Anjali Koli takes people to a masala trail

Anjali Koli takes people to a masala trail

Mumbai is perhaps one of those cities where you get masala that is made and used across India and the world

Anjali Koli Cooper. Photo credit: Instagram account.

From Mombayn to Boon Bay to Bon Bahia to Mombaim to Bombay to Mumbai – the financial capital of India is a melting pot of cultures. Travellers from across the globe had come to Mumbai – and had mixed up with local communities.

And of course, food and the style of cooking in this city have been influenced by the people coming over for years.

Mumbai is perhaps one of those cities where you get masala that is made and used across India and the world. Kashmiri chillies, Karnataka’s Byadagi chillies, and Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur chillies can be found in the Crawford Market Mirchi Gully.

From turmeric, dried flesh of coconuts, cinnamon powder to nutmeg, ground pepper, and coriander powder – you can get at the Lalbaug Masala Gully. Similarly, at the Kalbadevi Masala Gully, you would get anything that you can think of.

At the APMC in Navi Mumbai, you will get all the spices that you need to cook an Indian meal. Masala or spices in it is a complex subject – but Anjali Koli Cooper can break it down and make it simple.

“Species elevates the taste of food. It is all about proportion, colour, need, accuracy,” says Anjali, who runs a popular blog AnnaParaBrahma.A veteran culinary expert, she hails from traditional fisherfolk of Koli community who is married to a Parsi family.

Anjali would take people to a virtual Masala Trail at the Jashn-e-Dastaan-e-Mumbai festival hosted by the Mumbai Research Centre (MRC) of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai.

Speaking about the Indian spices, she said: “Clearly the spice mixes of India have undergone a transformation after the Portuguese brought chillis…When people from various religions and communities came and settled in Mumbai, they added to the culture and food.” She traces the spices to their origin and also traverses through the route it has travelled before landing in the Indian sub-continent.

Speaking on Jaiphal-Javitri, she said: “Jaiphal-Javitri, Nutmeg-Mace these are the twin spices obtained from the same tree. The story of Nutmeg and Mace is fascinating. It was available wild only in Banda Islands for centuries. The fragrance of which first attracted seafaring traders. First Indian and then Arabs and finally the Europeans. The Dutch controlled it for a long time. When there is control then there are unnatural prevention methods of propagation but nature rebels and birds carried the seeds of the nutmeg to other islands. India was among the early cultivators. Since it came via Javanese traders it got the name Javitri for mace.”

On the famous Dalchini, she points out: “Dalchini which means a branch or twig from China. That is where the first uses of Cassia are seen. Cassia is used as a medicine for respiratory and circulatory and antibacterial effects. The flavour of the aldehydes in Cassia is sharp and pungent. This is the external bark of the Cinnamomum cassia. In the Indian cuisine, meat and poultry dishes use Cassia. It is a garam spice, so a component of garam masala. It helps make meat better for consumption as it is a blood thinner and lowers cholesterol.”

About coriander, she said: “Dhana is grown majorly in two states in India one in Rajasthan and the other Madhya Pradesh. However, Dhana is not a desert crop. It needs a well-hydrated soil but nevertheless is intense in this desert land like nowhere. While Dhana is used widely in the Northern and Southern states it is agreed that everyone likes a bite of dhana in their bhajias and kababs but in curries, we love the mellow woody fragrance from the powder. Fresh ground is always better.”