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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fascinating Food in a Fascinating City 2 -- Street food and A Heritage Walk

         Our First Day in Mumbai

          Mumbai is strikingly similar to Kolkata in many ways, also in its food culture. In Mumbai too, food is available everywhere almost always and the price is reasonable. I noticed local people thronging street side food stalls for snacks which are mostly deep fried food items. The most popular, as per my perception, is definitely Vada Pav. Samosa and other fritters with pav are also very popular. And you will always spot a small crowd near the pani puri vendors.
          As soon as we landed in Mumbai, we started eating. We started very early from Bangalore, long before sunrise, when it was still dark and the city was still fast asleep because we had to catch an early morning flight. We were hungry by the time we got out of the airport after collecting baggage and refreshing ourselves a bit.
          Right in front of the departure gate of the domestic terminus there is a food court. During our previous visit we had food there which in my opinion was overpriced. Luckily I discovered that there was a canteen run by the airport employees union and we inquired if we could also buy food from there. This canteen was less costly than the food court. This time we had breakfast there. That's how my Mumbai food experience started.

Huge Dhosa at the Canteen of Airport Employees Union
          Dhosa is a pancake made of farmented batter of a type of rice and Urad dal (split black gram). It is originally from southern India but it is immensely popular all over India and even abroad. It can be of various types depending on the ingredients and region. We had masala dhosa; in this context "masala" means the stuffing of the dhosa which is mainly boiled and mashed potato seasoned mainly with mustard seeds.

           Interestingly there I discovered something else, too, a translation of a quotation by Rabindranath Tagore which says that work and rest are inseparable like the eye and eyelid:
           It is relevant and significant to have such words on the wall of an employee union's canteen since not always all employers remember it. And an overworked employee cannot be the most productive one, neither the most motivated one. A good work culture ensures that work life does not engulf personal life and that the workers are not exhausted. There are countries in the developed world where a manager cannot make a team member work beyond certain hours.
          After reaching our hotel, we had our much needed rest, a delicious slumber. Refreshed in the evening, we took a stroll in the neighbourhood. Our hotel was in Fort, a heritage area of Mumbai and so, we had a lot to see within the walking distance.
          Very close was a Persian agiary and within a short distance another. Out of respect, we did not click photos and of course, we saw the buildings from outside only.
          We walked along Dadabhai Nauroji Road and at the southern end on Hutatma Chowk (Martyrs' Square) stood the beautiful Flora Fountain.

 Our country is huge and full of great diversity and how little we know about each other! Before this visit I knew nothing about this fatal struggle of Marathi people leading to the creation of today's Maharastra state. In 1960,  here 105 members of United Maharashtra Committee were killed as police opened fire on their peaceful demonstration.

The Martyrs' Memorial Statue at Hutatma Chowk, Mumbai
At Hutatma Chowk on the other side of the road I had my first Vada Pav and made Mom have one, too!
Vada Pav
Vada Pav is a popular totally plant based Maharashtrian fast food. It is actually a big round potato fritter put inside a small loaf of bread slit open and spread in the middle with red hot spicy and a little tangy dry chutney (or thick paste like chutney, as we had it in Khandala). It may sound humble and may cost only 12 INR but it is really tasty and fun. It is a must have. Many times on the internet I have noticed that Vada Pav called "the Indian Burger". Why do we always have to compare our own cutural elements with Europe and rename it accordingly? For a change, how about calling a burger "the American non-veg Vada Pav"?

Then we walked till Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station which is a grand example of colonial architecture. It was originally named as Victoria Terminus.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai
Just opposite was the building of BMC (Bombay Municipal Corporation, though I like the Marathi name "Brihanmumbai  Nagarpali ka" ) head quarter.

In this area beautiful old buildings are everywhere and the footpaths are wide and there are lot of trees, too. Compared to the centre of an Indian metropolis, it was relatively less crowded and calm; or do I feel so because I'm from one of the most populated cities of the wold?
There was a bus terminus adjacent to the gorgeous CST station where we took but to reach Gateway of India.
Boats on Arabian Sea, from Gateway of India, Mumbai
We spent the evening there till about 20:15 p.m. It was dark then and we set off for our temporary Mumbai-home and on the way I enjoyed my second Vada Pav and this time I spared Mom!


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cauliflower Curry

Alu-Phulkopir Torkari: Traditional Bengali Cauliflower Dish

       Cauliflower is mainly our winter vegetable. Nowadays, though, thanks to technology, we can find at least some small cauliflowers here and there in the market throughout the year. Of course, the off-season products are very costly. I cooked this dish a few months earlier but could not have the opportunity to post it. Cauliflower is one of my most favourite vegetables and I cook this dish quite often.
       I cut the potatoes into small and the flower in comparatively bigger pieces. The quantity of potato is much less than the flower and you can even prepare this dish without potato. I heat oil ( this time I used mustard oil) till the smoking point and sautee the potatoes and keep them at one side. I add the seasoning cumin seeds and chopped green chili to the oil and then add the cauliflower pieces. I stir and let it cook and after a while add cumin powder and turmeric powder and stir a few more times to mix everything. I cover it now and let it cook for a while on low flame, but not for long to make sure that it does not get burnt because I do not add water at this point. Now I add a little very thinly sliced tomato, usually a half of one big tomato if I cook a small flower and fresh green peas (we almost never use frozen peas), stir a little and now add water. I let it cook by covering the pot till everything is done and then add salt ( and ideally a little sugar which I didn't use), mix well and let it cook for may be one minute.
        I like it with thick gravy. If you prepare it often, you can guess how much water to add and when and how often you must start. I had it with steamed rice but it also goes very well with Roti or Luchi
Cauliflower and Potato Curry

Before Adding Water

Rigde Gourd With Potato and Nigella Seasoning

Jhinge Alu Kalo Jire Kancha Lonka Phorhon Diye

         This is a traditional, simple and quick recipe and totally vegan. We peel the ridge gourd and potato and cut them into small pieces. Then we heat up oil, (mustard oil traditionally but rice bran oil this time). We add nigella seeds and sliced fresh green chillies and add the vegetables and stir well. WE let it cook for a few minutes and stir as required. Then we add turmeric powder and stir and mix well. Then we cover it and lower the flame and let it cook. We don't need to add water since juice comes out of the gourd. 
         After the vegetables are thoroughly cooked, we add salt and we do not add sugar though traditionally at least a pinch of sugar is added to every dish.
          We mix the salt well and let it cook a little more especially a lot of juice is still there because we eat this with lentil soup and rice and we don't want it watery.

One can also take a little more time and after heating the oil, sautee the potato cubesm keep them separate and then after adding the seasoning add the gourd pieces and sautee well adding cumin powder in addition to turmeric powder. But I like it simple, and more importantly, quick.

Ridge Gourd, whole

Fascinating Food in a Fascinating City 1 -- at Dadar on Friday

     Ten years ago during my short stay in Pune, Maharastra, I didn't get much opportunity to taste Maharastrian delicacies. I was a student, poor, almost monolingual as far as speaking skill was concerned, and disgustingly shy and timid. My only Maharasteian food experiences were once an invitation to have a home-cooked meal from my ex-colleague and some from a dozen of the famous Puranpoli (a kind of thin sweet flat-bread) prepared at home as a gift for my European roommate by a street vendor whose tea-stall my flatmates frequented. So, when we were invited to have dinner by a Mumbaikar in Mumbai, I expressed the wish to test dishes that are typically and famously Maharastrian. And thanks to our host, we had a very memorable food experience.

ALu Vadi

I don't think any community other than Maharastrians makes this wonderful snack.
ALu is taro leaf. ALuvadi can be translated as taro leaf roll or the fritter of rolled taro leaves.

ALu Vadi

I had ALuvadi for the first time whem I visited Pune on the occassion of my ex-roommates wedding! Her Mom herself prepared ALuwadi for us.
After my return from Mumbai I have checked many blogs and read how these are made. Now I have to prepare them myself! This is my most favourite Marathi snack.

Kothimbir Vadi

This was a new experience. This one is basically a fritter of coriander leaves and chick pea flower.

Kothimbir Vadi with Coriander Chutney

Bharali Vangi with soft Roti of Bajri

I was so engaged in eating that I forgot to take photos. Vangi is eggplant. As the name implies, it is a stuffed eggplant dish of baby eggplants. Goda masala is used in this dish. My friend M_ introduced goda masala to me. She is going get me some, too. After that I will cook bharali vangi myself.
At home we usually eat rice for every meal. We are originally from East Bengal, now in Bangladesh. The people originally hailing from "western" part of undivided Bengal, regularly eat roti of atta (unrefined wheat flour") for dinner. So, roti from Bajri was something new for me. And I never knew that roti from Bajri atta could be so soft.

PaNas Biryani

PaNas is jackfruit. Green or unripe jackfruit is popular in many parts of India and the main ingredient of many famous vegetarian delicacies. It is called "mutton for the vegetarians".
This jackfruit biryani, though not a traditional Marathi dish ( that's what M_ said), was an excellent adaptation of the traditional non-veg item. We finished it before I remembered to take out my camera again.

Aam Ras

We ate on. The traditional Marathi Aamras (mango pulp) followed.

All these culinary delights were served to us by the Restaurant Gypsy at Dadar and chosen from their menu by our host whose taste, I must say, was excellent.

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Savory Roses!

I have seen my vegan friends posting apple roses artistically prepared bycthemselves. I found them awesome always, and even though I am not fond of sweet dishes, I researched on it a little. I found the recipe in the internet and method on youtube. But instead of sweet, I decided to make it salty, and instead of apples, I used potato and here is the result. It can be an excellent party food!

Potato Roses

Roses Before Cooking
Roses Frying

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Sabudana Khichdi

Popular Breakfast Dish of Tapioca Root Globules

         Sabudana Khichdi is my favourite Maharashtrian dish. It is very easy and quick to cook, too. Other Maharashtrian dishes I love are Sabudada Vada (Tapioca globule fritter) and ALuvadi (Taro leaf fritter) which I have not yet learnt to prepare. 
         This is my first attempt to make Sabudana Khichdi, a popular breakfast dish or a dish typical to break fast with, literally after a long day of fasting. I didn't find bigger globules in the the shops in my locality but I so felt like having this khichdi that I decided not to wait. I soaked the tiny pearls of sabu that we had at home for about two hours. In the meantime I boiled potato in the pressure cooker.I made sure that the potato did not cook two soft. I peeled the boiled potato (after it cooled down, of course) and cut into small cubes. I already had some roasted ground nuts ready, I just rubbed the peels off. 
         I used ground nut oil to cook this. I heated some oil and added chopped green chillies and whole cumin seeds. Unfortunately, I didn't have curry leaves. It is an essential ingredient in fact. I added the potato, sauteed it, added salt and red chili powder, stirred to mix every thing well and let it cook for a while. Since the potato was boiled already, it didn't take much time and the potato cubes started turning golden soon. I added the nuts and mixed everything thoroughly. Traditionally, roughly crushed ground nut is also added which I did not use. Last went in the sabu globules. I kept stirring carefully so that the sabu doesn't form lumps and also everything mixes well. It was ready to serve in a few minutes. It was our evening snack. Usually Sabudana Khichdi is served at breakfast but nowadays I don't have breakfast but I sleep the morning away! I must change this habit!

Alu-Uchchhe Bhaja

Uchchhe - a Type of Bitter Gourd

             Bitter gourd is commonly translated as Karela (Hindi) / Karala (Bengali, pronounced: kaw-ro-laa) but "uchchhe" is a much smaller and a little round as you can see in the picture below. 
Uchchhe Fresh from Market
      It is quite common in Bengal but I'm not sure if it is much available in other parts of India. Most commonly we shallow fry thinly chopped Uchchhe or boil it whole along with rice when we cook steamed rice.

Potato and Bitter Gourd Sauteed Together Ready to Serve
          To make this dish, we chop the vegetables thinly but not too thin. We heat oil and add "panch forhon", a seasoning consisting of five types of seeds (panch [a nasalised and n not pronounced] = five, and phorhon = seasoning in this context). We add the vegetables and add turmeric powder and stir and mix. We cover the lid and lower the flame and let it cook. Since we cook it this way, covering it on a low flame, we do not need to add a lot of oil. We cook it till tender. We need to check and stir in between. But if you cook regularly you know when to check. When it is almost done we add salt and mix it well and cover it again till done. It is served with steamed rice.
        Traditionally our meals start with something bitter and end with sweets though nowadays we eat neither sweets nor something bitter everyday. But if you cook Uchchhe, you have to eat it first, before putting anything else into your mouth.