Day 12 started a full day of travel to return to Los Angeles. We started in Goa and were leaving through Mumbai. We had a few hours in Mumbai and finally had a chance to explore Bandra. We checked out a few retail stores and tried a delicious western meal at Indigo.
We booked our trip to India through Kensington Tours. It’s an expensive way to travel. In the past I’ve always booked my own travel. The experience was great. We were greeted by a guide in every city and had an arranged driver who spoke English. In addition to the logistic guides Kesington arranged to take care of our transfers from airports and hotels, we had a professional tour guide nearly every single day to either take us through historic sites such as those in Jaipur or Agra, or show us the living city as we did in Mumbai. I recommend booking an India tour through Sunita at Kensington Tours.
If you want to book your tour on your own then I recommend checking out the Love tour guides selection of guides for the luxury vagabond Love Travel Guides Guides currently exist for:
- Love Delhi
- Love Mumbai
- Love Jaipur
- Love Goa
Our second day in Goa was the most chill on our entire trip. Erin hired a Belgian masseuse to give her a massage in our hotel room. She highly recommend’s hiring Natalie for a 75 minute session costing 2500 rupees. Meanwhile, I went to the on-property spa, Jiva, and enjoyed a 45 minute foot massage. I had a swim in the pool waiting for Erin to finish her therapy.
We encourage you to hire Nathalie Zoelorelei. Text Nathalie at 98226 86617 to book a private massage appointment.
We went on a shopping excursion in the late afternoon. Erin made her first visit to FabIndia to add to her collection of clothes from Indian chain stores “W” and the more craft based block printing store of Anoki.
After a few shops we sought out the Pousada beach shack on Caligueta Beach. We were set up on two cushioned beach loungers and enjoyed beers and well prepared Goan food as we attempted to see a sunset despite the clouded sky. The sun went down without releasing color, nevertheless we enjoyed the evening.
We kept it low key in the evening and had dinner at the Taj Vivanta Banyan Tree Thai restaurant. It is built beside a large 300 plus year old Banyan tree. The food was decent.
We are ending our trip with a vacation within in a vacation by spending three days at the beach in Goa. The pace of life and our intent is certainly slower than Mumbai! We checked into a beautiful property the Vivanta by Taj Fort Aguada property. We tried Goan cuisine prepared by the Beach House restaurant on premises stewarded by Chef Rego, Goa’s most acclaimed chef, who has worked with Taj in Goa for 30 years. Our favorite dish were prawn coated i semolina fried and served with a chili masala. We also had boiled potatoes served in a sweet grilled onion masala, grilled squid in a chili masala, and a shrimp cox it and chili curry.
The beach at Fort Aquada is beautiful especially as the Portuguese built a wall and rampart on which the waves strike up against at our end of the sandy beach. Nevertheless we were eager to see two beaches we had read about in our guides… Ajunta and Vagator. We only stopped by Ajunta to look at the waves above the seawall. We splashed around a bit in the water at Vagator. People like Vagator because the backdrop to the beach is lush with grasses and Palm trees… Very little development. It reminded me of Guiones in Costa Rica. The splashing in the water was my first touch of the Arabian Sea.
We returned to our hotel to sit I the seaside bar for some twists on classic ingredients incorporating Indian spices/fruits. Goa is famous for spice plantations. I had a modified Mai Tai which was less sweet than the traditional preparation.
For dinner we went to Casa Portuguesa. A Portuguese restaurant Id reserved a table at before our trip began. As the monsoons have just begun we are in the low season and Erin and I had the privilege of bent the only guests this night. We were parity faithfully served by a spry older gentleman. We enjoyed a bottle of Portuguese wine, a Portuguese Chorizio filling with the most scrumptious lardons of fat, chili shrimp, and sliced of roast suckling pig served in a sauce with crisped potatoes.
I have been anticipating my first taste of a real mango for ten years. I was thus tempted by Madhur Jaffrey’s journalistic ode to the variety and flavor of mangoes native to India and unavailable in the U.S – “King of Fruits”.
I brought a Langra mango from Varanasi to Mumbai. I intended to have the Langra prepared for breakfast in the hotel dining room. However, The waiter suggested I take the mango back to my room to eat it as the Alfonso mango he would prepare for me would far surpass the variety in my hand. I challenged him to give me a taste test and he complied. He had the kitchen prepare each mango and asked me to sample each. I preferred the Alfonso he had prepared but suspect that the Northern Langra was not completely ripe. I later spoke with my two friends living in Mumbai that grew up in Delhi and Kolkata respectively. They each said that Mumbaikars are too proud of their Alfonsod to recognize and appreciate the complexity of their favored Langra. My friend, who is encyclopedic when it comes to food, described the Alfonso as “one note”. Oh, but what a sweet note! The Om of mangoes resonates with your taste buds and distills the spiritual essence of mango flavor and delivering it directly from tongue to mind. The mango is extremely sweet but not cloying. The Costa Rican mangoes we get in the U.S. are not remotely close in experience and flavor. The texture and color for the Alphonso’s fleash is as rich as its flavor.
I held on to a second Langra a few more days. It ripened and revealed why my friends and its other proponents are fond of it. Unfortunately I’m a poor food writer and unable to translate and recorder my experiences. All I remember is that both mangoes were much better than the ones available to me in the U.S. I’ll have to return to India in order to consumer more mangoes and properly capture the flavors for posterity.
Day 8 – Trip to India – Eating like a local in Mumbai while sampling flavors from around the country
I’m fortunate enough that one of my friends put me in touch with Reshmy author of http://bombaychowparty.com/. She planned a survey of food from different regions of India: Maharashtan (state in which Mumbai is located), food from Southern India, and Bengali food (from Bengal located on the Northeast coast of India against the Bay of Bengal). We also stopped at Juhu Beach to walk around the chaat stalls.
The focus of our first stop was to sample Misal Pav. The preparation of this dish by our destination restaurant won an award earlier this year as being one of the best vegetarian meals I the world. Reshmi said she was a little skeptical that the dish could be claimed the best tasting vegetarian meal I the city given how much competition there is I the terms of options for vegetarian plates. Whereas Erin and I were not familiar with the dish, Reshmi had had the dish elsewhere many times. The restaurant is very popular and we waited 30 minutes for our table. We made the most of it by ordering about 10 dishes:
Sabudana Wada – a fried “tapioca dumpling” which was our favorite, similar in concept to Chinese sesame seed dumplings had with dim sum
Kulfi Falooda – Kulfi is similar to ice cream and tips the Falooda which is a sweet drink in itself with a sweet, extra fine noodle and tapioca
Kharwas is another dessert it is steam colustrum milk which is the milk drawn from a new mommy cow
Our second stop was for traditional breakfast foods from Kerala. We had Upma that was perfectly prepared, I’ll describe it as a king’s “cream of wheat” the preparation was perfect in texture and temperature and achieved from decades of making the dish exactly the same way tens of thousands of times. Semolina is the grain used in this dish.
Rava Dosa – Wowza! What a dosa. This is a crispy dosa. A dosa is similar to a western crepe. It is flavored with chopped curry leaves, coriander leaves, onions,green chilies and cashew nuts.
Neer (water) Dosa is a thin, silk-like dosa made of a thin batter. It was quite a treat
Masala Dosa – the masala (in this food a spiced potato and onion filling) was better than in any of the five star hotels in which we’ve stayed
Paan Poli is a dense sweet made of eggs, milk, and coconut milk that has been condensed
We then went to Juhu beach to see the waves – the ocean waves, the waves of clothed indian tourists entering the waves, and the waves of chaat coming from the beach snack stands. Our friend and hotel advised us against ordering street food during the monsoons. However when we told the butler at the Taj that we were interested in street food he had the kitchen prepare an excellent selection of snacks so we were able to have:
Vada Pav the king of Mumbai street food. Pav is a fluffy roll available from the Portuguese influence. Vada is a mashed potato veggie burger. The dish is the size of a “slider”. A masala (spice sauce) or chutney is spread on the bun
Dahi (cream) Puri. Puri is a crispy, mouth sized bowl about twice the diameter of your thumb. In this case the little bowl is filled with cream. One of my favorites
Bhel Puri – uses the same rice batter but in this case the Puri is flat instead of bowl shaped. Westerners will think it looks like a mini taco salad because the thin, crispy noodles on top looks like shredded cheddar cheese and the cream looks like sour cream
Pani Puri – a favorite Mumbaiker dish is not one of my personal favorites. In this preparation of the bowl shaped puri you pour a tamarind water into the puri immediately before popping it in your mout
Bhaji Pav. Bhaji is a dish/sauce prepared my smashing an assortment of vegetables and stewing into a sauce. It looks like tomato sauce primarily because of the curry powder added even though it will also contain tomatoes. At the beach every bhaji stand has a large circular griddle about 2.5 feet in diameter that will be half covered in a thin layer of bhaji that can be pulled toward the hottest central part of the slightly concave griddle to hear an individual serving. It is served with griddles Pav (bread). There are about a dozen ways to order the dish and any Angeleno will feel they are having an In N’ Out secret menu experience
We briefly stopped at the posh Indigo Deli in Andheri for fancy cocktails before heading to our final dining place, a Bengali restaurant.
sorsebata ilish mach Hilsa’ fish is the highlight of the local cuisine. The fish is marinated with turmeric and delicately simmered in a mustard-poppy seed paste along with the five-spice mix (panch phoron).
Lamb marinated in the comforting flavour of yogurt and cooked in mustard oil along with mustard seeds, almonds and castor sugar that adds a sweet undertone
Doi machch is a comforting fish curry. Tender chunks of fish are cooked in the soothing flavor of yogurt along with mild spices. It tastes best when served with plain rice.
Baigun Bajja is pan fried eggplant
Bengali fried prawns
Bengali fish curry
I sourced the Bengali descriptions fromhttp://m.food.ndtv.com/lists/10-best-bengali-recipes-695796. I wrote the others myself. For other food links try:
Maharashtra Food http://m.food.ndtv.com/lists/10-best-maharashtrian-recipes-695953
What to eat in Mumbai, written by the friend who planned our food tour: http://m.food.ndtv.com/opinions/blog-10-meals-you-must-have-in-mumbai-705431
We went from breakfast to a guided tour of Crawford Market. This is a covered market that had been operating for more than 200 years. Here we saw how the Alfonso mangoes are displayed and shopped. Each vendor takes great care to sort and display only the finest produce to please and retain customers in this competitive market. While in the market we experienced our first monsoon downpour. The monsoons had arrived with us the day we landed I the city, but this was the first time we had been outside when the water fell from the sky. It was quite heavy, but our space-age, breathable, synthetic fibers can’t is dry. Mumbaikers get by with or without umbrellas, but nary a raincoat. Very different look to outdoor attire between Seattle and Mumbai. However, we did see some billboard advertising western rain jackets like ours so perhaps they’ll be more common the next time I’m in Mumbai.