A Punjabi food haven in Mumbai

Being anywhere remotely close to Matunga East for me has always meant eating at one of the South Indian joints. A lot of our working saturdays (my office is in Matunga West) are planned around going for a Keralan meal at Mani’s Lunch Home or wolfing down hot rasam-vadas and paniyarams at Arya Bhawan. Two weeks ago when I planned a trip to Shanmukhanand in Sion to attend a concert, my brain was already hatching ideas to eat at either Arya Bhawan or the legendary Mysore Cafe.

On Sunday afternoon we drove to Sion and I suddenly realized that I was a hop, skip and jump away from Sion Koliwada. Which meant that Chawla’s chole-kulche joint mentioned by Gaurav on his blog (Eating Out In Bombay) was somewhere here. I asked around and we paced towards the area which was soon to become a mini Punjabi food paradise for me in Mumbai.

The tandoors (clay ovens) outside every shop took me back to my childhood when every summer holiday was spent eating rotis straight out of these tandoors. My nana-nani’s (maternal grandparents) village in district Udhamsingh Nagar was inhabited by Punjabis and there wasn’t a single house without a large tandoor in its courtyard. After the last game of eye-spy or langdi-kabaddi when we walked back home in the evening, calls of “rotti kha le” (come have food) from every home would entice us; their doors always stood ajar to welcome whoever was passing by.

Back in Sion Koliwada I was walking past counters lined with imartis and mathris and shops filled with jars full of pickles. But the partially downed shutters and cold tandoors made my heart sink. The Gods of food were definitely smiling on us cause we spotted Chawla’s at a corner, tandoor still fired up and people still sitting and eating.

Few rickety tables and wooden benches made the road-side eatery’s sitting area. An old, Punjabi uncle took our order – 1 plate kulche-chole, 1 plate chole-bhature, 2 chaas, 1 plate dahi all for just Rs 90.

Practiced hands of the cook stuffed dough with spicy potato mix, rolled it into a round disk and slapped the disk against the inner wall of tandoor to let it roast. As the kulcha cooked slowly my mind wandered to a similar road-side dhaba in Amritsar where I had eaten the best kulchas of my life almost 10 years ago. The potato stuffed flat-bread with crispy layers, laden with butter and served with spicy chole has been one of my best food memories. Mouth salivating and tummy rumbling in anticipation, we sat down to eat. The mashed, dark brown chole were the exact replica of my Amritsar memories and baloon like puffed bhature were stretchy, like a bhatura should be. The kulcha didn’t have so many layeres and wasn’t so crisp but every inch of it was stuffed with delighful potato masala. We washed this down with thick, cold chaas flavoured with cumin powder and coriander.

Our hearts completely satisfied, our tummies slightly heavier, as we walked back it was the sweet shop distracting us again. The good fortune was still shining on me and I found chhena murki – sweet made of cottage cheese and dipped in sugar syrup, something I was craving for two days ago. Mouth stuffed with chhena murkis and stomach full with kulche-chole, we walked out of the mini Punjab in the heart of Mumbai.

A weekend in Bhopal

When in Bhopal do what Bhopalis do; eat pohe – jalebi in the morning with rounds of kadak chai and loads of bakar (random conversations about anything right from the weather to politics). The city is sleepy and slow still you will see people getting up early in the morning just to eat pohe, jalebis and kachoris fresh from the wok. That’s exactly what I did on the first day; woke up to watch sunrise from Kaliyasot Dam which is a 15 kms drive from Shahpura lake. The lake is equally beautiful early in the morning and a perfect place for bird watching. Thick fog floating over the lake during winters gives it an almost mysterious look.

After soaking in the early morning sun and the view we took a pit stop at a sweet shop in Nehru Nagar to eat jalebis, pohe and hot cup of Banwari Bhai Ki Nakhrali Chai. Every nook and corner of Bhopal serves this simple yet delicious breakfast early in the morning. On a chilly winter morning when you don’t want to leave the blanket, stepping out for crispy hot jalebis is worth all the trouble.

Another great place to grab some breakfast is the very famous Indian Coffee House in New Market. Although the decor has been changed a lot and the signature green curtains are gone yet the food remains as good as it was years ago. Hot idlis and wadas dunked in sambhar coupled with filter coffee is the perfect comfort food.
The new Bhopal city has plenty to offer; there’s Sair Sapata near Bada Talab, perfect for an evening stroll and a boat ride in the lake. Birla Temple gives a beautiful view of the lake and city in the evening. For the History and Culture buffs there’s Manav Sangrahalaya and the newly opened Tribal Museum.

A part of Bhopal which is not to be missed is the Old City. There’s a beautiful charm in the narrow lanes of the markets around Jama Masjid. The area is always bustling with people and there are small shops making chhole tikiya, phulki (Bhopali version of Pani Puri), kulche, chhole bhature, lassi and much more. Hotel Jameel in Ibrahimpura is a great place to grab some nalli nihari, rumali roti, kebabs and chicken fry for lunch. However, post 7pm all Bhopalis have just one destination, the famous Chatori Galli selling bade ke kebab, haleem, nalli nihari and biryani (my visit to this unparalleled galli is still due and I promise a separate post on that after my visit). 

There are also a couple of bakeries in Ibrahimpura market which sell freshly baked breads like sheermal, bakarkhani etc; a perfect foil to the spicy mutton gravies. If you’re not fond of breads do pick up some nankhatais and rusks from these shops.
One delicacy that you shouldn’t miss is the Barf rasmalai ke done at Ramudada’s stall. At around 4pm a guy comes on a Bajaj scooter near Jama Masjid with his whole stall set on the backseat of the scooter. Apart from the regular ice golas (crushed ice flavoured with syrups) he makes the rasmalai dona. He takes crushed ice in a paper bowl, tops it with sugar syrup, pours a big spoon full of thick rabdi over it, tops it with rose syrup and serves. The grainy rabdi with a layer of ice under it is a perfect combination and I can’t be thankful enough to the blog Bhopale for this recommendation.
10 minutes away from Jama Masjid is Taj ul Masjid, Asia’s largest mosque. The minarets of this mosque can be seen from the Birla Temple which is literally at the other end of the city.
Bhopal has both, an old world charm and a fresh and young vibe in the new city. There’s a lot of development yet the nature has been kept intact. While it’s chaos in the old city, the new city is more planned and clutter free. I wish to explore and share more aspects of this city through words and pictures in my visits to come.

Food Hunt: Matunga Food Trail – In Search for Sappadu

this article was first published on burrp!
http://bit.ly/IV1T9h

South Indian food lovers of the city, move beyond Mysore Café and Café Madras because Matunga (E) has a lot more to offer when it comes to a delicious and fulfilling sappadu.

In a place like Matunga where every second shop sells great coffee and the smallest restaurant makes delicious idlis it was tough to pick few best places. Still, I followed my nose and listened to the voices (grumbling that is) coming from my hungry tummy and hopped in to four South Indian joints to eat a hearty meal.

Arya Bhavan
Right opposite Matunga station, this restaurant is a no nonsense place. Get in, eat, burrp and get out. There are two levels of seating. The upper level keeps you away from the crowd and chaos of the street but if you are a centimeter taller than 5’4” I’d say that you sit on the ground level. Why? You’ll know once you visit the place.

The food starts coming in within five minutes of placing your order. Wadas dipped in piping hot rasam and coin idlis are the best to start with. Don’t forget to order ghee and gun powder (dry chutney made with groundnuts and chilly powder) with your bite sized idlis. Idiyappam with coconut stew and paniyaram are good for the second round. Make sure you are served both red and green chutneys. Bisibele Bhaat at the end will sum up the meal just fine. It’s ok if you give your dosa a miss; after all South Indian food is not just about idlis, dosas and uttappams. If the food induces sleep you can always have a cup of filter kaapi.
Kharcha: Less than Rs 100 for one

Mani’s Lunch Home
As me and my colleagues stepped in to this restaurant, one of us asked, “khane mein kya milega?” “Khana”, pat came the reply. Yes, this place is that direct. Mani’s Lunch Home is located in a very old building in one of the small lanes (the one with the temples and the flower market) of Matunga East and is hard to spot. But if you ask around you’ll be pointed in the right direction.

Lunch time is the best time to go there for the South Indian thali. It’s unlimited and you can hog as much as you can. A regular thali includes rasam, sambhar, kadhi, two vegetables that change every day, curd, achar, papad, chapati and rice followed by chaas and Mysore Pak for dessert. The food is homemade, less spicy and a complete VFM. Be cautious or the over enthusiastic waiter will keep serving you and you’ll end up with a bloated tummy.
Kharcha: Rs 100 for a thali

Photo courtsey – @ceetee

A Ramanayak Udipi Shri Krishna Boarding
This restaurant with a never ending name is bang opposite Arya Bhavan and serves thali during lunch time. Unlike Mani’s the food here is served on a banana leaf. Dishes are more or less the same with wider range of sweets available like gulab jamun, gajar halwa, shrikhand etc.

There’s no concept of having-the-whole-table-for-yourself here. You might have to sit next to a stranger who might get a little too authentic with his eating style.
Kharcha: Rs 100 for one

Ayyappan Dosa Stall
If you are not one of those hoity-toity types you’ll love this roadside stall which is packed at all times of the day. There’s no place to sit hence you have to stand and eat. The order is served within five minutes. The must tries on their menu are pongal, upma, Mysore dosa, medu wada and dal wada. The food is bound to leave you utterly satisfied.
Kharcha: Less than Rs 100for one

Next time you are around Matunga make sure you eat at one of these places. And on your way back home you can pick up some filter coffee, Mysore Pak and South Indian ingredients from the market.

Food Hunt: Well tossed

The sweltering Mumbai heat has reduced my appetite and it’s no surprise then that I hit the salad menus with a vengeance.

I am a salad lover, give me any leaf with good dressing and I’ll gobble it down. But when it came to hunting for the best salad places I decided to go beyond the regular Caesar and Greek and try the experimental ingredients. So, when the heat beats you down and you can’t take any of those spicy and oily meals, head to one of these places for a quick and light lunch.

WHAT’S HOT

Pali Village Café, Bandra
The quaint restaurant in Bandra is more famous for its ambience than food but what bowled me over was their salad menu especially watermelon and pickled feta salad topped with mint, lemon and olive oil. At first it may seem like an odd combination. But the melon’s sweetness and the feta’s saltiness is a divine combination.

For the meat lovers roast duck salad with mixed greens and raspberry vinaigrette is highly recommended. Order a glass of white wine with it and you are recharged for the day.

Salt Water Café, Bandra
Salt Water Cafe was my second destination¬¬¬. From their extensive menu my pick was
Spinach + arugula + orange segments + pistachio + sesame granola salad. The orange dressing was the highlight here. You can also add prawns to it but you’ll have to pay extra for that.

Roast tenderloin, shiitake, water chestnuts salad is a must try just for the beef. The Asian style dressing is light and doesn’t overpower the principal ingredient.

The Tasting Room, Lower Parel
Even after having the watermelon salad at Pali Village Cafe I wasn’t quite satisfied and couldn’t stop myself from ordering water melon and feta cheese salad at The Tasting Room. I quite liked the topping of pine nuts but the taste of the bitter lettuce kind of leaves put me off. Minus them the salad was almost perfect.

Smoke House Deli, Lower Parel
Smoke House Deli by far has the most fulfilling salad – smoked fig with cherry tomatoes, grapefruit, lettuce and pine nuts. The sweet and sour flavours made the salad taste like pickle. A welcome change from the regular vinegar dressing.

Bonobo, Bandra
Bonobo’s newly launched menu has some decent salads on it and looked tempting too. I tried the double melon + greek feta salad which had melon balls instead of big slabs making it easier to eat. This one too had the awful tasting leaves that I had in The Tasting Room.

The warm chive and pickled beet salad was something that I can eat at any given time. The orange pieces were refreshing and I absolutely loved the addition of macadamia nuts.

WHAT’S NOT

Eat Around The Corner, Bandra
The place once famous for its salad bar has completely lost its charm post revamp. Their portions are negligible and dressing barely there. Looks like their idea of cost saving is to cut down on feta cheese.

The Irish House, Lower Parel

If you happen to go there for power lunch please order anything except coriander and lemon marinated mushroom salad for the second course. The salad is a mix of bitter lettuce and over citrusy mushrooms. The strong vinegar might even give you a headache.

With all the lovely combinations available I say that you keep it light this summer. They might burn a hole in your pocket but its way better than burning a hole in your stomach. For cheaper options you can always head to Subway and have one of their veggie delite.

Food Hunt: Lunching in Lower Parel

Those who work in Lower Parel know that it’s a foodie’s haven and it’s a task to decide on a place for lunch; Copper Chimney has the best Punjabi chicken; but then again CPK makes the perfect meat cravers pizza. To put you out of that dilemma I’ve picked up the best places for lunch with recommendations on what to eat or what not to eat.

Crystal, next to Phoenix Towers
The twin of the Crystal restaurant in Chowpatty opened in Lower Parel almost a year back and has stayed true to its reputation of serving delicious and cheap food. The menu is strictly North Indian hence has been a life saver for most of the bachelors and bachelorettes who’ve migrated to Mumbai.

A standard order should include dal makhani, baingan bharta, paneer bhurji and freshly made tawa rotis. Rajma chawal, gobhi parantha and mixed parantha are a must try. Of course you would feel a strong urge to take a nap after that. Before heading back to work we recommend you eat their kheer; yes, even if you are full and about to burst. The bowls filled with thick, creamy and delicious kheer will transport you to heaven…wait…come back, pay the bill and leave; there are hungry people waiting outside.
Cost: Around 300/- for two

Jai Hind Lunch Home, opposite Kamala Mills
It’s Lower Parel’s answer to Mahesh Lunch Home at Fort and is a lot cheaper. Make sure you reach early or else the lunch time might stretch to a good one and a half hour.

The first three pages of the seafood menu are enough to get your mouth salivating and if you get past them you’ll find the tikkas and dal tadka’s. But I’ll keep that for next time and will stick to the machhi fries instead. Bombil, surmai or bangda fry is what you should start with. If you don’t like your Bombay Duck talela then have it bharela; bombil pakodas stuffed with tiny and spicy kardi prawns. Move on to the main course section where seafood made Konkan, Coastal Karnataka and Goan style awaits you. The meen gassi is really mean and the prawns pulimunchi with neer dosa will make you loosen up your belt. No, we really mean it. The sole kadhi here is not as tangy as you get in other places but does the job right.
Cost: Around 700/- for two
Caution: The food here induces sleep so please visit on days when you are not loaded with work.

Smoke House Deli, Phoenix Mills
Have a business meeting lined up? Smoke House Deli is the perfect place to sit and talk while you eat. Also, a good choice if you are planning to impress a client. The all white interiors are a relief on a hot afternoon.

There’s an interesting choice of soups and we would recommend the tomato and lemon grass broth which is light on the palette and stomach. Salads need a special mention for their sheer innovativeness. Try the smoked fig salad that comes with grape fruit, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts and lettuce. Order it with a glass of wine and if you are not in the mood for alcohol then ask for the coriander, aragula and grape juice; something worth trying.

There isn’t much for the vegetarians except pasta when it comes to the main course. The carnivores should order a steak or better still a Cambodian basa; crispy from outside and tender from the inside.

Desserts aren’t too promising especially the tiramisu. Chocolate walnut cake is the safer bet.
Cost: Around Rs 2000/- for two sans alcohol

The Tasting Room, Raghuvanshi Mills
A short walk inside Raghuvanshi Mills, all the way till the end and there sits the quiet and cosy restaurant inside the Good Earth store. The setting and ambience is perfect for an evening out but we wouldn’t mind going there for lunch either.

There is an extensive wine bar so be seated if you have a good two hours to spare. A bruschetta platter is the perfect antipasti with bell peppers and artichokes for topping. If you plan to order a soup we’d recommend the classic minestrone; light and fresh and won’t make you feel full. Their best selling watermelon and feta cheese salad is worth all the praises and money. Topped with pine nuts it’ll do you good in this hot summer.

Call for a chorizo if you are a pork lover or stick to basa. Avoid roasted Cajun chicken if you can which tastes good from the outside but loses flavour once you dig deeper. Open ravioli is recommended for vegetarians but only if you like a lot of pesto.

The dessert menu is something we can drool over, literally. Their orange flavoured crème brulee is what you must order.
Cost: Around Rs 1800/- for two without drinks

The Irish House, Phoenix Mills
The sprawling Irish bar might not look like a perfect place for lunch but their power lunch is something you should definitely try. The four course lunch starts with soup du jour or soup of the day. The soups are generally decent but please avoid the baked bean soup which tastes like boiled rajma. Second course has five salads to choose from. If you pick coriander and lemon marinated mushroom salad do ask them go easy on the citrus flavour because we actually shuddered while eating it.

For the third course you can choose from entrees, pastas or sandwiches. The king steak which is a fish preparation is highly recommended but go for a pasta linguine in puttanesca sauce if you don’t want to end up feeling hungry after an hour. The fourth course of dessert hasn’t got much to talk about. Warm walnut brownie isn’t warm enough and panacotta with mix berry compote is too creamy.

The food is not a winner here but for Rs 350 it’s not a bad deal either. Add Rs 95 to it and get a pint of beer too.
Cost: Rs 350/- per person for the Power Lunch

You might not always have enough time to sit and have a complete meal. Sometimes you just need to grab something on the go. For such days head to Maroosh and have one of their chicken shawarmas. The humus is one of the best in Mumbai. Tibbs Frankie does not need any recommendation. Pack two frankies and you are good for the day. Subway is a good option too even though they have discontinued there sub of the days.

But don’t let work always dictate where you eat and what you eat. On lethargic Fridays and those grumpy Saturdays when you have to come to work make sure you hit one of these spots for some soul stirring food.