As is the case with most regional cuisines in India, Maharashtrian food too is often viewed rather myopically. With the spotlight thrown on just a few of its subgroups. Sure, we've all heard of and enjoyed Malwani seafood delicacies and fiery Kolhapuri mutton rassas. But there is so much more to the vast repertoire of the cuisine than just the aforementioned two. Take, for instance, the Konkan belt of which Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts of Maharashtra state are a part of. Interestingly, even here there are several subdivisions with their own specialities. Ignoring the very integral Konkani Muslim community's contribution to the cuisine of this belt would be sacrilegious to say the very least!
One preparation that comes quickly to mind for its sheer innovative brilliance is saravle. These unique, pasta-like ring noodles are made from wheat dough that is moulded into the shape of tiny rings by pulling small lumps of beaten dough off a traditional wooden stick called a sirkand. Believed to have come to the region centuries ago via Arab spice traders, who not only brought their religion along but their cooking styles as well, saravle are to this day not mass-produced in factories but lovingly made ring by tiny ring by the ladies of the house.
What's most interesting about saravle is that they can be enjoyed in both sweet and savoury avatars. Also found in the cooking of Goan Muslims, saravle are either boiled and served with a topping of scrambled eggs and minced meat for breakfast or scarfed down as a hearty sweet treat.
But saravle, in my opinion, are best eaten in the form of a kheer-like thickened milk dessert, loaded with ghee and topped with a sunny side up fried egg. Thus making the dish one that straddles that fine line between being a sweet and savoury preparation. Strange for some, but divine to me...
Bringing forth an interesting twist to the tale and giving us a purely vegan and lactose-intolerant friendly version is a saravle dessert made using coconut milk. It was also one of the first things I ever learnt to cook. Substituting whole milk with the thick, first extract of coconut milk and pure ghee with coconut oil is the delicious coastal Maharashtrian dessert called naralyachya dudhache shiravlya. Here the saravle, which are also called shiravle in some Hindu communities, are cooked with thick coconut milk along with sugar, saffron and cardamom and served during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi.
Saravle with Coconut Milk Recipe (vegan)
Recipe by Raul Dias
(For the dried saravle)
- 1/2 kg plain flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Few drops red, yellow and green food colouring (optional)
- Water (as required)
(For the main dessert)
- 1/2 kg saravle
- 1 litre hot coconut milk (thick, first extract)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1 pinch saffron strands
- 1 pinch salt
- To make the saravle, prepare a smooth dough by mixing plain flour (maida), salt and enough water. Roll noodle-like strands out of the dough. Wrap the noodles around a sirkand (or a wooden skewer) to fashion tiny rings. Make sure to leave a little space between each ring. Join the edges of the rings, making sure they are sealed well. Once the whole stick is covered, gently ease them out. Dry these rings in the sun for a day and store the saravle in a glass jar with a lid. Tip: You can also add a few drops of food colours to little batches of the dough before rolling.
- For the dessert, heat coconut oil in a pan. Add cardamom powder and sauté for a few seconds. Now add the saravle and roast for a few minutes till fragrant.
- In another pan, gently heat the thick (first extract) coconut milk with some saffron added to it. Make sure not to let it split.
- Once the saravle are well roasted, add the hot coconut milk and cook on medium flame till they soak up all the milk. Now add a pinch of salt and the sugar and mix well.
- Cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Eat hot.
About Raul DiasA Mumbai-based writer, Raul is an ardent devotee of the peripatetic way of life. When not churning out his food and travel stories at a manic pace, he can be found either hitting the road for that elusive story or in the company of his three dogs!