A SATIATING NON-VEG DAY IN MUMBAI
Good Morning, dear Reader – come spend a satiating Non-Veg Foodie day with me in Mumbai.
I start early, at dawn, from my house near Churchgate, admire, in the early morning pre-sunrise light, the impressive silhouettes of the magnificent Gothic structures of the High Court and Mumbai University across the Oval, hear the clock on Rajabai Tower strike six, walk briskly past Oxford Bookstore, KC College, CCI, Marine Plaza Hotel; cross the Marine Drive, turn right and start off towards Chowpatty, greeting with a smile the morning joggers and walkers, rinsing my lungs with the fresh invigorating sea breeze, and soon I am past Marine Lines, Taraporewala Aquarium, Charni Road, Chowpatty, Wilson College and at the end of Marine Drive.
Here I ponder for a moment. Should I turn left up the Walkeshwar Road to Teen Batti and Banganga? Or should I turn right towards Babulnath; or should I turn back towards Nariman Point? I experience a sense of true freedom. I can make whatever choice I want; go wherever I desire!
I choose to cross the road, and walk fast, straight up the steep path towards Hanging Gardens on Malabar Hill, trying to exercise my heart and lungs. I take a round of garden atop the water tank near Kamala Nehru Park (is it called Phirozeshah Mehta Udyan?), canter down to Kemp’s Corner where I turn right, a U-turn really, past Crossword Bookstore, down Hughes Road, left past Gamdevi , Nana Chowk and crossing the railway over-bridge keep going onto Grant Road passing Novelty Cinema , turn right at Delhi Durbar on Falkland Road, reach VP Road, walk past Gol Deval, Alankar cinema and there I am at Bhendi Bazar - my destination Noor Mohammadi Hotel in front of me across Mohamedali Road.
Almost two hours of brisk walking has built up in me a voracious appetite and I am ready to devour a sumptuous breakfast. I am hungry; and I eat only when I am hungry!
I enter the Spartan no-nonsense eatery and order a Nalli Nihari and Roti. Within a minute a bowl of piping hot gravy, with a generous chunk of succulent meat floating in it, and a fluffy khaboosh roti is placed in front of me. I dip a piece of the soft roti in the spicy rich gravy, let it soak for a while, put it in my mouth and close my eyes to luxuriate in and relish the gastronomic experience in its entirety.
I can feel the juicy gravy soaked roti melting on my tongue, releasing its delicious flavours and spicy aroma which permeate into my soul. I am in seventh heaven and keep on attaining higher states of sheer heavenly bliss with every succulent bite of the mouth watering concoction - they say it’s a bone marrow and wheat gravy, but I don’t delve too much on the contents of a dish - it’s the taste, delicacy, eating experience and ultimate divine feeling of satiation that matters.
It’s a delectable beginning to a delightful day as the luscious taste of the delicious Nalli Nihari lingers on my tongue indefinitely. It’s epicurean satiation of the highest order - a blissful experience I can never forget.
Dear Reader; if you happen to be in Mumbai and are ready for a sumptuous non-vegetarian breakfast, begin your day with Nalli Nihari at Noor Mohammadi in Bhendi Bazar. And don’t forget to tell me how you enjoyed it! Wasn’t it a fortifying and stimulating experience?
But remember; if you want to truly appreciate this splendid Heritage Gourmet Trencherman’s Breakfast Dish to its fullest, you must build up an appetite for it! Happy eating!
It’s almost lunch time, so I close my eyes and try to recollect the most memorable lunch I’ve had in recent times.
Is it the Chicken Stew with Appams at Fountain Plaza in Fort, or the Fish Curry ( Gassi) and Rice at Bharat Lunch Home, or is it the Berry Pulao at Brittania in Ballard Estate, or the Biryani at Olympia, or the White Chicken and huge fluffy Khaboosh Roti at Bagdadi?
I’m confused; so I exercise my memory cells a bit more. And suddenly I remember. Oh yes, no doubt about it; it’s the farewell lunch my colleagues gave me, a day before I left Mumbai, at Shalimar Restaurant situated at Bhendi Bazar in Mumbai.
We reach at one in the afternoon. At first impression I like the place – an abundance of connoisseurs thoroughly enjoying their food as is evident from their body language, high turnover, no nonsense, no frills, and businesslike atmosphere – appetite builds up in me and I know we have come to the right place. The place is crowded, there’s no place on the ground floor, so we go to the air-conditioned dining hall upstairs.
I don’t even look at the proffered menu card. I am going to surrender myself to my hosts - they will order and I will just eat.
First they order a hot “Chinese” soup which is nice and spicy, with lots of vegetables, sea food and chicken in it, and at the end of it I am voraciously hungry.
Then is brought in front of me for my perusal, piping hot and simmering, the signature dish of the place – Tandoori Raan Masala. I nod my approval, and it’s taken away for chopping up and slicing, and a generous portion served to me along with a Tandoori Roti. I put a small piece of the meat in my mouth; it’s very very tasty. Spicy and zesty, it’s quite different from the Raan I’ve eaten at Karim’s in Delhi. Then I bash on regardless with the Tandoori roti and pieces of the delectable raan. In between, I scoop and devour the marrow which tastes delicious.
Then I find in front of me a dish of Shalimar Chicken Chilli – a specialty of the place. It’s mouthwatering! For the first time in my life I eat a so-called Chinese dish – Chilli Chicken – with Tandoori Roti, and let me tell you it tastes fantastic.
Now my insides are on a delicious spicy fire, my tongue bracing with spicy tang and my nose is watering, so is put in front of my a glass of ice cold Shahi Gulab Falooda to quench my fires. In a word, it’s heavenly; a perfect conclusion to a most enjoyable lunch and its exquisite flavour and divine fragrance remain with me for a long time.
Indeed a ‘medley’ meal – a “Chinese” soup, Mughlai Mutton Raan, Chilli Chiken (ostensibly Chinese but whose genre I can’t fathom or classify!), Tandoori Roti and the blissful Falooda. A culinary symbiosis of gourmet food I’ll never forget.
Just writing this has made me hungry – really famished and ravenous. How about you, dear reader – where are you heading for lunch?
I look in front of me. I like what I see. I keep seeing, my eyes locked on to the target, as if by some mysterious, yet astonishing, force of attraction. Something is happening within me.
Senses heighten; stimulated, aroused in a way I have never felt before. Waves of desire rise within me. I feel tremors of anticipation. My mouth salivates and I lick my lips lasciviously in eager expectation. I feast my eyes hungrily. My heart beats. I feel possessed. Intense passion and lusty craving overwhelms me. I can’t control myself any longer. Wild with desire, I move towards my target, ready for the kill.
No! No! Dear Reader. Just wait a moment. Hold your horses. Don’t let your imagination run wild. The object of my desire – it’s not what you are thinking. What I am looking at, the object of my attention, the focus of my temptation, is a bowl Nihari – two succulent generous pieces of mutton floating in rich nourishing gravy looking so luxuriant and tempting, that I just can’t wait to devour the dish. But I control myself. Good food must be savored delicately; slowly, attentively and respectfully; in a befitting manner, with finesse and technique, with relish and appreciation and you will experience true gustatory delight. That’s the Art of Eating. It’s sacrilege to eat in a ravenous and rapacious manner.
The bowl of Nihari, so luxuriously appetizing; a Khameeri Roti, so soft and fluffy. It looks sumptuous and scrumptious. I move closer. The tempting aroma - so enticing, so blissful - permeates within me, energizes my brain cells, and activates my taste buds. My mouth waters. I am ready to eat.
Eating is not a gustatory experience alone; it’s visual and olfactory as well. Food must look good, smell good, taste good and, most importantly, make you feel good. The Art of Eating. It’s Holistic. Multidimensional. Encompassing all domains of your inner being.
If you want to do full justice to good food, you must build up an appetite for it – merely being hungry is not enough. And the first step towards building up an appetite for good food is to think about it – simulated imaginative gustatory visualization to stimulate and prepare yourself for the sumptuous indulgence. An important thing we were taught at boarding school was to read the menu and prepare for the meal by beginning to imagine eating each and every course, from soup to pudding, in our mind’s eye. Remember: First plan your “eat” and then eat your “plan”.
It’s true. I eat my food twice. First in my mind’s eye – imagining, visualizing, “vicariously tasting”, fantasizing, strategizing on how I am going to savor and relish the dish to my utmost pleasure and satisfaction till my mouth waters and I desperately yearn to eat it. And then I do the honours – actually go ahead and eat it and enjoy the delightful experience.
Using my right thumb and forefinger, I lovingly pick small piece of meat from the gravy and delicately place it on my tongue. I close my eyes. Look inside. To focus my conscious energy. To accentuate my awareness. To concentrate. That’s the cardinal principle of the Art of Eating. You must always close your eyes during the process of eating. When you eat, you must eat; nothing else, no seeing, no hearing, no talking. No multitasking. Focus, eat mindfully, meditatively, honour your taste buds and you will attain a state of delightful bliss and happiness.
The meat is so tender that even a toothless person can eat it. It’s truly “Melt in the mouth” cuisine – like the famous Galouti Kebabs of Lucknow. Soft, succulent, juicy.
You don’t chew. You just gently squeeze the meat, softly rolling your tongue against the palate until the meat dissolves releasing its fascinating flavours. It’s sheer bliss. Enlightenment. Gustatory Orgasm. Sensory Resonance. I do not have words to describe the exhilarating sensation.
That’s the hallmark of a genuine nourishing and invigorating Nihari, the best part of the thigh muscle, specially selected prime marrow bones with generous portions of succulent meat, tenderized and marinated with curds, seasoned lovingly in the choicest of spices and dum-cooked to seal in the juices and flavours, slowly and gently, in a gravy carefully thickened with an assortment of flours of wheat, maize and dals as per the season and taste and garnished with thin strips of ginger and fine slices of fresh green chillies and a sprinkling of coriander.
I turn my attention to the Kameeri Roti. Holding the roti with my left hand I pull out a piece with my right. The texture is perfect – soft and fluffy. I sample a piece – yummy – it tastes good by itself; and why shouldn’t it? Whole-wheat atta kneaded with plenty of curds, seasoned with a bit of sugar and salt, fermented overnight in a moist cloth, flattened and cooked in a tandoor. Nourishing, luxuriant, ideal with the Nihari.
I dip a piece of roti in the thick gravy allowing it to soak in and place it on my tongue. Exquisite. A gentle bite. Tangy ginger strips and sharp chilli. A confluence of contrasting tastes. I absorb the riot of zesty flavours. It’s exciting, invigorating, perks me up and I am ready for what I am going to do next.
And what am I going to do next? You knew it, didn’t you? I call for a marrow spoon, dig it into the marrow bone, scoop out some marrow and lick it on my tongue. I close my eyes and I can feel the nourishment coming all the way through. It’s a wonderful feeling.
I eat in silence. Mindfully. Savour the aroma, delicately place the food on my tongue, chew slowly and experience the variety of flavours as the permeate my taste buds, fully aware and sense the nourishment as the food dissolves and sinks deep within me.
The succulent meat. The sumptuous gravy. The luxuriant fluffy Kameeri Roti. It’s a feast worthy of the Gods. An ambrosial repast!
I am in a supreme state of bliss. Is this enlightenment? Or gustatory delight. Maybe it’s meditative eating. Or let’s narrow it down to the art of eating a Nihari.
It’s simple. Create a positive eating atmosphere, honour your taste buds, respect your food and eat it in a proper state of mind, with love, zest, awareness and genuine appreciation and it will transport you to a state of bliss and happiness. In a nutshell, this is ‘The Art of Eating’.
I used to visit two eateries on 1st Marine Street Dhobi Talao near Metro Cinema in Mumbai – Sassanian when in the mood for Parsi food or maybe a Roast Chicken, or to pick up delicious cakes, biscuits and freshly baked delights from their Boulangerie next-door and Punjabi Fish Mart for earthy deep fried fish best enjoyed piping hot by well fortified cast-iron stomachs on cold damp monsoon evenings.
Sometime back, maybe in mid 2005, when I used to live near Churchgate in Mumbai, returning one evening from one of my food-walks, I noticed, in between these two of my favourite eateries, a newly opened restaurant - Jaffer Bhai’s Delhi Darbar – with a takeaway section, from where I picked up a menu card and walked home.
Later that night I read the menu card and was delighted to find on it my favourite non-vegetarian delicacy – Nihari. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I partook of the dish.
And soon I had my tryst with Nihari and experienced this delightful gustatory affair to remember.
Dear fellow Foodie – Do let me know of other good places where I can enjoy my favourite Nihari.
Should I end my Non-Veg day in Mumbai with a deliciously soothing Falooda at Badshah, a thick and yummy Mango milk Shake at Sukh Sagar or Haji Ali or a Kulfi at Chowpatty or an Ice Cream at Rustom – the possibilities are endless!
Dear Reader, after such a satiating day, for me it’s now - Good Night, Sleep Tight, and Sweet Dreams.