Decoding Bandra’s ‘Tea’ Cafes

I’ve been a coffee person ever since I can remember. Until a self-inflicted weight loss spree I went on roughly three years ago where I drank copious amounts of green tea. (Eating a pizza and then drinking five cups of green tea, does not ‘balance it out’ FYI.) And then there was no looking back. I’ve begun to enjoy tea in all it’s forms and all it’s glory – may it be a cup of herbal tea or a strong Earl Grey or a kulhad of desi chai!

Tea Cafes have become the new coffee shops. Barring the few mass produced, international coffee shop chains I don’t seem to hear of any new coffee joints launching recently. Tea houses are in vogue now, just like how fashion re-invents itself.

And everyone’s favorite suburb, hipster capital of Mumbai – Bandra – is sprouting tea cafes everywhere you look. I can proudly and safely say that I’ve visited them all, a few of them multiple times, and I am listing down my favorite three! Stick out your pinkie finger, take a sip, and read on.

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Why Do I Crave Parsi Food?

I was in South Bombay last Sunday, specifically in the Fort area. And I did what I do every time I am in that area. Eat Parsi food at a Parsi restaurant. So I trudged down the narrow bylanes, with the sun shining down my back, with a begrudging Bee in tow and landed up outside the steps of Jimmy Boy.

What I enjoy about the Jimmy Boy menu is their wedding feast or Lagan nu Bhonu priced at Rs. 750/- + tax. (They also do a vegetarian spread, but no comments on that.) I devoured my plump, well coated patra ni macchi with a Raspberry by the side. I gobbled down the piquant, sweet-spicy, salli marghi on a makeshift banana leaf ‘paatra’. I ended my meal with some celebratory mutton pulao with masala dal, with barely enough stomach space to try their lagan nu custard. 

And throughout my meal I felt this little childish excitement surging within me. A mixture of satiety and elation – something that only food memories can evoke. A feeling of going back in time, and eating pulao dal in my granny’s Dahanu home verandah. A memory of peeling away the banana leaf off the pomfret at a navjote, hoping the piece is bigger than your cousin’s. 

While I went on a frenzy on Snapchat, posting pictures of my meal, and sharing my joy with the world, a lot of people asked me the same question – ‘ Why do you get so excited over Parsi food? Don’t you eat enough of it at home?’ My Gujarati friend exclaimed, ‘I would never go out and eat Gujju food voluntarily.’ Which brings me to the title of this post, ‘Why do I crave Parsi food?’

The answer is simple. We personally do not cook a lot of Parsi food at home on a daily basis. Meals at home usually comprise  – roti, sabzi, dal, rice. The occassional sali chicken, or tareli macchi is made, that too with oil used sparingly for health reasons. I do not remember the last time we fried cutlets or kababs at home, mostly due to sheer laziness. Times have changed. My mother is a working woman and had barely enough time to learn traditional recipes that were far more complex and time consuming. And as generations progress, I am sure the situation will worsen.

I took to Twitter yesterday, asking folks if they would go to restaurants that served home style food, or food of their community or religion. I got an extremely mixed response from the group – some people stating that they would go specifically for home style cooking, and some stating that they would go provided that the restaurants offered something different. Everyone opined that the culture, and old world charm is what would bring them back.

Personally, the entire purpose of this exercise was for me to realize it is high time we preserve traditional recipes, and I start cooking Parsi food more often at home. It doesn’t have to be a complicated recipe – something simple will do. It doesn’t have to be everyday cooking – a nice meal on the weekend will do. Because honestly, what’s the point of learning to cook fancy desserts, and exotic dishes if my future children won’t be able to experience the joy of dhansak and kachubar on a Sunday afternoon.

I was in Dahanu a week ago, sitting in the same verandah where my granny must have fed me atleast half a dozen cheese and egg cutlets on a daily basis – my grandma’s signature recipe. A recipe that blogger, Parsi food caterer, and my dear friend – Bawi Bride blogged about here. A recipe that now sits proudly on her menu, and has been preserved for posterity. Next on the list – to extract my granny’s ‘Paatra ma gos’ (mutton steamed in banana leaves) recipe from her brown book of recipes that she seems to have misplaced.

So if you are a Bawa/Bawi and are getting married, kindly invite me to your wedding – the lagan invites have been dwindling recently. And please, ohh please, DO NOT have a buffet at your wedding – there’s no greater joy than eating off a banana leaf, piling up your meat bones in a corner, while a random aunty hovers over your head waiting to take your seat once you are done. Yes, I am a Parsi yet I crave Parsi food!

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The Big Bong Theory!

My knowledge about Bengali food is highly limited to one Kolkata trip many years ago as a student, where I stuffed my face with kathi rolls for three meals a day. Where I cut a lackluster birthday pastry at Flury’s that everyone strongly recommended. Where I had a tedious time de-boning an Ilish fish, but it turned out to be absolutely worth it in the end. So as you can see, my knowledge about Bengali food is highly limited.

So when Trident, BKC invited me over to try their new Bengali food menu at Maya – their lovely Indian restaurant – I couldn’t say no to learning more about this cuisine. Firstly, because I work for a Bengali company now, and there could be no better way to bond with the boss than over food. And secondly, Chef Gaurav Sircar who was cooking for us last night is quite the maestro when it comes to showcasing the food of his state.

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Lemon Pudding with Peanut Chikki Crumble – A Recipe to Honour Indian Farmers

My recent trip to Nashik was an eye opener. I got to see first hand what this season’s dismal rainfall has done to crops. I saw arid, and dry land where I should have been seeing green. I found walking around in the farm so tedious, only to imagine the kind of hardships our farmers must have to face working under that harsh sun, day in and day out. But they do it, with a smile on their faces, waving to us as our car drove by, proud of being able to put food onto our plates every single day.

Freshly returned from my Nashik trip, I was approached to participate in the #SeedTheRise campaign by Mahindra and Mahindra. Call it destiny, or coincidence this campaign happened right around the time I wanted to do something for the farmers, and make a difference in any small way that I could.

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Will Wander For Food – A Khandeshi Food and Wine Sojourn

Do you plan your upcoming vacations around destinations that are known to serve the best food? Do you believe that the best way to understand the culture of a new place is via the regional food favorites? Do you strongly feel that the best souvenirs you can take back home are those of the edible kind? If yes, then Wandering Foodie may be the answer.

Two engineers – Rahul Patil and Vinod Sarma- gave up their boring desk jobs, to combine their love for regional Indian food and travel, resulting in the ingenious Wandering Foodie concept. Currently limited to two destinations in Maharashtra – Nashik and Alibaug – the concept emphasizes on learning more about a place, by travelling there, and tasting traditional local food. Food that is made using traditional methods, by home chefs, and with local produce – it doesn’t get more authentic than this!

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