Crispy & spicy Fish Fries, hot & tangy Shrimp Curry and cool & refreshing Sol Kadhi are all synonymous with Malvani cuisine. Malvan is a quaint little town located on the southernmost tip of the Konkan coast in Maharashtra, surrounded by the Sahyadri mountain range on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other. With its beautiful beaches, historic forts and delicious Malvani cuisine, this place is a very popular tourist attaction.
When I was a little girl, my parents took me to Malvan for a vacation. I have faint memories of the boat ride to the Sindhudurg fort, when I tasted the salty sea water for the very first time , the time I spent on the beach collecting all kinds of sea shells from the sand and ran frantically at the sight of a crab and had nothing but curds and rice for lunch and dinner all week long .. Yes, this big seafood buff was once totally aversive to seafood! I hated the smell so much that I wouldn’t even go anywhere close to it. But somewhere along the way ( I don’t remember how) I grew on to it and now I love eating and cooking all kinds of fish and seafood. My all time favorite in this category is, without a doubt, the food of Malvan.
Here are some of my favorite Malvani recipes….
(Malvani Style shallow- fried Fish Fries)
“Fish Fry” in any Indian lauguage means hot and spicy filet of fish with a crispy coating thats is formed by either deep or shallow frying. Malvani style fried fish is slightly different from the Bengali or South Indian style depending on the regional spices and other ingredients used for the coating the fish before frying it.
I always take the shallow-fry route to making fried fish. With my Maharashtrian roots, my recipe reflects the Malvani style. I created this basic recipe with a filet of farm rasied, fresh, never frozen Tilapia. It also works well with any firm, white-fleshed fish, as well as shrimp or scallops. I like to marinate the fish in fresh ginger-garlic-herb marinade and then dredge them in a spicy rice flour-semolina mixture before shallow frying. The resulting crust is always crispy, not too thick and refreshingly spicy.
Bite into one of these spicy & crispy fish fries and I guarantee you will come back for more!
1 tbsp turmeric powder (use more than half for disinfecting and cleaning the fish filets)
oil, extra virgin olive oil or any other (for shallow frying)
2 -3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
½ inch peice ginger, coarsely chopped
1-2 small green chilies, coarsely chopped
1 cup packed (a generous handful) cilantro/coriander, coarsely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
lemon zest from 1 lemon (cut the lemon into wedges for garnish)
¼ cup extra virgin oilve oil
The Crispy Coating
1:1 cup of rice flour: sooji/rava (semolina)
½ tbsp turmeric
½ tbsp red chilli powder (or paprika for less heat)
1 tbsp garam masala or your favorite fish curry masala
Rub turmeric on to both the sides of the tilapia filets, wash, cut into chunks and keep aside.
In a food processor/grinder/blender combine all the ingredients for the marinade and grind it to a coarse-fine consistency paste. Pour it over the fish chunks making sure they are well coated and leave it in the refrigerator for about half an hour. (Marination process is not necessary but recomended)
In the meantime, combine all the ingredients for the “crispy coating” in a medium sized plastic container with a tight lid (I use one of these). Snap the lid on and shake the container so that all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
Preheat a frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle a little amount of oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Remove the fish chunks from the refrigerator and dredge each piece in the mixture for “crispy coating” and drop them into the frying pan. Fry the chunks on each side till they turn golden brown, for about 5 -7 mins on medium high.
Add more oil, if necessary or if the fish chuks seem to soak up all the oil in the pan as they fry.
Serve warm with lemon wedges or with lemon juice drizzled on them while they are still hot, so that they absorb the most flavor.
(Malvani Shrimp Curry)
There’s no better shrimp curry than “Malvani Shrimp Curry”. A little heat with all the spices, a little sweet with the coconut milk and a little tangy with the kokum - the flavors wonderfully balance in this beautiful brown rustic curry that’s perfect base for some succulent shrimp to float in.
Living in the US, I haven’t found this type of shrimp curry on the menu of any Indian restaurant here, so I devised my own way of making it just the way I remembered it to be served in the Malvani restaurants in Pune. I truly relish this particular curry every time I make it and it goes very well with chapatis or roti or even when served over a bed of steamed rice or pulav.
Try my Shrimp Curry and check off Malvani food on your to-cook list.
¾ lb shrimp (about 30 shrimp, size: 31-40 count), peeled and deveined
2-3 tbsp oil
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cumin seeds/jeera
1-2 pinches of asofotida/hing
1 tsp garam masala
1 cup (about ¾ of 7oz. can) lite coconut milk
3-4 petals or 1 tbsp liquid extract of kokum
cilantro, finely chopped for garnishing
2-3 dried red chilies (or use 1 depending on desired level of heat), soaked in hot water
2-3 tbsp oil
2 medium or 1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 medium garlic cloves, smashed
1½ cup coconut, grated fresh or frozen thawed
1 cinnamon stick
Start with the “Ground Masala“. In a pan or kadhai heat oil over medium-high flame and add the cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and coriander seeds along with the onion, garlic and coconut. Fry till the mixture gets a light brown color. Cool down and transfer to a food processor/grinder/blender. Add the soaked red chillies and grind to a coarse-fine consistency paste.
In the same pan or kadhai, heat oil over medium high and add turmeric, cumin and asofotida. When the seeds start to splutter, add the “ground masala” and continue frying. Season with garam masala and salt. Stir in the coconut milk along with the kokum extract and simmer for 15-20 mins till oil seperates and the flavors blend in.
Finally add the shrimp and cook for 5-6 mins, till the shrimp turn pink and is perfectly cooked. (*If you don’t plan to serve this dish right away, don’t add the shrimp to the curry. When ready to serve, bring the curry upto a boil and add the shrimp while continuing to simmer for 5-6 mins)
(Cold Coconut Milk Soup)
Sol Kadhi is a cool refreshing soup from the Malvan/Konkan region that is now gaining popularity throughout India. Made with coconut milk as the base and spiked with kokum, herbs and spices, it is also referred to as an energizing drink and a great coolant, especially in the hot summer months.
Whenever I went to any Malvani restaurants in my hometown Pune - Mahesh Lunch Home or Nisarg, I would order more than a glass of sol kadhi to keep me going, before, during or even after the meal. It’s a perfect “pick me up” drink that sets you in the mood for some Malvani food and also works great during or after the meal to douse the flames if the hot & spicy food gets out of hand!
I am very passionate about my favorite drink; here’s how I make the kadhi for my “soul”….
1 can (about 1½ cups) lite coconut milk
water, equal to the quantity of coconut milk (I usually empty the coconut milk can and fill it with water to get the exact measurement)
1 medium garlic clove, smashed
½ inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
3-4 cilantro sprigs (I use the leaves and stems)
1 small green chilli (optional)
a pinch of hing (asofotida)
1 tsp sugar
4 tbsp kokum extract (Refer to Concoctions 101 for making your own kokum extract)
Combine all the ingredients in the blender and mix thoroughly. Serve chilled in a glass as an appetizing drink or in a bowl as a cold refershing soup.