Spice Kitchen at JW Marriott Pune recently hosted Flavours of Konkan specially curated by Home Chef Gauri Apte. I was invited to this interesting festival by Abhirath Sah, Director of Sales and Marketing JW Marriott Pune, where I experienced a lavish selection of authentic coastal dishes ranging from rawas kalwan(curry), alu wadi, colocasia cakes, prawns in green masala, laal maath bhaaji, prawns chutney, mushroom fried (bhajji), kaju usal (cashews in a masala), kombdi kala masala (chicken in a black masala), mutton laal rassa (red curry) and much more.
Coastal cuisine has always been very popular owing to its unique style and originates from the coastal areas of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. The emphasis is definitely more on seafood even though vegetarians also have interesting options.
Meat lovers can also enjoy several chicken and mutton based dishes even though Konkanastha Brahmin cooking involves fewer spices and is vegetarian. The highlight of this unique style of cooking is definitely the use of coconut and fiery spices. Like every other cuisine of a particular region, the locals use what is readily available in their region explaining the frequent inclusion of coconut and kokam in this cuisine.
The most interesting part is that Konkani cuisine is divided into various categories such as North Kanara, Karwar and Malwani cooking. It is a known fact that Konkani women are some of the best cooks one can ever come across and have a detailed knowledge of spices, the right mix of ingredients using which they succeed in creating several masterpieces when it comes to dishing out delectable Konkani food which is relished by everyone.
Gauri Apte is from Bombay and it was her love for the coastal cooking of Maharashtra that led to her pursuing it full time and not just cooking at home. My interaction with the talented home chef kept me entertained and as a result I spent a lot of time at this food festival. Gauri is enthusiastic about what she does and knows in depth about her food.
She was born into a Saraswat Brahmin family from the Konkan region on the western coast of India and brought up in Mumbai and she told me about how she grew up eating a vast variety of fresh seafood. What is amazing is her zest for life which is obvious when I got to know that she used to be a professor of economics and after teaching for 17 years she decided to pursue her passions including her love for singing Hindustaani classical.
Gauri realized that there weren’t too many places that offered authentic seafood and this led to her venturing out to talk about her interesting cuisine and sharing her knowledge with so many people in the form of such interesting food promotions. Now she is busy cooking authentic Saraswat recipes that were handed down by her mother and grandmother and has successfully managed to convert her passion into her profession.
“The most overwhelming moment for me was when a British guest said to me that he never ate seafood as he never liked it. But after eating the fish and prawns that day, there was no looking back for him he said he would come back for more!,” she said.