Did you know the East Indian Bottle Masala includes as many as 27 spices, or that an oil-free pickle served at their weddings is actually known as Wedding Pickle?
These and many such authentic East Indian masalas and pickles are available at East Indian Cozinha (Portuguese for kitchen), a food store started by Christina Kinny at Kolovery Village in Kalina, Santacruz. "I started East Indian Cozinha with an attempt to preserve and highlight our cuisine and culture," says the 24-year old, who has studied Masters in Social Work and currently, works with an enterprise that helps tribal farmers.
What’s in store?
Going back 500 years, the East Indian cuisine enjoys influences from Portuguese, British and Maharashtrian fare. The staples include rice, coconut, tamarind, fish and meats, with spices forming an integral part of the cuisine. For instance, Prawn Atola is a dry dish comprising prawns coated only with Vindaloo Masala featuring Kashmiri chilli, cumin and turmeric. "Most people from our community were farmers and would be out on field all day. So, the masalas and lemon would help preserve their food for a longer time," reasons Kinny.
At present, the store stocks six varieties of masala in 100g bottles (R150 onwards). These include Khuddi or Bottle Masala, Chinchoni (fish) Masala, Vindaloo Masala, Roast Rub, Kujit Masala and Tem Che Rose. She also offers Wedding Pickle, an oil-free variety prepared with raw papaya, carrots and dry dates. "All the recipes have been passed on from generations and are homemade," she informs.
However, making the masalas is no cakewalk. "It takes three days to dry spices under the sun. Then, we hand pound them and pack them tightly in bottles with wider openings," says Kinny. She recalls that in her grandmother’s time, the masalas were tightly stuffed in beer bottles. The bottles were darker, and hence, helped preserve the masala for at least a year, at room temperature.
East Indian Cozinha also stocks traditional 10-yard saris known as lugras. These are hand embroidered by Kinny’s mother, Carol. Previously made only from cotton with authentic gold borders, now, lugras are embroidered with sequins and threads. "She has been in the garment industry for the last 30 years. She also makes traditional accessories like kapotas (earrings), karis (hair pins), anklets, etc," informs Kinny.