Saturday, June 28, 2014

Of Designing Courses And The 'Koli Yet Veg' Class.

I think this is the most creative phase of my life and closest to my heart, it being about the community that defines who I am, the Koli community.

It all started when Manisha of Indian Food Rocks visited India last November. We decided to meet at the Colaba Market as I wanted her to enjoy some great seafood while she was in Mumbai, she loves seafood and how. It was after some 30 yrs I was visiting there and so was she. The market has changed from being a large shed to a proper building that now houses the fish market on the ground floor and a Government school on the floors above it. Manisha was trying to catch up with as many friends and relatives as possible so though she bought a good variety of fish we were not able to cook together, so that is for another time until she returns. Totally unbeknownst, this was going to be a new journey for me!

You read about the wonderful day I spent with Meera Sodha. In just another few days her book 'Made in India' will be published, you can pre-order on Amazon right away too. It was at the time I decided to start such events for those who are truely interested in exploring my Koli food and culture because I simply loved doing it.

The most recent post covered the celebration food of the Kolis. Also during that session I mentioned that fishing was under regulation during the monsoon. It is the time when deep sea fishing is closed and Kolis as a community turn mostly vegetarian especially during Shravan when it is strictly followed. There were questions on what does a Koli eat during monsoons? This prodded me to design the menu and course which reflects the Monsoon cooking in Koli households. This is a representative vegetarian menu of all those fasting days like Somvathi amavasya or Surya poojan or some weekly fasts like Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays when people abstain from non veg or fish. Plus I am a vegetarian and so is majority of my family, we are an anomaly but no less Koli. We have grown up eating seafood until we turned vegetarian this is how we cook now in our kitchens therefore Koli yet Veg!

So here is what you can expect in the 'Koli Yet Veg' class

Our plan

1. Start at 10 am over snacks and tea/ coffee.
2. In the Kitchen cook up Koli yet vegetarian fare.
3. Lots of talk on Koli food and culture thru the 5hrs. 
Though we will cook veg food, talk on fish is not prohibited. Watch a slideshow on Koli Culture. Get the answers to questions like When do they eat veg? What is the significance of monsoon in the life of a Koli and their food? What are the Koli pantry staples?
4. Sit down to an authentic Koli Vegetarian meal.
5. Claim your packet of Taster Pack of my masalas and some goodies. Part with happy burps by 3pm 


1. Stuffed ladies fingers/ Bhendhya cha bharit
2. Sprouted field beans curry/ Valacha birda
3. Moong dal with ground masala / Hirva Masala Moog Dal
4. Rice roti/ Chavalachi roti
5. Steamed rice/ Dhaan
6. Light Indica garcinia curry/ Kokum saar
7. Raw mango pickle/ Kegyarcha loncha (seasonal)
8. Wet Garlic chutney/ Lasnachi chutney
9. Rice or poha papad/ Phenya
10. Fried brinjal/ Talela Vanga

Fee: Rs. 2000 per head

Open only for a table of 6 per session.

Pl. note this class does not include a visit to the market like the other Fresh Seafood workshops.

Encouraged by the surge in visitors on my FB page and the blog, the love of my patrons and friends. I have been thinking about several different ideas that will appeal to you all.

I have started a new series on the FB page and twitter called  Oh yes and I am twittering more now ‏@Annaparabrahma

Here are some more themes that I am still designing for the workshops.

  • Cooking with Dried Fish
  • A Crustacean Feast
  • Tastes from a Koli Wedding
  • An Everyday Koli Meal

See you around!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Food and Culture Explorers

We started with this...

If I am back here after a month I must share some excitement with you, of the wonderful afternoon spent with passionate food explorers and travelers.

As soon as the event on Koli food and culture was announced on FB, I had the 6 seats booked. Sassy Fork was awesome to help me out with selecting the market and the venue closest for all the participants.

The day began at the market where the sweet Sassy was holding fort for me, after saying hellos we went straight to Nirmala, the Kolin of Discovery fame. I had talked to her over the phone few days in advance so she instantly started talking to me in the dialect of our comfort the Koli speak. She was very efficient, on knowing our planned menu she directed us to another Kolin in the market to get us crabs. I told her to give us 6 males and 6 females so that the participants would get a taste of the crab eggs besides the meat. While selecting the participants got to identify and differentiate them. As we were watching her clean we were talking about the source of the crabs, the effect of maturity, size etc on the meat. The plan was to make crab curry, so I wanted the claws and shells separated. I was surprised to know even seasoned food explorers are softies at heart.

For the fry we chose medium sized pomfrets. Nirmala Tai, cleaned and scored them keeping them whole as instructed. The pomfrets were perfect as individual serves and the participants learnt to check for freshness. While we waited there was a discussion on the miles that the catch travels from the sea and how they are transported to the retail window and which are the best catch areas that supply pomfrets to Mumbai.

We also bought the dried Kolim. The 3 grades of prawns are the large ones called Kolbi, the medium called Ambaad and the smallest Kolim or Javla in Marathi. On this day my plan was to treat the world travelers to a wedding breakfast dish that was going to be a surprise to their palate. When I told them it would be cooked with veggies they were moot, the true blue non veg lovers that they were and I was set to change that. So armed with brinjals and spring onions we headed towards the Kitchen of the day.

The hostess, a doting Aunty made Kolbi cutlets for the hungry group and Sassy fork served smoked oyster and tuna canapes too. When its seafood the Asian seafood scene is always the starting point to share travel stories. I am glad Uncle T also was enjoying the chat. A good life celebration had just begun.

Meanwhile I prepped up cutting the brinjals and spring onions with the help of my niece, Akshu. The rice was set to boil and the smell of Ambe mohor was enough to bring all the participants into the kitchen to learn the Koli Style cooking. 

I briefed about the day's menu, it was a part of the wedding feast. From the 2 methods of cooking rice to the types of curries, the coconut based and the thin everyday Kanji. What type of fish are used for a celebration meal and what are the Koli daily meal favorites. We talked about combinations of vegetables with fish and how Kolis eat as per season. 

About the monsoon, its dangers to fishermen's life and the Koli respect for the environment and why no fishing is done in monsoon thus allowing the sea life to replenish itself by just letting it be.

As we talked we made the crab curry, the Kolim and Akshu fried the pomfrets to perfection. The participant were tipped the key to a plump fried fish.

It was pretty late already and since 2 of them had to rush back to work I let them start serving themselves while I quickly made the God Ghari the final dish. God Ghari is actually eaten with Kolim but since I made it last and everyone was mid meal, Sassy fork suggested we try it with mango ice cream as a dessert. I liked the twist in the story.

The Food and Culture Explorers

Finally we wrapped up the day with a round of everyone listing their favorite dish of the day. The Kolim was Pradeep, Sassy fork and S Aunty's fave. Shanky liked the crab curry the most while Deepak loved the pan fried pomfret. I was happy with the varied tastes of these busy world travelers whose palates are exposed to some really adventurous eating and they were happy with 3 different dishes. 

They were a wonderful group and each one had a discerning taste. Finally we said bye bye and a promise to make more Amboshi cha loncha and have another Koli everyday meal event after the monsoon.

The resultant Seafood feat!

The menu :

1. Talele Kapte : Panfried medium sized pomfret
2. Chavalachi roti : Rice roti /bread
3. Kolim Vanga and Ool : A stir fry of tiny shrimps with brinjals and spring onions
Chimboryacha Kanji : Crabs in coconut curry

Not in the picture

5. Yelnicha Dhaan : Rice cooked by draining the starch
6. Goad Ghari : Fried flour and jaggery bread

7. Alibag che Pandhare kande : The white onions from Alibag
8. Lasnachi chutney : Garlic and red chilies chutney

I also shared some of my Ginger ale with them and they said they liked it.

Click to see more pictures from the event here...

A big Thank You to Shanky for clicking these beautiful pictures!

The goodies they took home: 
Amboshi cha loncha (sundried raw mango pickle), Sode (dried prawns) 
and Koli masala a must!

On Trail