Sep 15, 2015
“In 1689-90, when a severe plague had struck down most of the Europeans, the Siddi Chief of Janjira made several attempts to re-possess the islands (Mumbai) by force, but the son of the former, a trader named Rustomji Dorabji Patel (1667-1763), successfully warded off the attacks on behalf of the British with the help of the ‘Kolis’, the original fisher-folk inhabitants of these islands. The remnants of the Koli settlements can still be seen at Backbay reclamation, Mahim, Bandra, Khar, Bassien and Madh island.” (Source: mumbainet.com)
Kolis are the native inhabitants of Mumbai, and Parsis being the first settlers. There may have been some connections, which led to an exchange of the cuisines. Parsis love seafood second only to Kolis, and they have such unique recipes of fish like the Tarapori patio, the Sahs-ni-macchi and the Patrani machhi, which till today has the tag of prestige attached to it.
Like how Parsis cook their meat with vegetables, Kolis do so too but with fish. I have talked about it in one of my posts here. Kolis love their split masoor dal, which is called lal dal, and so do Parsis. The caramelised onions are cooked with masoor dal until creamy and thick. A serving of it on a heap of rice is very comforting.
Besides this, we have a common liking for sev. I am very sure that sev is a Parsi influence on the Kolis. The Bawas call it Sagan-in-Sev, which is made on auspicious occasions hence the name. It is served with mithoo dahi or sweet set curd for breakfast. Whereas sev among the Kolis is offered as naivedya to Holika during the festival of Holi, and this is very endemic to the Kolis of Colaba. Oh yes! It is spiced with cardamom and nutmeg just like the Parsis.
Today’s post is about a technique used by the Kolis in cooking their beans and pulses combined with veggies. This technique is used especially at the time of cooking for the village during religious feasts and weddings. It is a very unique technique, which does not involve a tadka, but it does use oil. I have seen Pathare Prabhus make fish curries using this technique, but Kolis never use it. There is no name for this technique, but since the ingredients are mixed together, it is called Kalvun keleli bhaaji.
While I use this technique for my vegetarian dishes, I often use the Koli masala, which is a staple in my spice box. This way it makes for a traditional Koli recipe. However, one day I decided to make it with dhansak masala, which gave a Parsi dimension. It turned out delicious.
In a tope or large vessel, all the ingredients like beans or pulses are combined with veggies, onions, potatoes and tomatoes (optional, but lend a nice tartness). Following this, spices are sprinkled on top and then oil is drizzled. Everything is given a nice massage to coat well with oil. It is finally topped with water just about to cover the beans/ pulses and veggies. This tope is then set on to the wood fire to cook slowly for hours. In my Mumbai kitchen, however, I express it in the pressure cooker. The beans /pulses are cooked to softness this way. Then chopped cilantro is added in the end and mixed into the lovely stew.
Although Parsis introduced brun pao to Mumbai, even Kolis love to mop up their curries with it.
Recipe for a 2-in-1 Chanyachi Dal OR Chana Ni Daar
1 cup split chickpeas/ chana dal
2 medium onions
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp Koli Masala (for the Koli version)
1/2 tsp Dhansak masala (for the Parsi version)
2 tbsp oil
Handful of chopped cilantro
1. Wash and soak chana dal for at least an hour before you start cooking.
2. In a pressure cooker, take all the ingredients in the order given in the ingredients list and mix well. Massage well to coat everything well with the oil and spices. Then top up with water to just cover the chana dal. Cook until soft. For this recipe, I usually allow 5 whistles in a pressure cooker.
3. Open the lid and add handfuls of chopped cilantro. Mix into the dal. The final dal should be creamy and thick. If its dried out, you can add more water and boil for a while. If there is more water, reduce it down by boiling further. Let the flavours combine before serving.
Serve warm with brun pao.