Waking up to a Maharashtrian breakfast in Mumbai. Jet Wings, November 2016

Jet Wings November 2016

I got a very interesting brief recently. To write an article on Maharashtrian breakfasts for Jet Wings. The in flight magazine of Jet Airways. I have always been a fan of Jet Wings and was quite thrilled to get an opportunity to write for it. 

That too on a subject close to my heart, Maharashtrian food. 

I am not a Maharashtrian myself but take immense joy in learning about Maharashtrian food and sharing what I have learnt about it with the world at large. I see this as a small way of repaying my debt to the city of Mumbai and the state of Maharashtra which has been my home for more than a decade and a half. There is a long way to go as the food heritage of the state is vast and reach.

I reached out to my friends to get to know more about the topic of breakfasts. I spoke to Harshad Rajadhyaksha, an advertising professional andmy wife's partner at work. We have often had Maharashtrian food cooked by his mother. I spoke to blogger Anjali Koli  who patiently answered my many questions. I then went to Aaswad at Dadar and shot some of the food there and went to the kitchen and saw the food being prepared. All arranged on a busy morning by Suryakant Sarjoshi of Aaswad. 

So please do look out for the magazine if you fly Jet internally in November and I hope you like the piece. And, do try out some Maharashtrian breakfast dishes if you can. There is so much variety that you will not have to repeat dishes for a month if you do. Hopefully, the Jet Airways chefs will introduce some Maharashtrian breakfast dishes to their inflight menu after this!

Please scroll below to find the unedited version of the article.

Jet Wings November 2016

The edited version of this article appeared in the Jet Wings November 2016

Breakfast in Maharashtra - Kalyan Karmakar

Close to two decades of living in Mumbai has introduced me to an array of local Maharashtrian dishes, starting with breakfast of course.


The first Maharashtrian breakfast dish that I had in Mumbai was the ubiquitous missal pav. This was available in the canteen of the office I worked with. With its moong sprouts and matki beans, and spicy reddish and oily gravy, it reminded me a bit of my native Bengali dish, ghoogni.

What made this dish doubly interesting was the farsan (gram flour and fried peanuts based namkeen) added to it on top which gave a nice textural contrast to the dish. The pungency of the finely chopped red onions added to it's punch as did the tanginess of the lime juice squeezed on top. This made the flavours quite vivid and balanced the chilli quotient of the fish. The missal was served with pav, a bread introduced locally by the Portuguese a few centuries back. Mopping the piquant gravy with the soft bread, with the accompanying crunch of the missal, and the robustness of the legumes made for a hearty start to one’s morning at work. A variation of this dish is called ussal and is made with dried white peas.

Over the years, as I explored local Maharashtrian restaurants in Mumbai, I found out that there are variations to this dish. The version I had at my office canteen was similar to the spicy misals made most famous by a tiny but iconic shop called Mamledar Missal in Thane. I then came across the lot less spicy, and more moong sprout dominated misals, at restaurants such as Aaswad and Prakash in Dadar which had a more homely feel to it and then slightly sweeter versions at restaurants such as Vinay Health Home. Some of this sweetness comes comes from the use of jaggery. There is even a farali missal had on fasting days where suran (yam) and sabudana (sago beans) substitute legumes and potato chiwda is sprinkled on top instead of besan farsan. 

Places like Nasik, Pune and Kolhapur in Maharashtra have strong misal traditions and Mumbai is a good gateway to them.

There's a new kid in town

Don’t expect to always get missal with pav though. There are places in Pune which serve it with sliced white bread instead. Prakash in Mumbai's Dadar serves missal without pav and you have to order for pav separately. That’s because pav was traditionally not served in Maharashtrian Hindu households. Pavs became a part of the mainstream culture of Mumbai in the 1960s when batata vadas, a favourite from Maharashtrian kitchens, were sandwiched in pavs and sold as the street food dish, vada pao. Slowly pav became an integral part of Mumbai’s palate and it was combined with everything including potato bhajiyas, anda burji (scrambled eggs) and the pav bhaji where pav is served with a spicy, buttery mashed mixed vegetable stew.

The vada pav today has become the most iconic of Mumbai dishes and is munched on all day through. People often stop at vada pav counters at the Mumbai’s train stations on the work. You get other fried delights there too – alu bhajia, kanda bhajia and palak bhajia – gramflour enrobed, deep fried fritters – stuffed in pav served as a quick and cheap, on the go breakfast.

Jet Wings November 2016

A deep fried start to the day

A popular fried breakfast dish is the subudana vada, which you get at some office canteens and at the local Maharashtrian restaurants. These are made with sabu dana (sago beans) and served with a sweet curd based chutney. If not made well, can become a bit of a stick-jaw but local restaurants Aaswad, Prakash and Vinay do a good job of them.

Another interesting local breakfast dish to explore in local restaurants is the aLu vadi/ aru wadi which is made with coulcasia leaves and is similar to the Gujarati favourite, patrel. Do check out the  kothimbir wadi too. These are cubed, fresh coriander (kothambir) infused, besan (gram flour) dough pakoras.

Puri bhaji, like in the rest of India, is popular in Maharashtra too. The puris here are usually made with wholewheat flour and served with geela bhaji (a gravy based potato curry) or sukha bhaji (a stir fried potato dish which is tempered with mustard seeds, curry leaves and green chillies ). I normally prefer the sukha bhaji and in a restaurant you can specify the one you want. The one at Prakash is my favourite. 

Some very popular breakfast combinations are shreekhand puri ,where puri served with a thick, sweetened, hung curd based dish, shrikhand, and in summer, with aamras. The most prized version of the handmade mango pulp based dish, aamras, in Mumbai is made with hapoos or Alfonso mango though a variety of mangoes are also used across the state for aamras for daily consumption in mango season. Aamras puri and shrikhand puri are core to local festivals such as the Gudi Padwa (the new year) and Ganesh Chaturthi, and the elephant God is considered to be as fond of these as he is of modaks.

Jet Wings November 2016

The healthier start

Do try out the thali peeth. It is a shallow fried multi grain flat bread/ pancake which was made locally well before posh new western bakeries in Mumbai made multi-grain breads trendy here. The composition of thali peeth could vary  from hoiuse to house and the flours used in the dough  include those made from millets such as bajra and jowar, rajgira (amaranth), roasted sabudana, and even pounded wheat, rice and besan. The levels of spiciness in the dough varies from mom to mom. It is often topped with loni or white butter and served with a sweet and tangy dahi chutney on the side. The thali peeth can be made gluten free. My favourite restaurant thali peeth is the one at Aaswad.

Another example of the local tradition of using multi-grain dough is the vade. It is a puri made with a mix of millet, pulses and rice and can be made without wheat flours. This is often had as kombdi vade (with chicken curry) or with mutton sukha, for main meals too.

If all of this seems too intimidating or heavy to start your morning with, then pohe might be more up your street. Pohe or chiwda or rice flakes are popular across India and each region has its own version of this. The home-styled Maharashtrian rendition of pohe can be quite simple, light and comforting. At its most basic, it consists of pre-soaked pohe, shallow fried in minimal oil with a sprinkling of turmeric and salt in a mustard seeds, green chilli and curry leaf tadka (tempered oil) and is topped with some fried peanuts and freshly chopped coriander leaves at the most. You get these at most Maharashtrian restaurants and occasionally at street-side stalls too

At its most hedonistic, you have pohe topped with prawns, as had by the Pathare Prabhu community, and with chicken in the outskirts of Mumbai where it is called bhujing.

There is a dish called dadpe poha where tempering spices are added to uncooked pohe and served as a quick and light breakfast. 

A couple of interesting dishes that Harshad Rajadhyaksha, a Mumbai based advertising professional, fondly talks of from his mother’s kitchen are fodnichi poli and fodnichha bhaat. The former uses leftover rotis and the latter, leftover rice, to which spices are added to make a breakfast favourite. This is an example of the ingenuity of Maharashtrian moms, who made sure that food is not wasted this way, and, is instead converted into a tasty and quick to prepare breakfast which even the fussiest of children love.

You will find the Phodnicha bhat and Phodnichi poli in the Pune based Potaba restaurant chain in Mumbai.

There are many more breakfast dishes to the magnificent Maharashtrian breakfast portfolio as food blogger Anjali Koli points out. Some of these are the wheat-flour dough based ukad pindi, the thick uttapam like pancake, amboli, which is had with a vatanyacha curry, the Koli rice powder and jaggery based peeth which is similar to the Rajasthani churma and is softened by adding a bit of hot water or milk, a very interesting grated cucumber stuffed semolina pancake dish kakdi dhirda, a puri called gharge where pumpkin is added to the puri dough and the neer dosa like ghavane or Amboli which is often had with Malvani curries for main meals too.  The amboli can be made without oil.

Most of the dishes Anjali speaks of are yet to come on to restaurant menus though. 

There is a dish called dahi bhakri, which is a favourite of Mr Suryakant Sarjoshi, the owner of Aaswad. It is a very light and cooling dish where bhakris (rotis) are shreaded and added into curd with some mild seasoning and raw onion. He has this on mornings when he doesn’t have his usual pohe for breakfast.

If you prefer a sweet start to your day then there is sheera (a light and simple semolina halva), the dessert version of the savoury upma and puran poli (sweet stuffed rotis).

Do keep in mind that there are regional variations to these dishes across the state of Maharashtra. This also means that when in Maharashtra, you can have a different local dish for breakfast on each day of a month, without ever once reaching for a pack of cereal.

Isn’t that a wonderful place to be in?

I took the following pictures at Aaswad, Dadar

Misal pav with sheera

Poori and sukha bhaji

Sabudana vada

Phodnichi poli

Dahi bhakri

Thali peeth

Chaha and pohe

Kothimbir vadi

Vada pav with choora and chai.
The newspaper plating was my tribute to the street-side vada pavs


Anjali Koli said…
Thanks for the link love. You have covered a good range of the Maharashtriya bf.
Anonymous said…
Because of the praise-worthy coverage of the dishes & the nuanced description of those dishes, you have given here. Even if you don't mention,'I am not a Maharashtrian', I doub't anybody will be able to find out the truth.

Giving Phodni, in Indian cuisine, is like a rebirth of the dish. The more minimalistic in nature this phodni/tadka, the better is this rebirth. A simple ghee-jeera phodni can give a sense of new freshness to a fudgy, refridegerator-rested dal.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Anon, thank you so much for your kind comments. It is my privilege to share the Maharashtrian food story as Mumbai has been such a wonderful home to me. I just hope that I have not said anything wrong about the food and am open to being corrected if I have :)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thank you for all the knowledge you have shared whenever I have reached out to you and congrats on the wonderful work that you do on your blog