Updated: Aug 18
If you haven't read Part I of this series, click here.
In my previous blog post of the series, I discussed the two primary factions within the Pachkalshi community, highlighting both their commonalities and distinctions. When considering Pachkalshi cuisine as a whole, it becomes evident that it possesses distinct characteristics that set it apart from any other culinary tradition. Now, let's delve into an exploration of the distinctive elements that contribute to the uniqueness of this community's cuisine.
The Pachkalshi Masala
A blend of spices native to the Northern Konkan region, the robust Pachkalshi masala also comprises of chana dal or split chickpeas that help it thicken curries without the addition of a distinct thickening agent. Most Pachkalshi curries owe their consistency to this masala as they do not have the usual base of onions or tomatoes, nor do they use any ingredients that add extravagance, such as cream or complex curry pastes. The other components include chilli, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin, pepper, turmeric and asafoetida. These are ground in proportions varying from home to home but remain constant across Pachkalshi households.
An Open Mind
Embracing a culture devoid of biases, the Pachkalshi community seamlessly integrated with the Northern Konkan environment, wholeheartedly embracing its abundant maritime resources and native Agri culinary techniques. But their culinary evolution didn't halt there. With each new influx of settlers, subtle transformations graced their cuisine. The Portuguese brought forth a newfound appreciation for pineapple, birthing the flavorful "ananasachi amti," while the community's affection for potatoes also found its place. While the passage of time led the community to refine and enrich their cuisine, their steadfast commitment to traditional cooking methods remained unwavering.
The cuisine of this community diverges from the conventional techniques and components commonly associated with Indian culinary traditions. Tadkas, intricate bhunao cooking, and an array of diverse masalas and curry pastes are notably absent. In most Pachkalshi curries, the process commences with a simple amalgamation of ingredients in a pot, subjected to heat primarily to eliminate rawness. Predominantly, only two masalas find their place: turmeric and the distinctive Pachkalshi masala. Tamarind exclusively provides the tanginess, with tomatoes conspicuously absent from any traditional preparation. Dairy remains conspicuously absent from the culinary repertoire, while coconut milk stands as a fundamental element. The culinary modesty is, in essence, a manifestation of the landscape in which it thrived.
Crafting a definitive description of a singular cuisine proves to be a complex endeavor. A cuisine holds the power to narrate an intricate tale about its creators, their origins, and their way of life. In the midst of perpetual evolution, a community's culinary heritage persists as a foremost testament to its history. It serves as a resounding voice not only for the people themselves but also for the environment that enveloped them during distinct eras, revealing their intricate interplay with it. While literature, art, and culture similarly offer insights into human existence, the narrative of cuisine transcends even further, tracing back to epochs when sustenance was paramount—a constant companion to humanity throughout the annals of time.
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