Maharashtra is home to various dishes, but the street-side vada pav tends to steal the limelight. The next time you visit this western state, cater to your inner foodie and explore the land beyond the vada pav. By Bayar Jain

There’s a lot to love about Maharashtrian cuisine. Known for its mix of mildly spicy and sweet yet tangy punch, the food of this region brings a flavour profile very different from the rest of the country. Yet, it celebrates a familiarity that is sure to entice foodies of various taste preferences. Considering the state is home to many regions like Kolhapur, the Konkan belt, Vidarbha, and more, the confluence of different flavours comes naturally. While the Kolhapur region celebrates spicy red and white meat curries, the Konkan belt is all about the fish. Malvani cuisine, another one of the foods available in this western state, chooses to use coconut in all its forms, with an added surprise of kokum to the mix. However, despite these variations, the vada pav often emerges synonymous to Maharashtra.

Although the deep-fried potato snack deserves its share of attention, consider looking at these foods from the state too:

1. Zunka bhakar 

 

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Zunka bhakar (or Jhunka) is often considered a poor man’s food owing to the minimalistic ingredients it uses, but continues to jam nutrients into your body. Zunka bhakar is traditionally made using chickpea-paste (besan) with onions, curry leaves, and a range of spices to complete the dish. The porridge-like aromatic dish is accompanied with bajra or jowar rotis, transporting you to the rustic charms of the state. Echoing the village’s simple lifestyles, this dish is designed to pack your body with enough energy to sustain the wrath of the summer sun.

Where to eat: If you’re in Nagpur, ditch the high-end restaurants and head to small eateries to taste a traditional zunka bhakar. The Zunka Bhakar Kendra at Azamshah Layout is a good place to start, where the baajra variation costs INR 12.

2. Thalipeeth

 

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The savoury-flatbread is all about celebrating the various lentils that thrive in the region, seamlessly coming together to burst truckloads of flavour in your mouth. Although many variations of thalipeeth exist, the traditional version uses bhajanee – a flour consisting of roasted grains, legumes and spices. Commonly eaten for breakfast with curd and a dollop of ghee, butter or garlic chutney, this humble dish dons a new avatar during fasting days. Then, the bhajanee is replaced with tapioca pearls (sabudana) or amaranth.

Where to eat: Pune is known for its Maharashtrian restaurants, and heading here for thalipeeth would be a great idea too. While many places serve this delicacy, go to Mathura Pure Veg in JM Road for a traditional affair. Here, the savoury dish is sold for INR 120.

3. Puran poli 

 

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To westerners, this dish could best be explained as India’s ode to the sweet pancake. However, the flavours of a puran poli are intrinsically desi. Stuffed with lots of chana dal and jaggery, this flatbread is ordinarily made during festivals like Diwali and Ganesh Chaturthi. However, due to its fan-following, the parcels of sugar are increasingly available all year round.

Where to eat: Although the best version of this sweet dish is at a traditional Maharashtrian home, if you happen to be in Nashik, then the Modern Cafe in College Road is just as good too. Specialising in Maharashtrian cuisine, the restaurant serves puran poli for INR 30.

4. Gavhale kheer

 

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Another sweet dish reserved for special occasions, gavhale kheer requires time, patience, and skills to make. The process of making the dish involves delicately rolling out gavhale – literally translating to hand-rolled pasta, and cooking in milk over a low flame. Traditionally, this time-consuming dish would be served as an offering to local deities.

Where to eat: Being a highly auspicious and ancient recipe, gavhale kheer is rarely found in restaurants anywhere, even within Maharashtra itself. Your best bet to have this dish – apart from a Maharashtrian’s home – is to eat it as a part of a thali at That Baat, Nirali Bazar, Aurangabad.

5. Anarsa

 

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Jaggery finds a way to weave into Maharashtra’s anarsa as well – a pastry-like sweet delicacy found in the region. Although a variation of this is available in Bihar as well, the ones in the western state are relatively flatter. To create this long-lasting sugary delight, jaggery, rice, and poppy seeds are used, and deep-fried together in ghee.

Where to eat: Being a dish reserved for Diwali, this sweet treat is not easily available in restaurants or shops. Wait for the festivals to kick in, and head to any local sweet shop to taste it. Alternatively, you can order it online here where it costs INR 285 for 400 grams.

6. Kothimbir Vadi

 

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Straying away from the sweet flavours, kothimbir vadi is coriander fritters to put it in the simplest terms. Although it is often served as accompaniment to the main course, it can also be eaten as a snack with ketchup, chutney or plain. To make this simple yet flavourful dish, coriander leaves are chopped finely and mixed with chickpea flour. Post this, it could either be steamed, deep-fried or even stir-fried – depending upon personal tastes.

Where to eat: Now available throughout the country, kothimbir vadi in Pune should be on your list. Head to J1 in Shivaji Nagar to bite into its deliciousness for just INR 145.

Related: Foodies Take Note: Here’s The Ultimate Guide To Eat Your Way Through India