Malvani and other Konkani seafoods – the potential loss of cuisines ?

Malvan is a village located in the Sindhudurg district of Konkan subdivision in Maharashtra. Malvan is famous for Malvani non-veg cuisine (especially seafood) – which is a unique spicy cuisine that has managed to exert its influence well beyond the confines of Malvan or Sindhudurg.

The Malvani Masala is easy enough to make and has the important quality of hiding failures in cooking. As a result, Malvani cuisine’s popularity has grown in leaps and bounds these last few decades. Restaurants across the state & increasingly along the coast have taken up serving Malvani cuisine while serving other cuisines is reducing.

The broader Konkan region from Thane to Goa & Dakshina Kannada has multiple culinary traditions which were very vibrant (heresay :P) until a few decades ago. But increasingly the cuisines from Thane to Ratnagiri are bowing down to the Malvani cuisine. If these continue, one can assume that a lot of delightful and subtle tastes of Konkani seafood may become difficult to find. Even in one of the most famous restaurants in Ratnagiri – Hotel Amantran – the food is more Malvani – probably as that’s what most customers want. Efficiency and markets have that effect on food traditions all over not just in India. All these other cuisines – Saraswat cuisine, CPK cuisine, Cuisines of Diveagar & Ratnagiri, Cuisines of Alibaug are only preserved in families till now but will they be going ahead remains to be seen. After an initial love affair with Malvani food, we (my wife & me) have ventured into trying some of the other dishes to great success.

These include

Green chilly Coriander Surmai Curry
Raw Mango Kolambi Curry, Masala Pomfret, Masala Prawn Fry
Tirfhal Coriander based Prawn curry, Surmai Fry and Amboli (Rice Roti)

While a great number of Foodies – bloggers, authors, and chefs are working hard to keep the old cuisines alive – link ; link ; link , there isn’t much to worry about. Given the sheer size of the Indian population, India seems very resistant to such erasures of culture & food which tend to be happening around the world.

Going through old cookbooks one wonders how much culinary customs have changed beyond recognition since independence. The famous Marathi cookbook Ruchira refers to Marathi people as predominantly Jowar, Bajra, and Rice eaters. Wheat has firmly taken over Maharashtra now and Jowar and Bajra are reducing year by year (though Rice manages to hold on). Globalization and even the local spread of easy and efficient foods (pasta, bread, wheat roti) have reduced the diversity of food globally. How much of these traditions will we preserve going forward? This may appear as a trivial thing to many but it bothers me.

My main aim of writing this blogpost is NOT TO MAKE ANY POINT but to find more such stories and more recipes that readers fear might get hard to find in the future or be overwhelmed by some efficient popular foods. Please add links to Food recipes you want to share – especially Sea Food.

Maybe my fear of the erosion of cuisine is exaggerated, but my generation is not that great at conserving food traditions as earlier generations were IMO.

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Skeptic | Aspiring writer | Wildlife enthusiast

38 thoughts on “Malvani and other Konkani seafoods – the potential loss of cuisines ?”

  1. Looks good. More people in the North should incorporate Fish in their diets. Clean protein,omega 3 fatty acids can help in people with stunted height or bad health problems.

    People eat puffs , biscuits( i am addicted)
    And other sugary stuff. The parents in most cases don’t know about good nutrition but what can you do they can’t be blamed cause even they haven’t eaten protein sources like seafood which is either expensive or unhealthy like fish pakora.

    1. Fish in their diets. Clean protein,omega 3 fatty acids can help in people with stunted height or bad health problems.

      Most Sri Lankans eat fish every day. Not very tall though. Healthy though, life expectancy 75.

    2. Indians need heavier protein, more micro nutrients, and less carbs/fats in general in their diet, especially carbs.

      This can be done on a vegetarian diet btw. I do it. But people need to be educated. More importantly, they need self control.

      1. Thewarlock – imo doing the small things takes us long way – avoiding Sugars, reducing number of intermittent meals etc.

        Protein – we really need to up it – I am partial to Milk and eggs as they’re easy to have

  2. The decrease in Jowar and Bajra are staggering in my home state of Rajasthan. My grandparents generation used to eat a lot more of these as well as Makka which grow easily in the dry climate of Rajasthan. Also the increase in rice consumption is a very new thing for us. My parents generation used to have rice as a delicacy, about once a week at the end of a meal. Now, it’s eaten a couple times a week or so in most homes as a main course dish. Traditional dishes are mostly eaten as a delicacy these days and now that is being felt in desserts as well. While some traditional ones are still consumed a lot, others like Mohan Thal have seen a significant decrease in their consumption.

    Also, on the point of traditional ways of eating being altered, we’re seeing a significant jump in non-veg consumption which is mostly coming from my generation. Many families that were vegetarian up till one generation ago, now have kids who started eating non-veg as a way to rebel and also out of peer pressure because they don’t want to be seen as conservative. I also find the rise in American fast food chains to be very sad.

    1. GreenVeggies;
      Wasn’t DalBati originally Bajra Bati ? These days its Wheat Flour Bati – we tried the Bajra Bati in a couple of months ago inspired by Raja Rasoi – and liked it a lot.
      I guess all the arid areas of the west were Bajra/Jowar regions with hardly any rice/wheat traditionally.

      Personally as a rare non veg eater – I have to confess I enjoy the variety of Indian veg cuisines a lot more than Non veg items. You might enjoy this piece by Guha (I thinkw his apolitical writings r far better )

      1. Wasn’t DalBati originally Bajra Bati ?

        That’s correct. On my grandparents birthdays, we only eat baatis made out of bajra and not wheat. Traditionally it’s eaten with a good amount of ghee. Infact my grandfather likes to dip a baati in ghee before breaking it up!

        I found Haldiram selling frozen Bajra rotis in the US and that has drastically reduced my wheat consumption. However, in many eating establishments today in urban Rajasthan, bajra is rarely served. I’m currently in institutional quarantine in Jaipur since I returned from the US and I have been served wheat and rice in every meal but no bajra.

        The piece from Guha was a nice read. Although I do strongly believe in preserving the local cuisines, even if they are non-veg, personally I take a lot of pride in knowing that I come from a vegetarian family and that my ancestors chose to abandon meat most likely thousands of years ago. This is probably one of the strongest reasons I feel so blessed to be born in India since this would have been almost impossible if I were born anywhere else. Unfortunately, it took me a brief stint of eating meat before I was overcome with guilt and went back to being a vegetarian.

    2. What is interesting is that the Western World has transitioned to seeing vegetarianism and veganism as ideas more associated with thinking of left liberals and many young people think it is chic, vogue, and “woke.” When I was growing up, people in school made fun of the fact that I stuck to vegetarianism. Granted, I grew up Jain so I had a lot of ethical education from my community on why eating meat is wrong rather than the often less rationalist approach my Hindu friends got. They were told abstractions like “meat is unclean!” But weren’t often given even the basic ethical framework of: Let’s avoid killing sentient beings as much as possible, when there are so many options out there to live a healthy life without doing so, especially in a place with so much variety like America.

      In India, the opposite seems to be true. The “cool” thing for young people to do is to consume meat. It is a sign of modernity to them. I saw a lot more obesity, when I went to India 9 years ago, compared to when I had traveled there 8 years before. Now, I bet it is a lot worse. This is of course more to your “fast food” point than your meat consumption point. One can be on any diet and be skinny or fat. It’s just a matter of caloric balance.

      1. Even though ppl have started meat eating I feel it’s unfair to blame it for obesity. Most Indians still don’t eat meat more than १-२ times a week- unlike I’m west where it’s १-२ times a day I guess.

        Junk food , sweets, and sugary drinks r on the rise though

        1. if you read what I wrote, I blamed it on fast food. you can be perfectly healthy and eat meat. it’s more of an ethics thing to not do so.

    1. I had gone to a CKP food festival an year ago – it was very tasty stuff – especially the Bangda & Bombil.

    1. traditionally all west coastal cuisines are coconut oil; though don’t be surprised to find these in groundnut oil/safflower oil these days – but hopefully not mustard

    2. All regional and caste based cuisines in India evolved in their own way. Mustard oil works for Bengali food because they took what they found locally and evolved from there or they were brought from somewhere else but then you have to
      be really innovative to find the proper blend. Mixing doesn’t really work like just throwing mustard oil with CKP food just doesn’t do it. You might as well dump barbecue sauce and hope for the best. In the future, I’m sure there will be some fusion of regional cuisines that inspire new dishes but it will take experimentation. Exciting to be honest.

  3. Great post, Gaurav. Love the topic. I think we are seeing a surge in young people seeking authenticity, so Id expect there to be potential for resurrecting the traditions before they die off. Not long ago, people working in mumbai hardly had familiarity with jowar bhakri/ zunka, let alone malvani stuff. Now food shows are bringing focus to the best tambda rassa in kolhapur, or some saoji bhojanalaya in nagpur. Next will be exactly what you’ve addressed, the very local food cultures everywhere, konkan included.

    1. Yes ; it’s on the way atleast in cities like Pune/Mumbai /Kolhapur as far as I know. Finally I feel this the markets which can preserve these foods.

      1. Lol 😛 – West is Best Bro;
        Culturally we feel closest to Goans and Gujjus than Trad Northies or Southies though. But it may just be me.
        Feel lost in both UP and down south.

    1. “IlAkhe Kutte aur Billiyon ke Hote Hain, Sher JahAn JAta hain, wohi uska IlAkha hota hai”
      – The great Jaat philosopher Dharmendra ( from one of his very forgettable movies)

  4. During the road trips to western ghat regions we have enjoyed the malvan fish meals from small eateries like the one shown in the picture. I love the their coconut and kokum based fish curries. Also my favourite is sidedishes made from raw jackfruit and raw mango . They also have a kokum based rose colored drink to finish the meal. Only thing which didn’t taste good enough to me are the pickles.

    The countryside of the malvan area is very beautiful and is worth of a road trip though the towns on the way look dull and depressing. Also the ghat regions nearby have amazing places like Amboli,Chandoli, Mahabaleshwar etc.

  5. West coast food is highly avoidable for anyone with a sensitive palate, lacking both discernment, and subtlety. It improves somewhat by the time you get to Kerala. Kolkata is the place to go for fish. Gourmets there, and you can find them in every household, can distinguish the prawns at Rajarhat from those caught at Kolaghat, a mere 30 miles downstream the Hooghly. Bengalis, Oriyas and Biharis are the great food epicureans of our times, readily distinguishing between pathar mangsho and khosir mangsho (meat from a male goat and castrated goat respectively) concepts well outside the limited culinary sensitivity of West Coast kitchen culture. That is perhaps why the secret pleasures of mustard oil escape denizens of the coastal areas from Kandla to Colombo and which the subtle cooks of lush green Bengal and Kashmir have imbibed and indulged. Southerly, Coromandel beats Malabar everytime except when making appams.

    1. “West coast food is highly avoidable for anyone with a sensitive palate, lacking both discernment, and subtlety.”

      @gauravL please translate “Mazze Khadyajeevan” by Pu La (where he talks about the subtleties of Tirfal, Dhabdhabit and such)for the enlightenment of this ‘jeev’!

      1. He must’ve falled prey to “tikhat ghatala ki itar goshti lapataat trope of Malvani food”
        That’s a nice essay my Pula

  6. Bajra roti is quite good. Really changes the taste of Sabzi compared to wheat roti.

    normally I hate eggplant + anything. But with bajra roti it magically becomes delicious.

    Bajra comes from west Africa originally but has been cultivated in India since IVC times.

    Eggplant (bangan) originated in India. I wonder If this is what IVC ppl would have eaten. (probably need to change up the spices a bit for authenticity)

    1. How do you think that variety of millet got to India? Land routes or trade in Africa or trade in India?

  7. Nice post! Talking about food diversity, the decline of consumption of diverse food in Andhra Pradesh was triggered by politics. NTR, after coming to power started the scheme of Rs. 2 per Kilo rice and it caused a massive shift of consumption of rice among lower economic strata. It was no longer economical to cultivate those crops, and a lot of farmers shifted to harvesting cash crops like cotton. The tragedy is that literally lacs of them committed suicide because of drought for a couple of years and they had no income to sustain. Horrifying second order effects because of one political move!

    A ray of hope is that some of the middle class and upper middle class started eating millets, jawar, and single polished rice owing to advice from doctors to avoid carbs. Hope that harvesting such crops becomes economical again and not all land is used to cultivate rice, which requires a lot of water and electricity.

    1. I heard similar stories about Karnatak moving beyond Ragi with cheaper Rice – earlier Ragi was the poor man’s food

  8. “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated”- Malvani Food!
    Nice write up on a subject that otherwise does not get written up, but I feel Malvani food is alive and well. actually it is thriving with the information age. You can get Kombdi Wade in Akola if you wanted! (
    AKOLA.. we are talking 868 KM from Malvan!
    The serpentine line in front of Gomantak in Dadar is only longer now than it was 30 years ago.( I know, it is Gomantak, but trust me every cook there is a Balya)
    “Wheat has firmly taken over Maharashtra now and Jowar and Bajra are reducing year by year”.
    First part is true, second, not so much! Jowar is enjoying a resurgence like never before. Most upscale restaurants now have Bhakri on the menu. Many IT chakarmanis want hot bhakri after they do their 2 hour commute from Hinjawdi to Pimple Saudagar or Warje and they have these Baais from Latur or Umarkhed who are happy to oblige with amazing skills in crafting a piece of heaven from the Solapuri Shaloo flour sold at every corner supermarket!
    The 20 something dieticians are Facebooking and Instagramming the virtues of ‘Naturally gluten free'(true) ‘easy to digest’ (true), ‘low glycemic’ (not true) Jowar Roti to the slightly rotund health conscious Project Managers and their ‘Lead QA’ Missuses!
    The gigantic wedding buffets now contain “Zunka Bhakri” among their procession of dozens of dishes and one sees all manners of English speaking, even the Bandra accent wielding, second generation non-Marathi Maharashtrians wolfing it down.
    Paraphrasing the great Octavio Paz, “Like an enormous metaphysical boa, Indian cuisine slowly and relentlessly digests foreign foods, ingredients and cooking techniques. Indians do not adopt new foods; they absorb those in this giant stew called the Indian cuisine.”
    Have you ever seen pasta consumed this way in its native lands?

    1. Yes given vibrant economy such things wouldn’t surprise. But even there some popular foods may cannibalize other difficult to make ones was my fear. But I don’t fear it that much these days.

      That pasta looks yummy ( Italians would feint though)

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