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