There’s always a place for salad in a Maharashtrian thali. A typical accompaniment in a wedding thali served alongside a myriad of chutneys and pickles, is this ‘khamang’ kakdi koshimbir or cucumber salad. It’s like a cucumber raita, only better. A well-balanced thali will usually include this cool cucumber koshimbir to offset the spicier dishes. It’s conventionally served on the left-hand side of a thali along with other condiments such as chutneys, pickles and papads.
What does ‘khamang’ mean here?
The refreshing crunch from the cooling cucumber, coupled with aromatic spices blend beautifully with the piquant peanut, as you gnaw, making it far superior to any other raita in my view. Maharashtrians have given this flavour sensation a name, ‘khamang’ which is hard to translate. But for a cucumber koshimbir, it’s definitely the refreshing aroma fused with a piquant taste and added crunch that makes it ‘khamang’ for me.
The captivating aroma emanating from the cucumbers, crunch and piquancy of the peanuts and the tantalising tadka of mustard seeds will arrest all your senses instantly. The crackling sound of mustard as you make the tadka and pour over this koshimbir will entrance your eyes and ears. The refreshing scent of cucumbers against the backdrop of spices entraps your nose. The combination of nutty, savoury and sweet sensation with that delightful crunch of cucumbers enraptures your taste buds. And touching the cool texture with your fingers triggers a soothing and calming sensation in your body. You just have to try it to experience the ‘khamang’-ness of this dish.
How do you make this koshimbir?
Can you believe it when I say it all comes together in 15 minutes? Yes, it’s that easy. Simply chuck in finely chopped cucumber or if you want to go truly authentic, do what we call ‘चोचवणे’ pronounced ‘tso-tsav-ne’ in Marathi. I imagine this cutting technique evolved from the need to finely chop a vegetable without a chopping board, just a knife. You zap one end of a cucumber randomly with a knife whilst holding vertically and rotating it. The word translates to ‘pecking’ in English, as in a bird pecking with its beak; except in this case, we are swapping the bird’s beak with a sharp knife. This creates random deep incisions along the length of the cucumber which when sliced across makes irregular but similar sized pieces of cucumber. This is the traditional way to chop cucumbers for koshimbir. However, with time being at a premium for most, one can resort to either grating or finely chopping on a board.
Once the cucumber is chopped, then it’s just a matter of mixing a few elements to rev up the umami. Typically, this dish is prepared with a dressing of curd or yoghurt. I am, however, keeping it vegan here by swapping yoghurt with a generous squeeze of lime. So I start by adding the complementary flavours which make this unassuming ‘kakdi’ / cucumber all the more ‘khamang’. Add chopped coriander, grated fresh coconut and the omnipresent-Maharashtrian-kitchen-ingredient – ‘danyacha koot’ aka roasted and ground peanut. I’d advise against swapping fresh coconut with desiccated here; I’d rather skip it altogether or use frozen if you can’t find fresh coconut.
Finally, make a tempering or tadka of mustard, hing (asafoetida), curry leaves and mild green chillies, then pour it over the koshimbir and serve.
This koshimbir is best eaten fresh. Assemble it with all the ingredients, bar the salt which should be added just before serving to avoid it getting soggy. You can mix in coriander, grated fresh coconut, peanut powder and refrigerate for a couple of hours and season right before serving. However, due to cucumber’s high water content, freezing this dish is not recommended as it loses all its crunch and texture.
The most common variation of this dish is to add yoghurt. Simply stir in some yoghurt along with other ingredients. In this case, skip the lime unless you like your koshimbir sour.
Try this with grated carrots, beets, radish or mooli – let your imagination go wild!
How to enjoy koshimbir:
Typically sighted in Maharashtrian thalis to offset the heat of spicy curries, this cool koshimbir makes a lovely and appetising snack on its own too. A late evening attack of the munchies can always be satiated with a generous bowl of this cucumber salad; it goes delightfully with crackers or nachos. It’s healthy, vegan and definitely soothing for all palates. Try it!
Khamang Kakdi Koshimbir / Maharashtrian Cucumber Salad￼Course: Starter, Snack, SideCuisine: Maharashtrian, IndianDifficulty: Easy
A cooling cucumber salad that is a quintessential part of a Maharashtrian thali. But can equally be had on its own as a snack.
2 small baby cucumbers (about 65g chopped)
1 tbsp coriander with stalks (finely chopped)
1 tbsp fresh coconut (grated)
½ tsp black Himalayan salt
1 tsp caster sugar
15g roasted and ground peanut (skin removed)
½ a lime
- For the tadka or tempering:
1½ tbsp sunflower oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 mild and tender green chilli (thinly sliced)
¼ tsp asafoetida or hing
2-3 curry leaves
- Finely chop the cucumber with skin on, if they’re tender. However, the traditional chopping method for this dish is to make deep incisions by ‘pecking’ the cucumber held vertically with a knife whilst rotating it (as explained above).
- In a bowl, mix the chopped cucumber, coriander, coconut and ground peanut followed by the sugar and a generous squeeze of the lime.
- Prepare a tadka (tempering) in a tiny pan over a low to medium flame by first heating the oil. Crackle the mustard seeds, then curry leaves followed by the chilli. At the end, add asafoetida.
- Pour the tempering into the bowl of mixed ingredients from step 2. Mix, then add the Himalayan salt. Mix again and serve immediately.
- You don’t need to chop the cucumber in the traditional ‘tso-tsav-ne’ / ‘चोचवणे’ way if you’re time-bound. Simply finely chop or even coarsely grate, if you like.
- If you can’t find black Himalayan salt, use rock salt or sea salt to season. Black Himlayan salt is recommended for its pungent flavour though.
- If you can’t get fresh coconut, swap with frozen. Desiccated coconut doesn’t give the same texture and flavour.
- Add salt at the end and then serve immediately so that the cucumber retains its crunch and doesn’t go soggy.
- The green chilli is entirely optional. On the contrary, feel free to add extra for a spicy kick.
- Swap the lime with yoghurt or curd, if you prefer.
- Add salt and sugar to taste. The above measurements are guidelines.