Bheja Masala.... deconstructing the iconic Mumbai dish


I was looking for a team to support in the IPL this year as there is no team from Calcutta this time. The Mumbai Indians seems a natural choice as I have lived here for more than ten years.
So I thought I will write about a few Mumbaiya food specialities. I wrote about a couple of Maharashtrian snacks a few days back.
Today I will write about an iconic dish of Mumbai, bheja fry.
What is bheja fry? 'Bheja' means 'brains'. Goat's brains in the context of the dish.
Idiomatically, 'bheja fry' in local parlance is an equivalent of 'chewing one's head'. We have the Muslim community of Mumbai to thank for this seductive, soft, melt in your mouth, dish.
You would typically get this in most Muslim restaurants such as Tawa and Lucky at Bandra, possibly Bade Miya, the kebab cart at Colaba and of course at the Mohammad Ali Road stalls during Ramzan.
Parsis are fond of bheja too though their favoured forms are brain cutlets and curries.
I went to the Khar market last Sunday where I picked up some bheja or brains from the mutton seller at the inner corner of the mutton section. His mutton is very good too.
I came back and made a fairly authentic bheja fry last Sunday. Without a recipe!
I recreated this from what I remembered of the taste and look and feel of bheja masalas that I have had in the distant past, an eight year old memory of a guy making bheja masala in a cart called Guru Da Dhaba at Khar and Anthony Bourdain's Mumbai episode where he went ga ga over the various organs and entrails that he had at Mohammed Ali Road.
And I must say that the final result was quite as authentic. Kainaz gave it her thumbs up too.

Ingredients:
  • 2 goat brains or bhejas
  • 1/2 tea spoon of whole jeera (cummin)
  • masala mix: 1 tea spoon each of coriander/ dhania powder and garam masala. 1/2 tea spoon each of red chilly powder and jeea/ cummin powder
  • 1 tea spoon oil
  • 1 tea spoon ginger paste
  • 1/2 a finely chopped onion/ shallot
  • 1 finely chopped tomato
  • 3 split green chillies
  • a sprig of coriander leaves
  • salt

    Recipe:

  • Boil the brains in a pan of water for about ten minutes. The mutton seller advised this

  • Heat the oil in a non stick pan
  • Put the coriander seeds and let them splutter. Add a split green chilly to this
  • Add the onion and toss them with a ladle till they are translucent
  • Add ginger past and stir
  • Then add the tomato and stir till the tomatoes become soft and come out of the skin
  • Add the bheja/ brains
  • Add the masala powder and the salt
  • Slowly smash the brains, which are quite squishy and white by now, and mix the masala and onions and tomato into it. A bit like a scrambled egg
  • Add the green chillies and let this cook for five minutes. Stir occasionally
  • Add the coriander leaves, push it in the brain and you are done and can switch off the gas

There, your bheja masala is ready, straight from Mumbai.

Notes:

  • The dish becomes resturant like if you add four table spoons of oil instead of one tea spoon
  • This is best enjoyed with pao or coarse bread
  • The mutton seller recommended that I buy 2 brains for two people. In retrospect I felt you need two each if you are making out a meal of this
  • Brains at Khar market cost Rs 30 a piece
  • You need to have the stomach to buy brains. They scoop it out of the severed head of a goat and give it to you. Just kidding, you can buy brains of the plate
  • The following pictures show the cooking process and are not for the faint hearted


Brains beautiful brains

Translucent onions and ginger paste

Mash tomatoes as they go soft

Last Step - mash the bheja with the spices and onions and tomatoes

8