Sunday, September 11, 2005

A is for AMTI

This article is first of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case the cuisine that I grew up with.

A is for Amti.
Every evening, in millions of homes in Maharastra, the following dinner is served: Amti-Bhaat-Bhaji. Translated as lentil dal, rice and vegetable. So amti is the special way of preparing lentils or dal in Maharashtra. Amti is a little spicy, a little sweet and a little tangy. The word amti can also used to describe other curried preparations, but the amti dal stands solid as the pillar of everyday food, making it a perfectly fitting start to our food journey.

Amti is a good illustration of the generous use of jaggery or unrefined sugar in Marathi cooking. Sugarcane is a very important crop in that part of the country and jaggery is produced and used in abundance, lending a slight sweetish tinge to savory foods. Amti is a very basic dal and only requires a spice mixture that can be easily made ahead of time and stored. Last time I visited my home-town of Kolhapur, I visited a friend of my mom's. As luck would have it, she was grinding a huge batch of amti masala for herself that morning and when she asked me if I would like some, I said "yes, yes, yes" very quickly before she could change her mind and got myself a hefty bag of wonderful authentic amti masala. How's that for good timing? For my readers, here is a amti masala recipe from a Marathi masala handbook.

Amti Masala
(from "Lajjatdar Masale" by Mrs. Vaijayanti Kelkar)

12 cup coriander seeds
14 cup cumin seeds
2 tsp. Shahi jeera (black cumin seeds)
10-12 cloves
1 inch cinnamon

Roast all the spices together on very low heat till they turn a couple of shades darker. Then grind together to a fine powder and store in a dry container.

On to the amti:

Amti

  • 1 cup toor dal , cooked

Tempering:

  • 12 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 12 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • Sprig of curry leaves


  • 12 cup diced onion
  • 1 tsp. amti masala
  • 12 tsp. turmeric
  • 12 tsp. red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp. tamarind paste
  • 1 tsp. jaggery
  • 1 tbsp. minced cilantro for garnish

  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a saucepan. 
  2. Temper it with mustard seeds, jeera seeds and asafoetida. 
  3. Add curry leaves, onion and fry till onion is transluscent. 
  4. Add amti masala, turmeric, salt, chilli powder and fry for a few seconds. 
  5. Now add the cooked dal and enough water to make it the desired consistency. 
  6. Finally stir in tamarind, jaggery and bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes and your amti is ready. 
  7. Taste it and adjust the salt, tamarind and jaggery till you are happy with the balance of flavors. 
  8. Garnish with cilantro if desired.
Amti is best served with fresh steamed rice and a dollop of ghee. I served amti with rice, radish-cucumber salad and an eggplant-potato dish, with a side of papad for a very satisfying dinner.

Watch out for the letter "B" in a few days. Any guesses what "B" will be?

38 comments:

  1. What a spectacular prospect, A-Z Indian food! I look forward to the alphabetical cuisinical (?!) journey! Alanna

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  2. Love the idea :). My vote goes to Bhakri!

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  3. Great idea Nupur!

    what a yummy sounding curry!

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  4. Wonderful concept Nupur. I am almost inspired to do the same with Tamil cuisine. Your Amti masala sounds very versatile. I guess since batata vada is something you have already written about (I think), may be bhakri-pithale is next???

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  5. Hi Nupur

    Love your blog. My guess for "B" would be baingan bharta.

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  6. Hi AK, I love your veggie journey too, thanks for stopping by :)

    Hi Clare, glad you think so! Come over to NYC and taste it for yourself.

    Hi Seema, I was thinking of Bhakri...would be a nice chance to make it for the first time ever...if I can get to the Indian store for bajri/jowar flour!

    Hi Mika, you should TOTALLY do a tamil version...that would be so cool :) and yes bhakri pithale might work out...lets see

    Hi Anon, Thanks for visiting! I love baingan bharta but in marathi it is "vangi bharit" so would have to wait till the letter "V"!

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  7. Hi Nupur - I love your A to Z idea! This dish looks delicious. They have toor dal in the grocery store here and I've been wanting to try a recipe with it - this sounds perfect! I have a question about tamarind paste... is tamarind concentrate (Tamicon) the same as tamarind paste? I also have the dried tamarind, but I assume this is not what you're talking about. Thanks!

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  8. okie , now i am totally looking fwd to reading the entire series. I still remember the dal I had at your place and your countless other experiments so this should be fun. And since I have no idea of regional food other than stereotypical dishes from most regions, this should be really cool. Now I am hoping other ppl take up the idea and we get to see more state based blogs. Woohoo.

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  9. What a great idea, Nupur. I love it and looking forward to A to Z Marathi cuisine.

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  10. Hi Cathy, toor dal can be cooked in a hundred different ways, all delicious and nutritious! Tamicon is exactly the same brand that I use...very convenient. Dried tamarind soaked in warm water, and then squeezed to get the juices out, now that is the real authentic way to use tamarind. So you could use either tamicon or dried tamarind. This is a very forgiving recipe in any case.

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  11. hey bilbo, I know regional food is very exciting...I am also hoping to hear more about foods of different Indian states from other blogs!

    Hi Indira, glad you like the idea :) Some letters are going to give me problems so its going to be interesting to cover the alphabet!

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  12. wow nupur, love the idea.
    b for bhakri of course, how about bharli vangi, batata rassa or good old batatyachi suki bhaji ? oh even bhajiyas ,yum, hot and spicy, just right for the wet mumbai climate. ...also dil behelniwali bhel, maharashtrian style with farsan,,,,,,even bhendi fry aji style. all the best !

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  13. Great idea Nupur! I have loved practically every indian dish I have ever eaten so I look forward to your posts, and to learning more about Marathi cuisine in particular! :)

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  14. Hi Nupur, I lurk on your blog quite a bit since I have suspected for a while (without knowing) that you too were Maharashtrian. Bazri- chi bhakri with Pithla and lasunachi chatni would be my pick. Really looking forward to reading more recipes.

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  15. My vote goes for besan ladoo

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  16. I second megha :) besan ladoo sounds yum

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  17. Wow! What a great idea! My knowledge of Indian cuisine is woeful so I'm really looking forward to your alphabet journey through your hometown dishes.

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  18. wow, i finally have the amti recipe from first principles. is this masala same as goda masala?
    now, one of these days i will surprise my wife with it.
    looking forward for the rest of the alphabet.

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  19. Hi yoma,
    I thought of all those dishes too :) this weekend I'll choose one and a few and write about it! The letter B is an easy one.

    Hi Joey, glad you like Indian food! I do too :)

    Hi Gita, thanks for stopping by!

    Hi Megha and bilbo, hmm...besan ladoo ...now that one I had NOT thought of ...so thanks for suggesting it.

    Hi Augustus, glad you like the idea :)

    Hi bottled-imp, no, the amti masala is also called kaccha masala (kaccha as in raw) and it is different from goda masala (or kala/black masala) which has many many more ingredients. This is according to the masala book of mrs. kelkar.

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  20. What a fascinating project! I am just starting to learn about Indian food, so I will learn a lot!

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  21. Hey Nupur. I look forward to reading to the Z of Maharashtrian food. Amti has always been one of my favourites made spectacularly in Pune by Hotel Shreyas.
    Is B going to be Bhopla??

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  22. A is for Ambadi? More hardcore, and even less known outside Maharashtra than Amti (which is really a dal variant). Again, interestingly, Ambadi leaves are used differently in the south. In Andhra, it is the primary ingredient of Gongura pickles.

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  23. hey nupur, this recipe was good... i tried it using "amsul" not tamarind,that;s what my mom used to use.i specially got "amsul" from india when relatives were visiting, and it turned out to be yummy. would love to try out ur other dishes.
    write fast

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  24. HI Nupur,
    just enjoyed browsing on one hot stove,I am a maharashtrian food freak just like you.

    Well a hard core australian punekar with roots in kokan can't ask for more than 'B' for Birdyachee Usal.

    Cheers.
    Snehal,Adelaide.

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  25. Hi Nupur,

    Extremely creative. Pleasant site, the food in the pictures looks appetizing too!! Loved your concept of A-Z of marathi cuisine...it's like you are helping us through some maze with delicacies to be discovered!! Lot of effort has gone into presenting this I'm sure..It's quite painful otherwise, as a reader to come across badly written recipes.
    Congratulations!!:)

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  26. AWESOME recipe! I just made this.. thank you. Reminds me of my darling Bombay :)

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  27. hi nupur 2 days back when i was going through ur blog about amti, i knew i could definitely find a recipe for the masala in ur blog today i just sat down to go through here i am !, and i have book marked it too !, i am crazy of trying out new masala mixtures..., will definitely try this... thanks for the recipe

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  28. hi nupur,
    a gr8 idea to see the A to Z of marathi recipies. especially the amti recipe reminded of my grandmother who used to cook delicious authentic amti( if we can call that authentic marathi amti!!!!)
    thanks for giving a gr8 post to read. cheers
    sunil.

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  29. Dear Nupur
    All this A to Z Marathi food blog (One hot stove) is "APRATIM", "Ek number" and "Chavisht". I thank you for your effort to make available these simple to do recipes to peoaple who live far from their home.
    I live in Sydney, Australia and I have not found a single restaurant where I can get our beloved marathi food. Your A to Z is going to help me to help myself with "Chavisht" Marathi food. Thank you again!!!

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  30. Just made Amti for the first time from this recipe; it's delicious! Thank you!

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  31. Mom had made amti long back n we all luvd it but then i lost the recipe..Urs looks too delicious..Will pass it on to her ..Thx for sharing!!

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  32. hI NUPUR,
    I prepared your amti masala and made amti with pumpkin, it resembled sambar a lot, but we really loved its flavour, keep posting a lot ofauthentic marathi recipes

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  33. Hi Nupur,
    Thanks a million. I am a Gujju but love authentic Marathi food. I will be cooking..........U R sweet.

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  34. HI made your Amti masala too.., thanks for sharing, loved it dear

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  35. Hi Nupur,
    I made this amti yesterday and it tasted really great. It went very well with chapatis. Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful recipe.
    -- Rehana

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  36. love the way you have put it up.. loved jottin it down .. loved surprising my wife wid a ready typical home cooked MAHARASHTRIAN dish .. loved cookin it .. you jes made every thng so sinple..

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