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The full moon and a recipe for Maharashtrian ‘narali bhat’

The coastal communities of Maharashtra prepare a special coconut rice dish on a full moon day in the monsoon

Narali bhat flecked with dry fruits.
Narali bhat flecked with dry fruits. (Screenshot: Triptis Kitchen)

While Raksha Bandhan is the most celebrated festival this week, there are regional celebrations with unique dishes to signify their importance. Narali Purnima is a festival celebrated by the coastal communities of Maharastra on a full moon day during the fag end of monsoon. This year, it falls on August 31.

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One of the most beloved dishes to mark this festival is a sweet rice preparation with coconut known as narali bhat. The dish is characterised by its use of coconut, which plays a vital role in the coastal cuisine of Maharashtra. On Narali Purnima, coastal communities honour the sea and its bounty by offering coconuts. The coconut pulp is grated and used to flavor the rice, infusing it with a distinct tropical taste.

The preparation of Narali Bhat involves cooking fine-grained rice with coconut milk, grated coconut, jaggery, and fragrant spices such as cardamom. The resulting dish is a harmonious blend of sweet and spicy flavors, enriched with the natural sweetness of coconut. It is cooked in ghee and flecked with cashew nuts, almonds and raisins. Some prefer to add a touch of saffron to for a bit of colour.

Beyond its delightful taste, Narali Bhat carries sentimental value. It is often offered to deities as prasad (sacred food offering) during Narali Purnima, signifying gratitude for the bounties of nature and seeking blessings for a prosperous life. The dish is also exchanged among friends and family members, strengthening the bonds of love and togetherness.

In essence, Narali Bhat is more than just a festive dish; it's a culinary embodiment of gratitude, family ties, and cultural heritage of those who live by the sea. It also shows the rich diversity of festive dishes in India that go beyond mithais and kheer. Some families also prepare it as a Raksha Bandhan speciality. Watch this video to learn a soulful festive dish.

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