What is Pathare Prabhu Food?

What is Pathare Prabhu Food?

Due to several reasons, some historical and some gastronomical, Pathare Prabhu cuisine got developed independent of the typical Maharashtrian, Malvani, Konkani and Goan-Portuguese cuisines.

Here are some quick things for you to munch on and get a glimpse of what we mean:

  • Unlike the Maharashtrians on the other side of Western Ghats, for whom non-vegetarian items meant either chicken or mutton, Pathare Prabhus developed a cuisine that focused a lot (and we mean, a LOT) on seafood due to their proximity to the beaches in Mumbai.
  • Pathare Prabhus took some of the traditional Maharashtrian recipes and PP-fied them – that is, added non-veg to them. Pathare Prabhus put minced prawn or mutton in almost anything that can be considered traditional Marathi – right from Upma with prawn to Alu wadi with prawn or mutton kheema to even Karanji (which is usually sweet) that has a kheema based filling.
  • They did not spare the Gujaratis too. In their zest to pursue non-vegetarian aspirations, the traditional Gujarati Undhiyo with aubergine and potatoes and seasonal vegetables became the PP Ghada – with shrimp and Ghol fish and – in some cases, even dry fish like dried prawn (sode) or dried bombil (Bombay duck).
  • Pathare Prabhus rarely use coconut in their curries, unlike Malvani cuisine that is heavily reliant on grated coconut. Although, Pathare Prabhu cuisine uses a lot of coconut milk – there are special items using these.
  • The fish used in PP items is usually the more expensive and rare one – Ghol fish, Rawas fish, Black Pomphret, White Pomphret,, large prawn, lobsters … Will you stop drooling already?
  • Apart from ingredients, there were variations in techniques. PPs made pav (bread) that can be eaten by local Hindus without worrying about animal fat – and that bread is still made in PP homes to go with Aamras (mango puree).
  • Pathare Prabhus also developed several items that are unique, and not just a twisted version of existing Marathi or Gujarathi items. Over time, the PP cuisine became a full-fledged cuisine.
  • However, the small size of the community and the general interest of keeping these recipes secretive makes this wonderful PP cuisine inaccessible to most outsiders. You need to be invited to a PP home - like the Vijaykars at Dine with Vijaykars.

The inspiration behind most Pathare Prabhu kitchens and also #dinewithvijaykars. "Grihini-Mitra" - the seminal and pioneering work of Smt. Lakshmibai Dhurandhar, first written in circa 1910 at Hyderabad ... the work that has shown the way to generations of cook books and reams of food writeups till now.

Our heirloom copy is the 13th edition, published in 1959, costing a massive Rs. 5/- at that time. Handed down at least three generations now, still useful with its nuanced tips on the fine art of PP cuisine.

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What are Pathare Prabhus?

Very few people know that Pathare Prabhus form an indigenous, colourful community in Mumbai, small in number (current estimate is about 56,000 across the world, mostly still in and around Mumbai) and yet significant in the early history of the development of Mumbai city and neighbouring areas.

Although very little is known and established about the history of this small and introverted community, Pathare Prabhus seem to have travelled the length and breadth of Western India, from one location to another, persecuted by the locals and rulers alike, and yet trying to protect their traditions and rituals. They moved, most likely starting from Gujarat, going towards Rajasthan, then to Maharashtra, finally settling down in Bombay in the last 13th century.

Pathare Prabhus are known for their contribution to the building of modern Mumbai, their special customs, a Gujarati-Marathi mixed wardrobe and language, and a relaxed general attitude bordering laziness, along with a ruefully tiny interest in their own colourful past and history, just like most Indians. But more than anything else, they are known for their special cuisine, especially their seafood specialities, their special recipes and spices.

Pathare Prabhu Trivia
  • Pathare Prabhus, along with Kolis, were one of the first people to inhibit the island group now known as Mumbai
  • It is believed that PPs traveled the length and breadth of Western India, from one location to another, persecuted by the locals and rulers alike, and yet trying to protect their traditions and rituals. They moved, most likely starting from Gujarat, going towards Rajasthan, then to Maharashtra, finally settling down in Bombay in the last 13th century.
  • Bombay’s first wet dock, still in use at the ferry wharf, was constructed in 1841 by “Bhau” Lakshman Hari Chandarjee Ajinkya (1789-1858), a Pathare Prabhu. It is now called “Bhau cha dhakka” (Bhau’s warf).
  • Temples built / owned by PPs in Mumbai include: Mahalakshmi Temple at Mahalaxmi, Shri Ram Mandir at Kalbadevi, Gora Ram – Kala Ram Mandi at Thakurdwar and Prabhadevi Mandir at Dadar.
  • There are several words Pathare Prabhus use, even NOW, that are closer to Gujarati colloquial words than to Marathi language.
  • The First Indian Municipal Commissioner in 1940 was a Pathare Prabhu, Rao Bahadur Narayan Dinanath Velkar. N.D. Velkar was also one of the first publishers of the Bombay Times bi-weekly in 1938, now the Times of India.
  • Shri M. V. Dhurandhar (1867 – 1944) was a popular painter during British Rule and Vice Principal of J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai
  • Barrister Mukundrao Ramrao Jayakar (1873-1959) was the First Vice-Chancellor of the University of Poona, and leader of Swaraj Party, Hindu Mahasabha
  • Dr. M. B. Velkar was a social activist contemporary of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and has a street named after him in Mumbai (1934)
  • Pathare Prabhu ladies would study and get educated in the British rule.

That is not all. Learn more about Pathare Prabhus and take a walk down the by-lanes of history of your city with us at #dinewithvijaykars.

Parbhi word Gujarati Marathi Meaning
Morali Morali Vili Vegetable cutter
Thali Thali Taat Plate
Vadga Vatka Pyala Glass
Vavdi Vavdi Patang Kite
Dadar Dadaro Jeena Stairs
Agashi Agasi Gacchi Terrace
Phaanas Phaanas Kandil Lamp / light
Vaali Vaali Nath / Baali A jewellery worn on nose
Chandla Chandla Aaher Wedding Present
  • There are several words Pathare Prabhus use, even NOW, that are closer to Gujarati colloquial words than to Marathi language.