If you are a true foodie, you need to visit Maharashtra. As the entertainment and financial hub of India, the third-largest state has so much to offer in terms of culture. The long stretch of gorgeous beach coastline has a direct influence on the cuisine and cooking style.

What is Marathi Food?

Strong unique flavours that come from local ingredients and spices make Maharashtrian cuisine truly a feast for any foodie. When I lived in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, I discovered that the local cuisine is a combination of different state cuisines that are distinct in their ways.

There are five specific cuisines found across the state

Kolhapuri Cusine: Spicy, fresh and packed with big flavours. A great place to sample the flavour of Maharashtra is by starting with the Kolhapuri cuisine. In a traditional setting, food is served in small bowls so each course can be tasted separately. There is an order in which they are meant to be eaten.

Malwani Cusine: This style of food comes from the Konkan region which is the coastal part. Mainly non-vegetarian dishes are cooked with coconut in different forms including dried, grated, fried, as a paste or with coconut milk.

Varadi Cusine: A great balance of spices, coconut and besan is used in Varadi cuisine. This is from the interior parts of Maharashtra.

Khandeshi Cusine: The dishes cooked in this style are the spiciest of all Maharashtrian food. They use kala masala, dry coconut, peanut oil and lavangi chillies.

Deshashtha Cusine: The famous Goda masala is used extensively in this cuisine. The curries are more layered with spices. The use of coconut is minimal.

For Misal-Pav

Begin your food journey in the humble town of Udyamnagar, Kolhapur. Opened in 1968 and rated the top place for Misal-Pav, Phadtare Misal Kendra is known for the three versions of this highly popular dish. You can choose light, medium spicy or spicy. They also serve Jain Misal-Pav which has no onions or garlic.

This breakfast favourite is very filling. It is a mix of potatoes, beans, sev, kat, farsan,garam masala, tomatoes, garlic, ginger coconut and onions. It is enjoyed with Pav which is a soft bread.

For Batata Wada Pav

In Dadar, Mumbai, you will find the best wada pav you have ever eaten. Ashok Vada Pav, near Kirti College, is frequented by most celebrities for good reason. There is a special choora that is added here and nowhere else. Served hot with chutney, and fried chillies, this deep-fried potato goddess will have you wanting another and another. What got me was just the delicious smell of this splendid snack.

For Tambda Rassa & Pandhra Rassa

After a few snacks, it is time to get down to a real meal. The tambda rassa (spicy red curry) and pandhra rassa (white curry) are made in mutton stock and are not for the faint-hearted. If you prefer things less spicy, try the pandhra rassa which is cooked in coconut milk. For vegetarians, I would recommend trying the akka masoor thali. The Hotel Bawada in the Kasba-Bawada, Kolhapur is an institution that opened its kitchen back in 1923. Bollywood celebrities and famous personalities love this place for its authentic and unapologetic flavours.

For Kolhapuri Bhel

The locals call it Bhadang or Bhel. This popular snack comes from Kolhapur and is made of sweet, and spicy puffed rice, crunchy peanuts and red chilli and more. A perfect tea-time snack, you can find this across the state thanks to its popularity. The preferred place to try this outside of Kolhapur is Rankala Chowpaty.

For Solkadhi

Now let’s switch gears and try some Malwani Cusine. I like to refresh myself with a Solkadhi drink before starting a meal out here. It is a coconut milk and kokum beverage with Garcinia indica mixed into it. The lovely purple-pink colour is always a delight and supercooling. I usually order it before but it can be had with a meal or after as well.

For bombil fry/ Bombay Duck

This famous dish is unmistakably recognizable and delicious. The crispy outer coating is perfectly fried while the inside of the fish is soft and full of flavour. The reason I favour this dish so much is that the bones are so soft, you can eat it without any fear. A must-have when in the city of Mumbai!

For Toi

A lentil preparation that is similar to the dal. The taste is mild and the consistency is watery, like a clear soup. You can eat it with steamed rice and chutney to add to it if you like.

For Seafood

Prawns, crabs, squid, fish and much more. The list of seafood that is cooked in this style will make any foodie happy. Mostly coated with rice flour and semolina, these dishes are all considered classics from Malvani cuisine. The finishing touch, before taking your first bite is that generous squeeze of lemon on the top. Go to any of the local shacks along the coast for these tasteful treats.

A Varhadi Thali

The best way to sample many dishes is to order a local thali. When you are in Nagpur, you must try the Varhadi Thali. My thali had Bhakari, Bharli Vaangi, Puran Poli,Patodi Rassa Bhaji, Zunka, Pithala, Gola Bhaat and Vada Bhaat. The cuisine uses a lot of besan, mustard, chilli powder and dried mango powder.

Khandeshi Chicken

The small town of Khandesh serves up some of the forest food you will ever eat. It brings tears to most people's eyes and comes with a warning. However, if food adventure is what you seek, the Khandeshi chicken should be on your list next.

What makes this cuisine so unusual is that the region is along the borders of Gujrat and Madhya Pradesh so the influence in cooking comes from three states. They use a lot of kala masala and oil which gives it a deep rich taste. Do have it with rice or roti to balance out the heat. A bowl of curd at the end will help too!

Ambadi chi patal bhaji

In Deshashtha Cusine, there is an emphasis on healthy eating. Ambadi or sorrel leaves are blended with besan and spice to create a curry. It is had with roti or rice and is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, B2, and B9. It is also high in iron, vitamins, antioxidants, and folic acids.

So the next time you find yourself wondering where to travel to next, pick Maharastra and you will have a food adventure of a lifetime.