A TRENCHERMAN JOURNEY IN THE HEART OF MUMBAI
[Unmatched Value for Money (VFM) Vegetarian Food in the heart of Mumbai]
Dear Fellow Foodie, would you like to come with me on a gastronomic tour and spend a delicious day in the heart of Mumbai? This time, let’s have pure vegetarian authentic value-for-money Indian cuisine. Next time we’ll venture out on a hard-core non-vegetarian eating adventure.
Mumbai is in Maharashtra. You will get all genres and varieties of cuisine in Mumbai, but tell me, where would you go for an authentic Maharashtrian breakfast? My favorite place is Vinay near Thakurdwar in Girgaum.
When I used to stay at Churchgate, early in the morning, I used to walk down Marine Drive towards Chowpatty, cross the road near Taraporewala Aquarium, take the lane between Kaivalyadhama Yoga Centre and Savitribai Phule Ladies Hostel, (the lane is called Income Tax Lane), cross the railway overbridge at the southern end of Charni Road Station on the Western Railway, walk straight on Thakurdwar Road, cross Girgaum (JSS) Road, and continue walking till I reached Vinay on my right.
Have you ever tasted a dish called Misal? If you want to know what an authentic Misal tastes like, try the Misal at Vinay’s. It’s the signature dish of the place and I don’t think anyone else serves a better Misal than Vinay of Girgaum.
The place is always crowded and you may have to wait for a seat, but the sight of foodies voraciously eating and the gastronomic ambiance will help build up your appetite. The moment you sit down in the shiny bright eatery, with mirrors all around, order a Misal. Don’t delve too much on the contents, or the ingredients, which basically comprise an Usal, rassa (the spicy curry) and the garnish of sev, chiwda, farsan, onions, fresh corriander and green chillies, arranged in three tiers and served with a wedge of lemon. There are two bowls and spoons. Using both spoons, mix the contents thoroughly, squeeze the lemon, and eat. It’s hot, delicious; your tongue is on fire, my nose and eyes water – the true test of a genuine missal. Bash on regardless. (Never try to douse the appetizing zesty fire in your insides by sipping water or ruin the gastronomic experience by succumbing to a bite of pav or bread they may have the temerity to place alongside).
Pav with Bhaji or Vada may be fine, but if you want to savor the genuine taste of misal, and experience the ‘proof’ of the real stuff, it would be tantamount to sacrilege to have pav with misal. If you like things less spicy try Dahi Misal. The sweet cool curds (dahi), fiery chillis, zesty onions and spicy crisp chiwda-shev provide an excellent contrasting symbiosis of tastes and flavors.
If you do want to have something with pav, try the Patal Bhaji or Usal. Fresh soft bread drenched in the delicious gravies – it’s heavenly. You’ll find all the Maharashtrian specialties on the menu, including the Upas (Fast) food like sabudanyachi khichadi and wade, but you must go there and discover for yourself. There are quite a few exquisite preparations of pohe too. But remember to end with chilled piyush or mango lassi to savor a sweet end to a delightful repast.
If you are looking for Authentic Value For Money pure Vegetarian Maharashtrian Cuisine in Mumbai, head for Vinay – and you will carry mouthwatering memories of the place forever. And if you know of a place that serves a better Misal, please be so good as to inform me.
If you are ravenously hungry on a busy afternoon in the heart Mumbai, head for Bhagat Tarachand (BT). To get there, walk up Kalbadevi Road from Metro, turn right at the Cotton Exchange, and to your left you will see a series of eateries named Bhagat Tarachand. All are equally good and serve similar food, so you can sample them one by one on your numerous visits and decide which one you like. You can also walk up from Crawford Market, through Zaveri Bazar, past the Gold Exchange and Mumbadevi Temple; or from Bhendi Bazar via Pydhonie down Kalbadevi Road. In case you live in the suburbs, get down at Charni Road station, walk down Thakurdwar Road and turn right at Bhuleshwar and walk past the Cotton Exchange. Don’t try to drive down – you’ll go crazy negotiating your way – and besides a brisk walk on a hot and humid Mumbai afternoon will build up a voracious appetite and rapacious thirst – sine qua non for total enjoyment of a delicious nourishing meal.
The first thing to do is to order a “beer bottle” of chilled chaas (buttermilk) to quench your thirst and soothe your parched throat. On your first visit sample the delectable thali comprising varied vegetable dishes, dal and melt-in-the-mouth chappaties. Once you are hooked on, on subsequent visits you can experiment with the variety of rotis and vegetarian delights in Bhagat Tarachand’s culinary repertoire. Each and every dish – the dal fry, paneer bhurji, methi malai mutter, bhindi, even baingan – is superb. Both tastewise and pricewise, Bhagat Tarachand is unmatched – it’s the best value for money vegetarian food in Mumbai.
Once you have relished your hearty meal, leisurely stroll down (digestive walk) past the Cotton Exchange and Panjrapole towards Bhuleshwar, turn right on VP Road towards CP Tank and soon you will reach Bhaishankar Gaurishankar which serves the most delicious lip-smacking rasgullas in Mumbai. As the luscious heavenly syrupy delights melts in your mouth you will experience such a fantastic blissful ecstasy that words cannot describe. A perfect ending to a perfect meal!
I’ve just had some Khichdi – no, not the yummy lip smacking sabudanya chi khichadi my wife gorges and devours by the plateful whenever she is “fasting” – but the Khichdi one is given to eat when one is convalescing. It’s supposed to be light on the stomach, gives you strength and helps you recuperate. My daughter is ill; hence the Khichdi. The Khichdi I just ate was awful – it was fatless; there was no pure ghee in it, as desired by my darling daughter. In fact, it was so tasteless and insipid that it brought back nostalgic mouthwatering memories of wholesome Khichdi I had savored at Khichdi Samrat on near CP Tank in Mumbai.
To get there, walk up Kalbadevi Road from Metro, turn left at the Cotton Exchange, walk past Panjrapole towards Bhuleshwar, turn right on VP Road towards CP Tank, and soon on your right you will see Khichdi Samrat – an unpretentious down-to-earth eatery. In fact it’s so humble and modest that make sure you don’t miss it and walk on to CP Tank! It is a small place, but I always found a seat; maybe they send out more parcels than have patrons eating in situ.
You can also walk up from Crawford Market, through Zaveri Bazar, past the Gold Exchange and Mumbadevi Temple, to Cotton Exchange; or from Bhendi Bazar via Pydhonie down Kalbadevi Road and turn right at the Cotton Exchange. In case you live in the western suburbs, take a train and get down at Charni Road station, climb the overbridge at southern [Churchgate] end, turn left, walk staright down Thakurdwar Road, cross Girgaum (JSS) Road, continue past Vinay [you’ll be tempted to hop in for a Misal!], turn left at Bhuleshwar on VP Road towards CP tank.
When I used to stay at Churchgate, I used to walk down Marine Drive towards Chowpatty, cross the road near Taraporewala Aquarium, take the lane between Kaivalyadhama Yoga Centre and Savitribai Phule Ladies Hostel, (the lane is called Income Tax Lane), cross the railway overbridge at the southern end of Charni Road Station on the Western Railway, walk briskly on to my destination. Don’t try to drive down – you’ll go crazy negotiating your way – and besides a brisk walk on a hot and humid Mumbai evening will build up in you a voracious appetite – quite conducive, in fact sine qua non, for total enjoyment of, and to do full justice to, the delicious nourishing fare you are going to partake of in Khichdi Samrat. Besides, your march through the crowded gritty bustling streets will prepare you for the gastronomic adventure.
You’ll be surprised, but the first time I went to Khichdi Samrat, one Sunday evening, I didn’t have Khichdi [maybe because of my mental map associating Khichdi as convalescence-food, or maybe because “Dal Bati” was listed on the menu board as a Sunday special and I was curious to sample this dish which I had never tasted till that day]. Tasty wheat flour balls in scrumptious dal with plenty of pure ghee – it was indeed delicious and satiating.
There are ten varieties of Khichdi, ranging from the bland plain khichdi to the special dry fruit kichdi, and I have tried all of them, one on each visit, and I liked the Masala and Vrindavan Khichdis. Do embellish your khichdi with a papad of your choice. There is an impressive array of papads to choose from.
To my delight, I found the other dishes on the menu like the Methi Malai Mutter, Koftas, Kurmas and Paneer gravies very delicious too, and so is the excellent satisfying thali with a medley of dishes. So, if you go there in a group, don’t restrict yourself to Khichdi. And don’t forget to try different rotis and parathas including those made of maka [corn], bajra and the delicious stuffed versions.
Start off with a jal jeera, have chaas to accompany your meal, and end with a Gulab Jamun or Rabdi; or better still walk down to Bhaishankar Gaurishankar nearby to end your repast with some chilled soothingly-sweet rasagullas.
The next time you’re in the heart of Mumbai, do have a meal at Khichdi Samrat, and tell us all about it.
It’s been a long long time since I’ve relished a bowl of “Green Chilli Ice Cream” but the zestful stimulating taste still lingers on my tongue. Never before had I enjoyed eating ice cream so much. It was indeed a unique and passionate eating experience. Let me tell you about it.
I love ice cream. A friend of mine told me that there is a place opposite the Chowpatty Sea Face in Mumbai India that serves “green chilli” ice cream. I didn’t believe him. I have savored myriad flavours of ice cream but “green chilli ice cream” seemed a bit far fetched. On questioning, my friend confessed that he had only heard about it, not eaten it himself.
The very concept of green chilli ice cream whetted my curiosity so much that at sunset I was standing in front of Bachelorr’s (that’s the spelling on the menu card) Ice Cream and Juice Stall, my appetite fully stimulated by a long brisk walk.
It was there on the menu card – Green Chilli Ice Cream. I ordered it and walked with the bowl to a lonely bench nearby to enjoy the eating experience in glorious solitude.
The ice cream looks a creamy pink (not chilli green as I had expected it to be). I close my eyes and smell the ice cream – a nice sweet milky fragrance, a bit fruity; certainly no trace of the piquant penetrating sting of chillies. With a tremor of trepidation I spoon a bit of the green chilli ice cream on my tongue.
My taste buds are smothered by a sweet mellifluous sensation as the cold creamy ice cream starts melting on my tongue. I am disappointed, feel conned – it seems it was just hype. This is run of the mill stuff. Or is it? Wait a moment. As the ice cream melts away I suddenly feel a sharp piercing fiery taste that sizzles my tongue, stings through my nose and penetrates my brain. My tongue is on fire and, like instant firefighting, I instinctively spoon a blob of ice cream onto my tongue. The cool ice cream quenches my burning tongue with its almost ambrosial taste but the moment it melts away I am zipped like a rocket with the sharp punch of the green chillies.
So that was the art of eating green chilli ice cream. Hot and cold. Scorch and quench. Sting and soothe. Contrasting sensations. Like Alternating Current. Sharp tangy kicks burning through the cool syrupy sweetness till your system is fully perked up. And a trace of the biting tangy flavour of the green chilli remains within me for a long long time as I walk away.
Green Chilli Ice Cream doesn’t satiate – it excites, stimulates, gives you a “kick”, zests you up. It’s a truly passionate delight. I searched for it everywhere in Pune, but couldn’t get it. So I’ll have to wait for my next trip to Mumbai to enjoy my favourite zesty ice cream again! Bachelorr’s has many other exciting and different flavors too, but I love Green Chilli.
Dear fellow Foodies, the next time you are in Mumbai, head for Chowpatty at midnight and end your delicious day relishing a bowl of green chilli ice cream. And let me know if you liked it.