By: Staff Writer, 3 Sep, 2018
Quaint fishing villages, the roar of the ocean, coconut trees swaying in the salty breeze – India’s Konkan Coast is, to put it simply, stunning. The strip of coast that runs from Maharashtra through Goa to Karnataka has majestic fort ruins, pristine beaches and, most importantly, glorious food.
From fragrant fish curries to refreshing sol kadi, the food along the long Konkan coast changes from area to area and state to state. But there are key ingredients that remain common. “When you have backyards full of coconut trees, you find a way to use them. In cities, it’s hard to replicate these flavours because we don’t have access to such fresh ingredients. You have to be here to taste it,” says food writer and rookie permaculture farmer Neha Sumitran, who travelled with White Collar Hippie on a food trail in and around Malvan. She tells us more about how these ingredients are used.
Summer brings in hot days but also ripe fruit – like kokum. “When we visited, I saw swathes and swathes of kokum peels drying on the ground. It looked like blood,” Neha recalls. This tart fruit is commonly used as a souring agent in fish and prawn curries all along the coast. It’s also what gives the beloved sol kadi – a drink made with kokum and coconut milk – its pink hue. The red kokum sherbet is another refreshing beverage in the summer.
It’s hard to imagine the Konkan coast without coconuts. The arching trees that are everywhere – along the beach, by the roadside, on river banks – bear fruit that finds its way into nearly every dish, from amboli – “it’s like a fat dosa,” Neha explains – and chutney, to fish curries. “It’s never tiring because it’s used in such different ways – fresh or roasted, as juice or milk,” she says.
“Jackfruit is in season twice a year,” Neha says, “in the summer, and later on, in October.” It’s easy to know when jackfruit season is in town even if you miss the sight of large spiky green fruit on the trees, because you’ll spot it featuring in many dishes in local restaurants. On her trip to Malvan, Neha recalls tasting jackfruit ice cream, but also a modak with a jam-like jackfruit filling.
In the evening, head to the beach – but not just for sunset views. “When the boats come back in the evening, an impromptu fish market pops up,” Neha says. It’s a good place to buy your produce for dinner. You can taste the healthier habitat of the fish because the water isn’t as messed up as it is closer to city shores. While seafood in the area generally conjures up visions of a fish curry or fish fry, it isn’t all heavy. Neha remembers the way crabs were prepared on her trip. “They were smeared with turmeric and salt and simmered over coals. It was a masterclass in minimalism. You could literally taste the ocean.”
Explore the flavours of the Konkan coast, and learn how to cook with these fresh ingredients, on our next trip to Malvan!