Why is Kolhapuri food so spicy? Located in Southern Maharashtra, the hot and humid climate of this region requires one to drink a lot of water. The locals believe that one sure shot way to do so is to gulp down gallons of H2O after indulging in a spicy meal. The signature Param Masala, which is a blend of 25 spices enhances the taste of the meat and takes it to the next level.
One look at the thali and you would know that Kolhapuris love their mutton. The meat is full of flavour and the quality of their dairy products is one of the best owing to the ample fodder in this region. This is the sugar growing belt of Maharashtra and jaggery is one of their go-to ingredients that binds the various tastes in a dish.
On this thali, there is a spicy red mutton curry , Tamdhra Rassa, to set the mouth on fire and the mildly spiced white mutton curry, Pandhra Rassa, to extinguish it. The Param masala is one of the main ingredients of the fiery Tamdhra Rassa that lends it a reddish hue. White pepper, poppy seeds, grounded coconut and cashew go into the Pandhra Rassa turning it into a white gravy. Fun trivia - in Kolhapuri, Tamdhra means red, Pandhra is white and Rassa translates into curry.
These curries pair well with rice as well as bhakris, and we have here Mutton Golyachi Pulao or pulao with mutton balls. A rice delicacy that’s reserved for special occasions, the mutton balls have chunky kheema pieces and are mildly spiced.
Pithla – a staple in almost all Maharashtrian dishes, this is a gram-flour based dish spiced with onion, chillies, mustard and cumin seeds. Accompanied with hot jowar bhakris, this is comfort food at its best. These are broken into four equal parts as a hospitable gesture so that the guest loses count of the number of bhakris consumed and enjoy the meal. The pithla might be too mild for some, so reach out for the Thecha, a chutney made with crushed peanuts and spicy lavangi chillies.
Bharli Vangi or mini eggplants stuffed with peanuts, dry coconut and a hint of jaggery is a welcome break from this meat feast.
End your meal with ghee-soaked puranpoli and shrikhand – a must when guests visit. The creamy shrikhand flavoured with saffron and soft puranpolis stuffed with ground daal and the finest quality jaggery is also a treat during festivals. In some homes, a small bowl of water with saffron is kept on the side for guests to wash their fingertips during the meal if they wish to get rid of the masalas. Kolhapuris leave no stone unturned when it comes to hospitality and this thali is a testimony to their love for their cuisine and sharing it with their dear ones.
With inputs from Smita Deo, Chef and Author of the cookbook Karwar to Kolhapur via Mumbai
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