Swadisht aahe... Maharashtrian snacks

Think Mumbai and think snacks and the first thing which will come to your mind is likely to be vada pao.

This spicy potato chop in a bun is iconic stuff, almost a logo for Mumbai. The rare vegetarian snack which even had Anthony Bourdain go weak in his knees. And that's no mean task.
But there's to more to local snacks than vada pao. I would know. I spent most of my working life at Mumbai at Dadar and now, the exotic sounding, Chinchpokli. Both are Maharashtrian dominated localities of Mumbai. These were once the mill lands of Mumbai. The mills have gone defunct and have given way to plush office complexes and malls. These are a bit like swank oases in the middle of dusty, desolate, dug up roads.
There are no eating joints of note close to where I work. Barring a place called Sardar.
Sardar is a vegetarian, Maharashtrian place which serves a medley of Maharshtrian snacks as well as South Indian stuff and now, as they proudly proclaim, ice tea and garlic bread! It is an economical, spartan operation typical of Indian cities. Tables and benches, often shared during rush hour... sit, eat and go. Nothing fancy, no air conditioning. The fast off take and the busy cleaning boys are your biggest hope to good hygiene levels.
Sardar won in the 'best missal pao' contest of local tabloid, Mumbai Mirror, a couple of years back. A certificate on their wall proudly announces this.
Missal pao has been a favourite of mine ever since I've moved in to Mumbai. I first had it in my office canteen for breakfast ten years back. Missal is a gram flour based deep fried fritter, also known as farsan by Gujaratis. This is mixed with a chick pea curry which is slightly tangy and mildly spicy. The result is a very interesting blend of crisp, crunchy bites of the missal interspersed with the mushy, oily bites of the chick pea curry. You normally squeeze lime into it, add chopped onion (only if you are sure that you won't get lucky later in the day) and have it with pao, the local soft bread.
I stepped into Sardar a few days back and had missal pao for lunch.
I followed this with a summer favourite called aamras. Aamraas is a big local favourite which is a nectar like dish made with mango pulp, milk and sugar. This can't be made with any mango! It has to be made with a strain of mango called Alfanso. Everyone here is very proud of Alfanso or hafoos as it is called in Marathi. Alfonsos are grown in the Ratanagiri district of Maharastra. These very sweet mangoes are the only mangoes which locals think are worth having.
Aamraas has to be had chilled. There are very few things which can beat the summer heat like a nice chilled aamraas can. I can't think of any.
A classic combination is to have aamraas with puris (fried rotis made with a mix of wheat flour and flour).
This trip to sardar was completely unplanned but it happened to be Kainaz's granny's birthday. Granny passed away last October. She used to love aamraas and it was as if she willed me to go and have it from upstairs!

Note: this filling and varied meal of missal pao, aamras and puri cost me a princely sum of Rs 52 or 1 USD!

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