The much debated fruit, nut, tree, and most recently termed grass, is iconic to the Konkan belt. The picture of a coconut tree is synonymous to all things tropical and beachy.
When one pictures the coasts, it is impossible not to think of golden sands, with a periphery of tall coconut trees. Rightly called Kalpavriksha, the coconut tree is used from top to bottom and influences coastal cuisine and tradition like no other tree.
The leaves make for roofing, the husk of the coconut fruit make for excellent natural scrubbing and cleaning material. Neera is extracted from the tree, fermented to get toddy. The roots keep the surrounding soil well hydrated. The fruit, in its many uses, is filled with refreshing water. The flesh is used in fresh and dry forms across a multitude of dishes.
There is no fruit that comes close to the coconut in its role in Hindu culture. Lore states that Sage Vishwamitra induced the breaking of coconuts in rituals, as a substitute for the more cruel human and animal sacrifices. The resemblance of the coconut to the human head made it the ideal candidate. Breaking coconuts at the beginning of new ventures signifies breaking the hard shell of the human ego. The hard-shelled, tender fleshed fruit finds itself referred to across ancient Sanskrit literature and even the epics.
Pachkalshi curries are incomplete without watans. Watan (derived from "watne" or the act of grinding) is a paste made primarily with fresh ground coconut and sometimes roasted dry coconut for a deeper flavour. The texture of the coconut is essential for thickening curries and adding richness to the dish. Agri staples involve fresh coconut based chutneys, flavoured with garlic, coriander or curry leaves. And who can forget, Konkan's favourite coconut chikki.
At Paisley, the versatile coconut is seen across the menu in subtle and prominent roles, as garnish, curry paste, chutneys and even pomfret stuffings. All of our desserts, too, have coconut in some or the other form, as a tribute to Alibaug's abundant coast. While coconut doesn't define Pachkalshi and Agri cuisine, it plays a supporting character, and adds a certain complexity and layer to the food.