are popular and exclusively come from chicken sources. Beef and pork are also consumed by some sections of Maharashtrian society. However, these do not form part of traditional Maharashtrian cuisine.
Seafood is a staple for many Konkan coastal communities and is popular in other parts of the state too. Most of the recipes are based on marine fish, prawns and crab. A distinct Malvani cuisine of mainly seafood dishes is popular. Popular fish varieties include Bombay duck, pomfret, bangda, Rawas, and surmai (kingfish). Seafood recipes are prepared in different ways such as curried, Pan frying, or steaming in banana leaves.
Other ingredients include oil seeds such as flax, karale, coconut, peanuts, almonds and cashew nuts. Peanut powder and whole nuts are used in many preparations including, chutney, khosimbir and bhaaji. More expensive nuts (almonds and cashew) are used for sweet dishes. Flax and karale seeds are used in making dry chutneys. Traditionally, sugar cane based jaggery was used as the sweetening agent, but has been largely replaced by refined cane sugar. Fruit such as mango are used in many preparations including pickles, jams, drinks and sweet dishes. Bananas and jackfruit are also used in many dishes.
Urban menus typically have wheat in the form of chapatis and plain rice as the main staples. Traditional rural households would have millet in form of bhakri on the Deccan plains and rice on the coast as respective staples.
Typical breakfast items include misal, pohe, upma, sheera, sabudana khichadi and thalipeeth. In some households leftover rice from the previous night is fried with onions, turmeric and mustard seeds for breakfast, making phodnicha bhat. Typical Western breakfast items such as cereals, sliced bread and eggs, as well as South Indian items such as idli and dosa are also popular. Tea or coffee is served with breakfast.
Vegetarian lunch and dinner plates in urban areas carry a combination of:
Apart from bread, rice, and chutney, other items may be substituted. Families that eat meat, fish and poultry may combine vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, with rice and chapatis remaining the staples. Vegetable or non-vegetable items are essentially dips for the bread or for mixing with rice.
Traditional dinner items are arranged in a circular way. With salt placed at 12 o'clock, pickles, koshimbir and condiments are placed anti-clockwise of the salt. Vegetable preparations are arranged in a clockwise fashion with a sequence of leafy greens curry, dry vegetables, sprouted been curry (usal ) and dal. Rice is always on the periphery rather than in the center.
In the Konkan coastal area, boiled rice and rice bhakri, nachni bhakri is the staple, with a combination of the vegetable and non-vegetable dishes described in the lunch and dinner menu.
In other areas of Maharashtra such as Desh, Khandesh, Marathwada and Vidarbha, the traditional staple was bhakri with a combination of dal, and vegetables. The bhakri is increasingly replaced by wheat-based chapatis.
Open stove cooking is the most commonly used cooking method. The traditional three-stone chulha has largely been replaced by kerosene or gas stoves. A stove may be used for cooking in many different ways:
Other methods of food preparation include:
A number of dishes are made for religious occasions, dinner parties or as restaurant items or street food.
Meat dishes are prepared in a variety of ways:
Seafood is a staple for many communities that hail from the Konkan region. Popular dishes include:
Various vegetable curries or gravies are eaten with rice, usually at both lunch and dinner. Popular dishes include:
In Maharashtra, the traditional offering (for a guest) used to be water and jaggery (Gulpani). This has been replaced by tea or coffee. These beverages are served with milk and sugar. Occasionally, along with tea leaves, the brew may include spices, freshly grated ginger and cardamom[unreliable source?] or lemon grass. Coffee is served with milk or ground nutmeg. Other beverages include:
Desserts are important part of festival and special occasions. Typical desserts include, flatbread called puran poli with stuffed lentil and jaggery mix, a preparation made from strained yogurt, sugar and spices called shrikhand, a sweet milk preparation made with evaporated milk called basundi, semolina and sugar based kheer and steamed dumplings stuffed with coconut and jaggery called modak. In some instances, the modak is deep-fried instead of steamed. Traditionally, these desserts were associated with a particular festival. For example, modak is prepared during the Ganpati Festival.
Other sweets popular in Maharashtra and other regions of India include: Kheer, kaju katli, gulab jamun, jalebi, various kinds of barfi, and rasmalai.
In many metropolitan areas, including Mumbai and Pune, fast food is popular. The most-popular forms are bhaji, vada pav, misalpav and pav bhaji. More-traditional dishes are sabudana khichadi, pohe, upma, sheera and panipuri. Most Marathi fast food and snacks are lacto-vegetarian.
Some dishes, including sev bhaji, misal pav and patodi are regional dishes within Maharashtra.
Like most Indian cuisines, Maharashtrian cuisine is laced with many fried savories, including:
Makar Sankranti usually falls on January 14 of the Gregorian calendar. Maharashtrians exchange tilgul or sweets made of jaggery and sesame seeds along with the customary salutation, tilgul ghya aani god bola (Marathi: तीळगुळ घ्या आणि गोड गोड बोला), which means "Accept the tilgul and be friendly." Tilgul Poli or gulpoli are the main sweet preparations. It is a wheat-based flatbread filled with sesame seeds and jaggery.
Marathi Hindu people fast on this day. Fasting food includes chutney prepared with pulp of the or kavath fruit (Wood apple). Some communities use the pulp of Bael/.
As part of Holi, a festival that is celebrated on the full moon evening in the month of Falgun (March or April), a bonfire is lit to symbolize the end of winter and the slaying of a demon in Hindu mythology. People make puran poli as a ritual offering to the holy fire. The day after the bonfire night is called Dhulivandan. Marathi people celebrate with colors on the fifth day after the bonfire on Rangpanchami.
Modak is said to be the favorite food of Ganesh. An offering of twenty-one pieces of this sweet preparation is offered on Ganesh Chaturthi and other minor Ganesh-related events. Various Maharashtrian communities prepare different dishes specially for Gauri poojan.
Diwali is one of the most popular Hindu festivals. In Maharashtrian tradition family members have a ritual bath before dawn and then sit down for a breakfast of fried sweets and savory snacks called as Diwali Faral. These sweets and snacks are offered to visitors and exchanged with neighbors. Typical sweet preparations include ladu, anarse, shankarpali and karanjya. Popular savory treats include chakli, Shev and chiwda. High in fat and low in moisture, these snacks can be stored at room temperature for many weeks without spoiling.
Many Maharashtrian communities from all social levels observe the Khandoba Festival or Champa Shashthi in the month of Mārgashirsh. Households perform Ghatasthapana of Khandoba during this festival. The sixth day of the festival is called Champa Sashthi. For many people, the Chaturmas period ends on Champa Sashthi. It is customary for many families not to consume onions, garlic and eggplant during the Chaturmas. Following the festival, the consumption of these foods resumes with ritual preparation of vangyache bharit (baingan bharta) with rodga.
The traditional wedding menu among Maharashtrian Hindu communities used to be a lacto-vegetarian fare with mainly multiple courses of rice dishes with different vegetables and dals. Some menus also included a course with puris. In some communities, the first course was plain rice and the second was dal with masala rice. The main meal typically ended with plain rice and mattha. Some of the most-popular curries to go with this menu and with other festivals were those prepared from taro (Marathi: अलउ) leaves. Buttermilk with spices and coriander leaves, called mattha, is served with the meal. Popular sweets for the wedding menu were shreekhand, boondi ladu and jalebi.
Marathi Hindu people fast on days such as Ekadashi, in honour of Lord Vishnu or his Avatars, Chaturthi in honour of Ganesh, Mondays in honour of Shiva, or Saturdays in honour of Maruti or Saturn. Only certain kinds of foods are allowed to be eaten. These include milk and other dairy products (such as dahi), fruit and Western food items such as sago, potatoes, purple-red sweet potatoes, amaranth seeds, nuts and varyache tandul (shama millet). Popular fasting dishes include Sabudana Khichadi or danyachi amti (peanut soup).
East Indian Catholic Community of North Konkan also have their own special recipes for Christmas. Just like Goa, this includes pork vindaloo and sorpotel. A popular sweet for Christmas includes Fogeas made out of flour, coconut milk, sugar and cottage cheese. These sweets are offered to visitors and exchanged with neighbors and friends.