Category Archives: Mumbai

A thali for your thoughts

Pennies are passé.

A thali filled with crispy fried fish, a thick curry the colour of the morning sky and a
colourful salad is worth a bagful of pennies. That is, if you are a Goan living in Bombay and starved of good fish.

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Tisreo Sukhe served with sol kadhi and cabbage.

On days when the craving for home food fills the mind and conjures up visions of a crunchy mussel fry, butter garlic prawns, or a vibrant mackerel stuffed with red masala, there’s only one thing to do. I go to Mahim, to the food-filled lane opposite Paradise cinema and walk into a tiny eatery called Sushegad Gomantak. There, I choose a spot among the five odd tables and settle in for a fishy feast.

But, before placing an order, there’s a system to follow. First is greeting Raju, a man with an easy smile who doubles up as cashier, waiter and delivery boy. This is followed by a discussion on fish – what’s cheap, what is good, what is special today and where did they buy it from. Once I tell him my order, he goes to the tiny kitchen at the back and relays it to his mother. 

Sushegad’s kitchen is presided over by Savita maushi, a diminutive woman of 65, under whose strict supervision passes every dish that’s served to guests. She doesn’t step out of the kitchen, greeting new customers and regulars from inside. Speak to in her native Konkani and she will reluctantly leave her post and come out and talk to you. Savita grew up in the now tourist haven of Calangute where she learned to cook
from her mother. Her favourite fish used to be pomfret, plain fried or coated with masala. Today, cooking it daily has made it lose its charm and she prefers the bangda (mackeral). Savita moved to Mumbai when she as 13 and sharpened her cooking skills by feeding a family of 10 daily. This continued after her marriage.

The eatery is small, just five tables, a board describing all the fish in India and another with the day’s menu scrawled on it.

Ordering fish here is easy – just pick the kind of fish and decide if you prefer it fried or in a curry. It is helpful to know the local names of the fish – bangda (mackeral), muddoshi (lady fish), tisreo (shellfish), makli (squid), muddoshi (lady fish), tamoshi (red snapper), mandeli, xinanio (mussels) and mori (shark). There are thali options and a few chicken dishes too but everyone comes here for the fish.

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Eating the crab masala can get quite messy. 

Fish at Sushegad Gomantak is prepared quite simply. The cooking style here is Goan Hindu – heavy on the spices and coconut and no beef or pork. There is the sukhe, the dry version made by pounding together ginger, garlic, chillies, turmeric and lime. The curries have a few additional ingredients – coconuts, dried chillies and black pepper (kali miri), dhania (coriander), jeera (cumin), garlic, onions, green chillies and tamarind. Then there’s my favourite type of preparation – coated with a batter of rice flour and rava coated, lightly salted and plain fried. As with the chillies, pepper and tamarind, Savita  gets her oil from Goa too – she only uses khobraya cha tel (oil removed after drying coconuts in the sun). It is the oil that gives the fried fish its distinct flavour.

My staple order is fried xinanio (Rs 250), a tangy and spicy mori curry called ambotik (literally sour-sweet) (Rs 200), the very spicy and coconut-ty tisreo (Rs 200) and the juicy and up-to- your-elbow- messy crab masala (Rs 250). The only correct way to eat here is with your hands, making a mess and calming the fire in your mouth with the tangy and bright pink sol kadhi. Sometimes, I also order a crisp prawn cutlet (Rs 150), packed with onions and juicy shrimp. 

Every fish dish is a meal itself and is served with onions, a plain cabbage salad and a simple but delicious green chutney. If I’m feeling particularly, I will order the thali. 

The reason I come here alone or bring Goan friends along is because the food is good,
authentic and homely and just as in Goa, once the food is at the table, all talking ceases and attention rightfully shifts to the food.

The true taste of a good Goan meal: I always feel like taking a good, long siesta after eating.

Sushegad Gomantak is located on Lady Jamshedji Road, opposite Crown Bakery in Mahim; open from 11am to 11pm.

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Snowflakes: a feel of Goa in Mumbai

In a neighbourhood rich in historic value, from the Art Deco building that is now Metro Multiplex to the ministry of sounds that is Furtados, you only discover Snowflake by accident. It is one of those places that time forgot.

On a visit to Kyani Restaurant down the road, I followed a line of cats sunning themselves on the road to find the entrance of what looked like someone’s home. As I would when faced with an open door back home in Goa, I entered and immediately felt as if I had stepped back in time. There’s a sense of calm and sepia-tinted nostalgia that envelope the place. The atmosphere is very laid back; staying too long can have soporific effects. Just ask the cats lazing around the doorstep.

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There are always cats hanging around the restaurant. Photos: Yoshita Sengupta

The fans creak slowly. The chairs and tables are similar to what you would find at an Irani café: sturdy black wood and marble tops. There are half-empty showcases plastered with posters, old photos, plate souvenirs and other odds and ends. In one corner a blackboard states the menu; a white board has the day’s specials. Snowflake may appear rundown, but it has character. Everything has a sense of quiet pride to it.

This is a place that has seen better days. Once upon a time, I learn, Snowflake attracted a huge crowd. Mrs Vaz, one of the members of the Rebeiro family that runs the place, is my source for this information. The family is generally reluctant to talk, which is why it is rare to find information anywhere about Snowflake’s history. It started out as a bakery, selling cakes, snacks and ice cream to the many Goans in the area. The customers may have moved on to other parts of the city or abroad, but Snowflake is adamant that the menu will remain unchanged.

The food is simple, like the kind you will find in every Goan home. There are the staple pork dishes, beef (they had removed it from the menu for a brief period after the statewide beef ban before bringing it back), fish curries, pulao and cutlets. I have tasted it all. The sorpotel is my favourite. Tiny pieces of pork, fat, liver, skin and various other parts of the pig, jostle for space on the plate. The gravy is neither too thick nor too thin, and no, unlike in Goa, they don’t use pork blood when cooking it.

Another underrated fish dish is the ambotik, that sour and spicy curry that bursts into song in your mouth. The ambotik here is a lightly spiced, thin gravy made with shark (mori). Mix it with steamed rice and it is fish-curry-rice heaven. The Sausage pulao is pungent and packed with flavour, the vindaloo has chinks of soft pork pieces and fat, and the xacuti is redolent with the taste of coconut.

Thanks to the regulars, if you go to Snowflake too late in the afternoon or evening, you are likely to find some dishes sold out. Like the fish cutlets. These delicious morsels are flat, oval shaped and thin and come packed with minced fish coated in a rawa batter. I’ve eaten six at a go.

The food here won’t leave a dent in your wallet – all the dishes are priced below Rs. 200. Snowflake may not be making profits, but they don’t seem too bothered by it. As with the Parsi establishments in the city, they have their fixed ways – they will shut at 9:55 p.m. every night irrespective of whether you are still eating, and the food is cooked in limited portions, no matter the demand. I try to visit whenever I am in the area, have taken all my friends there, and even told a few city chefs about it. It is my little way of giving back to a place that has given so many wonderful meals that taste like home.

Snowflake is located at 18, Ribeiro Building, Ground Floor, 1st Dhobi Talao Lane, Mumbai 400 002; call 22014252. 

Note: This story was first published in The City Story

O’ Tenga: Assamese food, home-delivered

The first time I had Assamese food, it was at Gitika Saikia’s home. I relished the sour tenga, burned my tongue on a bhut jolokia pickle and watched, fascinated, as she cooked chicken in bamboo shoots. It was an afternoon, and meal, to remember. 

Recently, I had another such meal, courtesy the two month-old O’ Tenga. The newest delivery space dedicated to just Assamese food is run by by friends Priyangi Borthakur and Joyee Mahanta, out of the latter’s Andheri kitchen. “Ever since we moved here, we’ve always complained about the lack of Assamese restaurants, and how much we missed home food. A few months back, we decided to stop complaining and start something ourselves,” says Mahanta.

Team O' Tenga

Priyangi Borthakur and Joyee Mahanta

Their menu has it all. There’s khar – made by filtering water through the ashes of sun-dried banana peels; xaak bhaji – lightly seasoned green, leafy vegetables; dail – lentils; tenga – a light and tangy curry; pitika – mashed potatoes; besides fish, chicken and mutton dishes. “We’ve been experimenting with recipes for the last five months, trying out recipes from our mothers, grandmothers and aunts. Sometimes, we’ve tried out five different recipes for one dish before settling on what we liked best,” says Mahanta.

This attention to detail reflects in the food. On placing the order, am advised to start with the khar – it is alkaline and so settles the stomach, and end with the acidic/ tangy tenga. The Omita Khar (Rs 180) is like a warm, thick soup with a faint hit of ginger. Kosu Xaak Jalukia (Rs 125), on the other hand, is a light curry made with colocasia leaves and black pepper.

The Koldil Bhaji (Rs 200) is made with banana flower – something I haven’t eaten before – and is a crunchy and dry preparation, with grated coconut adding in extra texture and depth. Dal gets a delicious upgrade in the Thekera Diya Mixed Dail (Rs 150), with mangosteen adding in lovely sour-sweet notes.

The duo sources many of the ingredients from home; they’ve even identified a woman who makes the water that is used in khar. “Besides elephant apple, we get lime, kajinemu (long green lemons), guti aloo (baby potatoes), jaggery, bamboo shoot, bhut jolokia and rice from home,” shares Mahanta.

O' Tenga Til diya Murgi Mangso

Til Diya Murgi Mangxo

These dishes all lead up to my find for the meal, the Til Diya Murgi Mangxo – tender chicken cooked in a comforting black sesame paste. The Pura Maas Pitika (Rs 120) was a tasty mash of grilled fish, potatoes, onions, coriander and chilli – soft, crunchy and smoky. The Aloo Pitika (Rs 50), meanwhile, had the slightest hint of mustard. I ate both these plain, but they are actually meant to be eaten with the Poita Bhaat (Rs 120), a fermented rice mixture with mustard oil and green chilli. 

O' Tenga Fish Meal with Payox

Ou-Tenga Bilhai Tenga with fish, Aloo Pitika and Payox. Photo credit: O’ Tenga

The meal ends with a surprise. The traditional Assamese rice pudding Payox was light on the sweetness, and had the added flavour from camphor. O’ Tenga may have just started but people are already jamming their phone lines for deliveries. With food this good, it’s no surprise.

Call 9833962210 (24 hours prior notice needed); Delivery restricted to Andheri (West); check O’ Tenga for more details 

Mag St Bread Co: Dough good

It was a thing of beauty: a round, bowl-like bread, heavy in weight but soft at the touch. It had lines carved into it, a weathered, beaten look and a dusting of flour – the white providing a stark contrast with the dark, caramel-ly crust. The hard shell revealed a softer, mildly sour bread inside. This was the Mag St Sourdough Loaf (Rs 350), one of the products of Mag St. Bread Co.

 

If you follow head baker Rachelle Andrade’s Instagram feed, you will know that this is one of their specialty products, one that she takes immense pride in baking.  

Mag St. Bread Co. (MSBC), the bakery arm of Magazine St Kitchen, launched their first retail space in November last year, at the entrance of Le Sutra hotel, next to the new Out of the Blue. I visited them soon after their launch. Spoilt for choice, I tried one of everything and walked out with paper bags filled with baked goodies and wishing I could go on a picnic. 

 

The Almond Croissant (Rs 125) was a sweet but delicious overdose of almonds, from the crunchy slivered nuts on the top to the frangipani spread on the inside. Of the four Pullman Loaves, the Brioche Pullman Loaf (Rs 150) was a soft, buttery bread with the darkest crust. It tasted good plain or just dipped into my evening tea.

From the Viennoiserie section, I tried the Cruffin with Vanilla Custard (Rs 125) and Kouign Amann (Rs 125). The Cruffin was a favourite, that hybrid of a croissant and muffin hybrid, stuffed with sweet, creamy custard and dusted with sugar. It was sweet, but not overpoweringly so. The Kouign Amann was a roundish crusty bread containing layers of butter and sugar folded in to create a melt in the mouth, crumbly texture and flavour. The Roasted Tomato Foccacia (Rs 70) had a hint of sourness from the roasted tomato and a faint garlicky aftertaste. Every mouthful was a fresh burst of tomatoes.

 

 Every ingredient used in the bread is locally sourced. The shelf life is 48 hours (not refrigerated) preferably wrapped in butter paper; the sweeter breads have a shorter shelf life. Give us this day our daily bread, indeed.

Mag St Bread Co is located at Out of the Blue, Union Park, Khar (W); open from 9 am to 1 am or till stocks run out; log on to www.facebook.com/MagStreetKitchen  

Samosa lovin’ with A-1

THEY’RE the stuff of food legend. The A-1 samosas have made their way from a small space in Sion to theatres and multiplexes across the city, where they provide much-needed, inexpensive nourishment at intervals. 

I heard about A-1 samosas years back but despite eating them at theatres, and in Guru Kripa as part of their famous Samosa Chhole, I haven’t visited the original place.

Then, work drove me there.  

On a busy evening, I walked past the crowd milling outside guru Kripa and made my way to the shop across the road. The store may be big, but the action takes place around a tiny stall out front. There, stainless steel trays are piled high with piping hot snacks; you can still see the oil glistening on the crunchy brown samosas.  

Aside: History – The outlet was started in the 1970s by Kishanchand Nevendram, a Sindhi from Karachi who settled in Mumbai after the Partition. They have now expanded to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Sharjah, and Singapore, and are also sold frozen. 

The place is known for its samosas and it’s what they make best, with a few interesting variations to the traditional Punjabi offering; each comes priced at Rs 10. 

The Chinese Samosa was an oily mess, stuffed with noodles in the typical red sauce reminiscent of Chinese bhel on the streets. The Cheese Corn Samosa was a delicious combination of crunchy sweet corn, capsicum and just enough cheese. The Paneer Tikka Samosa tasted exactly like the dish – soft paneer slathered in spicy masala. A favourite was the traditional offering, the Punjabi samosa stuffed with its spicy potato mixture.

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Cheese Corn Samosa

They don’t just sell samosas here but other snacks, too. The Pizza Bun (Rs 30) – a round bun filled with pizza toppings like cheese, corn, capsicum and sauce was tasty but inspiring. A friend called it ‘something you would find at Monginis’. The clover-shaped Alu Pops had s similar stuffing to the samosa but a tasteless coating; and the Small Kachori (Rs 6 per piece) was a sweet, Gujarati version of the spicy snack.

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Alu Pops

Each snack was served in a paper bag advertising their bestselling items, heating instructions, and the fact that is prepared in refined groundnut oil (as recommended by the American Heart Association).

There’s no seating space so you have to stand and eat the samosas out of the bag. It’s quite an experience and for entertainment, you can watching the hordes milling outside Guru Kripa or better yet, be treated to the sight of dozens of freshly fried samosas getting segregated in trays for service. 

 A1 Samosa stall is located at A/1, Sion Sindhi Colony, Opposite Gurukripa Hotel, Sion (E); open from 10 am to 11 pm; call 24074790

Chaat Stories: Bengali snacks, in Bombay

“Bengalis call peanuts badam. They call almonds badam too.”

We are at Chaat Stories, the newest entrant on the buzzing and food-filled Carter road stretch in Bandra. My dinner date is Yoshita, my friend, roommate and last word on all thing Bengali. She is responding to the look of surprise on my face as I am handed a plate piled high with fat peanuts, onions and spices or Kolkata Badaam Chaat (Rs 90).

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Badaam chaat aka peanuts overload

CS has the look associated with everything new, bright lights, clean counters, shining menu cards plastered all over and for some reason, a big mirror inside. There are six counters, four on the pavement and two inside.

Outside has the buzz. There’s a counter making jalebis, another serving chai and yet another offering kulfi. We head to the puchka counter. The Kolkata Puchka (Rs 80) – crumbly puri filled with an aloo mixture and dunked in a tangy and spicy paani wins our approval. Of course, just like the last time, the puri breaks before I can eat it but I soldier on, managing to stuff the whole thing in. There’s also an option of meetha paani but it is too sweet. 

The same stall gives us our Kolkata Aloo Chaat (Rs 100) – a fiery mixture of chunky boiled potato pieces mixed with spices. Our Mumbai tastebuds find comfort in the Kolkata Dum Aloo Chaat (Rs 100) – a dish created for locals. The fiery potato filled gravy would go great with paratha.

 


The two counters inside are designed like faux street carts, with wheels and names of dishes printed in front but with a marble-top meant for cooking. There, we stand and watch our Kolkata Jhal Mudi (Rs 70) being prepared. Before he serves it, the cook hands us a little on a spoon to taste. He says it’s because people can’t stomach too much mustard. The Jhal Mudi has puffed rice, onions, peanuts, gram, and mixture of spices but it is the mustard that overpowers it all, leaving us with a difficult-to-get-rid-of aftertaste.


The Kesar Masala Chai (Rs 70) disappoints – it looks good with saffron strands on top but it hasn’t been boiled enough. The Kolkata Hot Kesar Jalebi (Rs 60 for 60 gms) is crunchy but doesn’t have the softness expected when you bite into a jalebi. “This is candy,” says Y.

Chaat Stories feels like it could be your local adda. The staff is friendly, they will willingly serve you bowls of sweet date chutney or adjust spices to your taste. Just don’t ask them ‘what’s a puchka’. You will be given a glare and a biting response: “Paani puri”.

Chaat Stories is located at A-9, Union Park Road, Carter Road, Bandra (W); open from 4 pm to 12 midnight; call 7021333313 or log on to Chaat Stories on Facebook

Nipponzan Myohoji: A bit of Japan in Mumbai

On a busy, chaotic junction at Worli is where we found a moment of peace.  

Ignore the building and stores and instead, look for a small gate leading into a compound at the centre of which is a grey stricture. This is the Nipponzan Myohoji, a Japanese monastery built in 1956.  

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Inside, the temple is one big wall. As you enter, the walls on both sides have clipping and notices (some dating back to when the temple was built). There are two wooden Japanese drums – these are beaten to the rhythm of devotees chanting Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō. The hall has 10 carved stone pillars. The four walls in the centre have vegetable paintings depicting scenes from Buddha’s life. 

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The inner sanctum. Pictures courtesy: Kartikeya Ramanathan

A six foot marble statue of Buddha lies in a smaller atrium inside the temple, along with other statues.  

Aside: History – In the 13th century, a Japanese monk Maha Bodhisattva Nicherin, made a prophecy that humanity’s salvation lay in India. In 1931, a follower of Nicherin, Nichidatsu Fuji arrived in India to fulfill that prophecy and with the help of Gandhian Jugal Kishore Birla, built a small temple; it was later converted into a dharmshala and school and a new temple was built. Fuji also met and impressed Mahatma Gandhi, and participated in the freedom movement. 

 

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Read about Mumbai’s only Chinese temple, here