Tag Archives: Konkan

Amti, my comfort food

Who can resist a well-made amti with steamed rice? Not me for sure. That is actually my comfort food when overeating has happened or I have been eating out a lot. More so in the festive season.

Amti is generally, a soupy dal made, with tur dal, tamarind, spices, jaggery and coconut. A well -known lentil-based dish, amti is eaten all over Maharashtra and Goa. Even during Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali, amti is a must on the menu. In fact I have been relishing some delectable ones these last few days, as I was vegetarian.

It is the staple part of almost every meal and yet has variations, as different dals are used -Tur, masoor and black gram or even chickpeas and split green peas. One can just unleash one’s imagination and create new versions.

Some ladies prepare a sheng daanyachi amti, using groundnut paste and it is tempered with hing, green chillies.  It is absolutely delicious and has a unique flavour and aroma. It can be relished with bhakri or even with Masale bhaaat. Kala watana amti (black gram cooked in coconut, tamarind and jaggery) is also traditional. Goda masala or kala masala is the key to a well-made amti. That is what lends it that spicy flavour and a unique taste. And it is then balanced with the addition of sugar or jaggery. The proportion of this is key to get the flavour right. The sweet n spicy taste of amti is typical. Masoorchi amti made with sprouted whole brown masoor dal is another favourite.

What is interesting is that while dals are referred to as amti, some even call any curry an amti and thus, prawn amti is popular too, among the Non vegetarians. Oh! non-vegetarian amtis with sea food can be so delicious. But I must confess, I still prefer the vegetarian versions.

My twist on amtis has been a tomato amti that I prepare. My family loves it. Paired with rice and batatachi bhaji (potato preparation), it is a lip-smacking meal. It is a bit like the tamatar saar but with coconut, chillies, garlic et al.  I once savoured a mouth-watering Bhendichi amti. Amti made with bhindi(ladies finger). I  was pleasantly surprised that it wowed my palate considering, normally, I do not enjoy my bhindi or okra in a gravy. I prefer it dry.

The key ingredients in any amti are coconut, goda masala, jaggery and tamarind. The dals can be varied or even other ingredients can be used. The flavours and taste are distinct and any meal in the Konkan region is incomplete without an amti.

Some of the delicious amtis I have tasted are in hotels in Pune at Courtyard by Marriott Hinjewadi and of course at Taj Wellington Mews as part of a Maharashtrian Food Festival. Those flavours still linger in my mouth.

maharashtrian-food-festival-1

Do write in and share what’s your favourite amti. I am certainly making one for lunch today!

 

 

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Kokum, Konkan’s wonder fruit

Come summer and I crave a glass of refreshing tangy kokum sherbet. And of course, no Malwani or Goan meal is complete without a glass of sol kadi for me, made from kokum, coconut milk, ginger, et al.

Kokum cooler

Kokum is an amazing purplish red sweet and salty fruit, also called garcinia. It is a popular souring agent in the Konkan region and I cannot do without it in my kitchen.  I love the fact that it is multi-faceted and lends itself to so many dishes. But yes, it should be fresh. The flavours are completely different when it is not fresh and appears dehydrated.

Whole dried kokum can be used in curries. I cannot imagine my fish or prawns curry without the tangy kokum or even my dry bhindi or ladies fingers, for that matter.

But I must confess, I learnt about kokum fairly late in life, when I got married to a Goan. In Kolkata, where I grew up, we had never heard of kokum, let alone use it. For us, tamarind was always the souring agent.

Halwa-Fish-Curry

In all curries where coconut milk is added, I tend to use kokum. I once sampled the most unusual kokum coconut chutney at Park Hyatt Goa. The taste still lingers in my mouth. It was exceedingly well-made.

It is called Bhinda in the Konkan region. I am somehow fascinated by the colour of kokum apart from its flavour. People in Kerala use it as well. In Maharashtra, moong dal amti with kokum and goda masala is legendary. It is a must try.

Kokum is used for its unique flavour and peculiar sourness that it gives to the dishes and hence used in Konkan Cuisine. A chef once told me an interesting way that kokum is used. Yes, Kokum butter, prepared from seeds is used in confectionery preparations. Some chefs have created unique European dishes using Kokum too.

Karavalli-Food-festival-image

Apart from its utility in the kitchen, kokum, owing to its anti oxidant and anti fungal properties, teats sores, prevents infection, improves digestion, treats constipation, and application of direct Kokum on skin removes all kinds of rashes and allergies.

Although it is available freely in Mumbai too, I still prefer getting my stock of kokum from Goa. It is fresh and flavoursome and I can be sure of the quality. Madgaon market is my favourite place to pick the best kokum.

So try using kokum in your culinary experiments, if you have not already. It is bound to tease your taste buds.