We think of it as an onion, The Bombay Canteen chef-partner Thomas Zacharias’ Maharashtra road trip. As he talks, he peels away at layers of a blushing pink vacation, revealing the Indian salmon he had the pleasure of meeting and eating, the locals who curried favours, the day he went to the ocean and added salt to taste, the miles he drove and the cooking styles he observed, all of which finally lead to what is “just the bonus” – food.
If his eyes are welling up, you will have to forgive him. He’s just overwhelmed by Mr Potnis’ Konkan hospitality. Besides, he is cutting an onion.
If you follow chef Thomas on Instagram (who doesn't?), you’re familiar with his long kitchen hours and his quick weekends away - solo culinary trips across India (#ChefOnTheRoad ) that often inspire new dishes on The Bombay Canteen’s menu.
Most recently, the chef was seen exploring Konkani and Desh food on a road trip through Maharashtra, and since his return, he’s been trying to perfect the mutton lonche that he sampled in Kolhapur. We got the chef and karaoke champ to sing praises of his favourite culinary pit stops, should you wish to replicate his Maharashtra road trip. (Recommendations as told to bpb).
Patil Khanaval: What started out as a small khanaval (traditional restaurants run out of people’s homes) has over time become an extensive eatery and a mecca for those travelling through the Konkan coast. Menu options are limited and their surmai thali is made in classic Konkani style. The jhinga fry with charred whole garlic is worth a special mention and crab curry, when available, is the pearl in the oyster that divers hope to find. Side note: Also stop by the fish market near the beach, a great insight into the way people cook, eat and interact. Near Murud Beach, Murud Janjira.
Ekvira Khanaval: This is a classic example of a khanaval as an extension of one’s home and Mr. Potnis himself serves the food in a meticulous fashion, while describing the preparation and the history in great detail. Call in advance and ask for the CKP style surmai fry, valache birdhe and kombdi vade. Note: The virginal beach in Diveghar is astonishing. Taluka-Shriwardhan, call 09272722829.
Bapat Khanaval: Specialising in Kokanastha Brahmin cooking, this vegetarian khanaval must be visited not just for their thali, but to watch (and later eat) modaks being prepared. Near Marathi School no.1 , Swami Vivekanand Road, call Suhas Bapat on 09423837967/ 09271127337.
Phadtare Misal Centre: Probably the most famous misal joint in Kolhapur, and for a reason. The dish here tastes great, but it’s the theatre of a dozens plates being assembled right in front of you at lightning speed, which makes it an experience to bookmark. Note: Stay at the cheerful Green Garden Apartments BnB in Kolhapur’s Tarabai Park (call host Vipin on 9422046695). 1243, 4th Lane, E Ward, Shivaji Udyam Nagar, call 9822558991.
Shiv Misal: Although Shiv is not as well known as its other Kolhapuri counterparts, the misal here is easily a contender for the top spot. Goes to show that an eatery can be good minus the hype – a phenomenon I witness time and again during my #ChefOnTheRoad trips. Kolhapur Munciple Corporation, Dasara Chowk, New Shahupuri.
Hotel Opal: The mutton thali at Opal is spectacular! The pandhra rassa (a white curry) is a favourite and the zunka (a preparation made with besan and onion) is worth making a special visit for. 2104, 16A, E Ward, Old Pune Bangalore Road, call 9881146767.
Hotel Padma: Mutton lonche is a very unique pickle-like preparation, which is seldom found outside Kolhapur, and Hotel Padma makes the best version of it. If you’re lucky, they’ll even have their mutton mundi curry on the menu. Near Dhairyaprasad Sanskrutik Bhavan, Tarabai Park.
Hotel Shreyas: The iconic Hotel Shreyas in Pune is a great pit stop to try an authentic vegetarian Maharashtrian thali, which covers a whole range of sides and dishes. My favorites are valachi usal and ambat varan. 242 B, Apte Road, Deccan Gymkhana, call 25532785.
Note: Chef Thomas tips his hat to Sumedh Natu for all his road trip recommendations. Follow Thomas Zacharias @cheftzac on Instagram for more travel and food updates.
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