The First Ever Finely Chopped Walk… Bohri Mohalla (Bhendi Bazar, Mumbai) plans & details.

Details of the walk and how to sign on are at the end of the post. So read on. Would love to see you there.

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They tell me that I was a lazy baby. Born well after the due date.

Turns out it is the same for the first Finely Chopped Walk.

Recently I wrote here about the my first walk planned at Bohri Mohalla or Mohalla as the Bohris call it. Bhendi Bazar for the uninitiated.

Pressed ‘publish’ nervously and went to sleep. The response was overwhelming. Then some kind folks pointed out that Bohri Mohalla would be crowded on the 24th of November, my announced date, it would be the Muharram weekend.

I went down to Bohri Mohalla, after making a few phone calls, to check. As I spoke to the folks there I realised that the people who wrote in were right.

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This Friday night was the last day of Muharram for the Bohris. I was told that the weekend would be packed too as others would observe Muharram on Sunday.

For Muharram little Kiosks had been set up in Bohri Mohalla, decked with flowers and fairy lights. You had little children dressed like princes and princesses serving water to the thirsty.

Owner of the Bohri food facebook, Khana and Klick’s, tells me ‘Those are just water and sherbat or milk stalls they are called"sabeel's", specially just in muharram...its symbol that imam hussain (as) was deprived of water. So the sabeels are to quench the thirst of followers and non followers.”

Then there were three elderly gentlemen, dressed in traditional Bohri attire, furiously swirling the contents of a cauldron with a ladle. ‘Masala milk’, they told me when I asked them what they were up to. No, you won’t get this through the year in Bohri Mohalla. This is made in Muharram for the devotees after prayers. Or anyone who would queue up. Like the langar in Gurudwaras and Bhog in Bengali Pujas. 

There was more. One of the gentlemen told me that there was pulao and with ‘real’ dry fruits as he proudly said. I requested a sneak peek. He lifted the lid and I almost swooned as the heady aromas wafted out. Each kiosk had different food being prepared. The next one had haleem and so it went on.

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The Bohri gentlemen at the kiosks told me that this weekend be too crowded. As did Mr Hatim, one of the three owners of the 120 year old Taj Ice Cream, as he lovingly fed me some sitafal ice cream. “Come next Saturday. I will be there” he told me along with other stories of Bohri Mohalla. As did Haji Tikka of Bar-B-Que, once a kebab-stand owner & now prouder owner of kebab stall (go figure), who blushed as I told him about how much Simon Majumdar had loved the khiris here. “It will be too packed this Saturday. You will enjoy it more next week.”. Then there was the venerable Haji Mohammad, who had come from Lucknow, before setting shop here four decades back. His corner a virtual United Nations of food with Burma roti, Karachi styled chicken rolls, English naan bread special to Mumbai. “Come next week. I will show your friends how we cook here.” said the gentleman with a white beard.

I looked across the street and I saw that the Bohri styled pickle shop that was always shut was open this time.  We always reach after 8.30 PM. The shop shuts at 8 PM. What you will find there are a variety of pickles. ‘The most famous is the red mango pickle’ said the owner when pushed to make a choice. There was even a masala preserve to cook vegetables in. He smiled noncommittally when I asked him if he would stay open till 8 if I got folks over for a walk.

Then I saw that Firoz Farsan was open too. This shuts by 8 pm as well. Shanky had told me about the patrel biryani here and I was lucky as there was some left that evening. Third generation owner, Abizer, was there with his kids. He offered me a taste of the patrel ‘biryani’. Possibly the only biryani in the world with no rice. It is made with mutton, chopped and steamed patra leaves, oil and spices. For the vegetarians there is the farsan that he is very proud of.

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Firoz Farsan and the dessert shops…Taj, Tawakkal, Saifee and the pickle shops…are the Bohri owned food shops in Bohri Mohalla. The others like Haji Tikka of Bar-B-Que, Haji Mohammad of Indian Hotel, Valibhai Payawallah…those who dish out the meaty treasures here are non-Bohris, Sheikhs and Qureshis, and referred to simply as ‘Muslims’ in this goanstronomique microcosm.

Abizer told me that the entire area is supposed to go into redevelopment in around two years. Many who lived here have moved out. The chaat shops in the corner have shut down. The shops where I love to eat are biding time before they possibly disappear into oblivion.

Which is when the penny dropped.

The shelf of the Bohri Mohalla Finely Chopped walk could be just about two years.

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That’s when I realised that I need to get up from my reverie, forget the rookie mistake of not checking on the dates when I planned first and put up the details of the walk. So here goes:

The Bohri Mohalla Finely Chopped Walk

We meet below the J J Flyover. Opposite where the Saifee Ambulances are parked. The side of the road opposite to the HP Petrol Pump.

That’s where my friends and I start. The Finely Chopped Knights. Our outings are how I would like the walk to be. A small group of people. Within single digits. That way we can chat over the food and not get lost in a faceless crowd. Am a bit overwhelmed by the number of people who have said they are interested. Will plan the group size depending on the number of people who sign in.

So here’s what we will do.

Meet at 7 pm & start off at 7.15 pm. The early start will ensure that we have a chance of dropping in at the pickle shop. In case you plan to buy any, minimum pack size is 250 g. Also, if stocks last, a sampling of patrel biryani next door.

Live demos of how tava fries are made come up next – bheja (brains), gurda (kidneys) – ideas on how to cook these at home. Then chicken rolls…Karachi not Kolkata style. And then ‘Burma’ roti. What we call Moghlai Paratha in Kolkata. Martabak in Singapore and Malaysia. From the kitchen we would move down to benches for a ‘sit down’ meal. Plates and pieces of bread will be shared…that’s what community eating is all about.

The vegetarian option here is fried potatoes… the tava is common though

We then head to the kebab corner and stand by the coals and photograph as our kebabs are barbequed. My favourite, and that of all the folks I connect with, is the khiri (udder) kebabs. We could also try some beef koftas. If you really must then you could ask me to order a fried chicken. Chances are those that love the khiri won’t ask for it. I think they serve some paneer tikkas too.

Appetisers and anitpastis done we head for the mains. Baara Handis. Slow cooked meat. Cuts of beef and goat.  Alchemised here over a century of cooking perfection. Served with a mix of daal broths cooked over six hours in the simmering handis. Topped with ‘josh’ or the fat that the meat gave out when cooked. They plate it with nihari…the soft marrow…and bits of coriander to give the textural and visual contrast. Many of us feel that this is one of the best meat experiences that we have had in absolute terms with no qualifiers. For cutlery you get huge, freshly tandoored rotis, which once fed armies…today it feeds what Soumik call’ food commandos’.

To cool down we head for ice creams. Ice creams that are made in the manner it has been for 120 years. A formula which ensures that the cream is omnipresent in this ice cream at least unlike the modern pretenders. If you are a health nut, and if fruits are your thing, then you will be happy to find that not a single bite is not packed with fresh fruits here.

The walk ends. We bid each other a tearful farewell.

The tears, usually of joy, at having eaten really very well.

Specs:

Date: 1st December, 2012, Saturday

Timing: 7 pm to 10 pm

Start Point: Bohri Mohalla, Bhendi Bazar annexe

Things to get: Camera, reasonably smart phone, hand sanitizer, wearing denim helps as serviettes are far and few, a big appetite.

Words that will help: Baadhe = beef, chhote = mutton

Planned food stops: 4 to 5

Inclusions: A sampling menu of dishes that I am fond of here. We will space out the food to make sure that you bat till the end of the innings. Bottled water included. Not soft drinks. Eating will be at the participant’s risk. No responsibilities on the food. The ‘walk’ will cover essentially 2,3 lanes. But then it’s a food walk

Cost: Rs 1800 per head

Write in at k(dot)finelychopped(at)gmail(dot)com or tweet me at @finelychopped or write to me at the Finely Chopped Facebook page. Given limited seats please don’t change your minds.

Bohri Mohalla is waiting for you.

Thank you Kurush for introducing me to the Mohalla and Rashmi for this (Bombay Times pg 8)…

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To get an idea of what’s on store go to the middle of this video clip of the segment that I hosted on Mumbai for Street Foods International on the Travel Channel USA. It features Bohri Mohalla.

Or take a look at some of the blog posts on Finely Chopped on Bohri Mohalla:

My first time at Bohri Mohalla

Ramzan eats at Bohri Mohalla

At Bohri Mohalla with the author of ‘Eat My Globe’ and judge of ‘Iron Chef’, blogger turned author and TV personality, Simon Majumdar

 

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