Food and Wellness

Melting Pot: Seafood with a British twist – Pathare Prabhu cuisine and culture

Melting Pot: Seafood with a British twist – Pathare Prabhu cuisine and culture

Considered to be one of the earliest inhabitants of the city, Pathare Prabhus have a distinct cuisine — though primarily comprising seafood, it is different from that of the coastal regions of Maharashtra.

ONCE A month, Soumitra Velkar organises a ‘pop-up’ at his residence, inviting people for dishes unique to his Pathare Prabhu community. Considered to be one of the earliest inhabitants of the city, Pathare Prabhus have a distinct cuisine — though primarily comprising seafood, it is different from that of the coastal regions of Maharashtra.

“Since many members of the community were employed with the British, there are dishes that involve baking. I invite people through social media and usually host lunch for six, the size of my dining table, so that people can understand about our culinary tradition,” Velkar says. On Sunday, he cooked six dishes, including bombil bhaji and prawn pie, which he calls a masala version of the traditional British Shepherd’s pie. He explains that in earlier times, in the absence of electric ovens, the community baked by filling huge vessels with sand, sourced from the seaside at Girgaum, where most of the members stayed.

“The community has a cookbook, the first publication of which was over 150 years ago. It is called Gruhini Mitra and was written by Lakshmi Dhurandhar. It is like a culinary bible for Pathare Prabhu households,” he says. Velkar says along with the food, he tells his visitors about the history of the community, tracing its origins to Patan and Junagarh.

Varying historical records referred to by the community state that its members were living under the rule of Raja Bimba in Patan in the 11th century, fleeing to the south with the change in dynasty in the 13th century and eventually settling in Kelwe Mahim and Vasai in coastal Maharashtra. Other versions claim that the word Pathare is derived from Pratihar dynasty, which ruled in the ninth century.

Restaurateur Rahul Velkar, who also belongs to the community, says one of the largest landowners in the city, Narayan Dinanathji Velkar, who was also the first Indian municipal commissioner, belonged to the Pathare Prabhu community.

“He donated his land to community members to build houses, which stand till today. The community is connected through committees, including Pathare Prabhu Charities,” the 51-year old said.

Online Source:The Indian Express

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