The food of Maharashtra has always been comfort food for me, and one of my favorite dishes to make and eat is this easy but complexly flavored Masale Bhath, which translates to rice with masalas or spices. This is a deliciously healthy and vegan, gluten-free, soy-free recipe. You can make it without any nuts–although the nuts are a yummy addition. 🙂
As the daughter of a mom born in the Alphonso-gold state of Maharashtra, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for foods like Kande Pohe, Puran Poli, Varan Bhath and Sabudana Khichdi.
But one of my all-time favorite foods, one that’s considered so special it’s almost always on any Maharashtrian wedding menu, is this Masale Bhath.
The food of Maharashtra, much like its Marathi people, is complex and lavish with an undertone of sweetness–and a salt-of-the-earth approach that lends itself easily both to home cooking and the state’s famous street foods like Pav Bhaji, Misal Pav and Vada Pav. The cooks of this state make rich use of legumes, especially sprouted ones, grains, leafy vegetables, coconut and spices in an assortment of tasty dishes. Then, they tie it all together with a spoonful of sugar.
But just like there’s no single Indian cuisine, there’s no single Maharashtrian cuisine. Instead, there are the Malvani and Saraswat cuisines of coastal Maharashtra, each known for its unique seafood dishes; there’s Khandeshi cuisine known for its spicy curries; Kolhapuri cuisine, known for its fiery meat dishes; the cuisine of Vidarbha known for its Saoji masala mix and the recipes made with it, and so on.
This Masale Bhath, like a few other dishes, is a common thread that runs through all these cultures and cuisines, with one caveat: it is never really made exactly the same way in any two homes.
And by that I don’t just mean a couple of spices are replaced with a couple of other spices, or a technique is tweaked this way or that. No, a Masale Bhath, I’ve found out over the years, is usually as unique as the cook who makes it.
Some prefer to use two kinds of spice mixes, or masalas; others use none at all; some add eggplants and tendli, others add carrots and cauliflower; some add potatoes, others none at all; some add garlic, others add ginger, still others add both. You get the picture?
- Basmati rice
- Coconut oil
- Green cardamom
- Bay leaves
- Coriander powder
- Cayenne (optional)
- Goda masala
- Coconut sugar (or jaggery, or regular sugar. Piloncillo, if you have some, is a fine replacement for jaggery)
- Coconut (grated)
- Heat the oil. Add the cardamom, cloves and bay leaves and saute until the bay leaves start to change color and become lightly golden.
- Add the potatoes and carrots and saute, stirring frequently, until the potatoes have a light brown crust.
- Add the cauliflower and zucchini and continue sauteeing another couple of minutes.
- Add the powdered spices–turmeric, coriander powder, cumin and goda masala–and saute for a minute to coat the spices with the oil and toast them.
- Add the washed rice and stir until the rice begins to turn opaque.
- Add 4 cups water to the rice, and add enough salt to make the water a bit saltier than you’d like your final dish to be.
- Stir well, bring to a boil, then cover the rice with a tight-fitting lid. Let the rice cook over medium heat for five minutes, then lower the heat and continue cooking for 10 more minutes, never opening the lid once during cooking.
- Turn off the heat and let the rice stand another 10 minutes. Open and sprinkle on the coconut and cilantro.
- Serve hot or warm.
Calories: 212kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Potassium: 226mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1633IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg