Prasant Naidu had a chat with me the other day about the blog and the walks…you could read more about it on his write up at Lighthouse Insights. Thanks a lot Prasant, really appreciate this
The stars behind the Finely Chopped Walks
When I go back to all the Finely Chopped Walks so far, the everlasting memory is that of the way the owners of the eateries and shops covered joined in with their support almost as if they were joint organisers of the walks.
Right since the first Walk at Bohri Mohalla and Hatim Uncle at Taj who let us use his shop as a base, the folks at Tawakkal and Firoz Farsan who acted as runners to get the goody bags ready, the demos at Vallibhai, the chacha at India Hotel, Haji Tikka and the chanawallah and the pickle tastings by Shabbir Uncle. Then there were the walks at Fort which is like a home away from home from me. A walk into the bakery every time that we have been to Yazdani graciously allowed by Tirandaz and his dad and uncle. The the owner of Vidya Dairy who feeds us jalebis while ustaad makes them fresh. The folks at The Bombay Store who allow us to use their place as a base and welcome us with tea and coffee. The brother at Apoorva and the lady at Pradeep Gomantak who dish out the prawn gassis and the fried bombils that win the hearts of all. Parvez and his team at Ideal Corner who ensure that we are looked after despite the afternoon rush. Then The Legends of Bandra…Candice and her dad Allen and their team in Candies and Hardeep and Atul at Khane Khas, all welcoming us and making us feel at home. The usually reticent Ashmick from Snack Shack warmly giving discourses on Parsi food. Then the Bengal in Bandra Walk with Soumitrada at Hangla and Chanchalda at Sweet Bengal telling us the stories behind their dreams and then Surjopriya and team giving us a taste of modern Bengal in Bong Bong.
Most of these places are small, independent joints. Establishments whose owners are invested in the paces themselves. There is huge pride and joy in what they do and which shows in the great experiences one has at their eateries…proof of which lies in the continuous stream of repeat customers who go to these places. Most of these places have never done any PR, nor do they have any marketing team, they haven’t reached out to the media, they don’t do bloggers meets. Yet, when the walks happened they reached out to us with such warmth, welcomed us with such fervour. Disrupted their routines to accommodate our unusual and unplanned needs without a murmur or a complaint. They let us hang around and chat at their tables and crowd out regulars without objecting at all. They don’t have a hospitality or events team to deal with me and I was by myself…yet everything was organised so professionally that I am sure many event managers would approve of what we’d finally put together.
It was the same ‘love story’ at the Dadar Marathi Walk Last Sunday evening. The same humbling warmth and welcome. The same sense of the locality coming together to invite us to their home.
At home at Suryakantji's Aaswad
First of all was Aaswad where Mr Suryakant ensured that his team looked after us even though he had to go out of town.
On a busy evening we had a section reserved for us as we got to know each other. It was a motley group and we had with us a local Dadar chi mulgi (Dadar girl if I’ve got the Marathi right) who had helped me plan the walk and then folks from TN, Bengal, Bangalore, Delhi, Amritsar all keen to get to know a bit more about the food and tastes of the Maharashtrian community, the majority community of the city that we have come from all over India and made our home. Then there were folks from NYC, London and Kent, Melbourne, expats, travel writers all keen to know Mumbai and India more. We had doctors, bankers, market researchers, bloggers, lawyers, online retailers, social workers, marketers and even ex fighter pilot as I later found out.
While we got to know each other more the folks at Aaswad kept the conversation fuelled as they served us panha and then fed us thalee peeth, batata vada, sabudana vada, aamras puri and then, at Rohit’s request, the amba daal I had written about in the announcer. Maharashtrian vegetarian snacks of the Brahmin community…most new for the folks in the walk opening our eyes to the sheer variety that is there in Indian cooking in general and Maharashtrian cooking in particular.
And this was just the tip of the iceberg. The idea through of these walks is to encourage and inspire people to go out and explore more.
As we got ready to eave the folks at Aaaswad not only got our goody bags ready but they went and delivered them at our last restaurant stop while we continued the walk.
With folks like Suryakantji and his team taking care of us, I don’t need feel the need of a support team for these walks. .
As we left Aaswad,Julia pointed out that it didn’t have a signboard in English. Yet the entire group of walkers were there on time and we started sharp at 6 pm as planned. The most punctual start to any of the group walks so far.
Shopping at Santosh Masale & Kokan Bazar
Our next stop was across the sweets at Santosh Masala. The moustachio’d uncle their welcomed us with glasses of fresh panha and let folks taste the home-made pickles and Maharashtrian spices at his shop. As the group got more enthused and interested, so did he as he tried to explain his wares and gave recipe ideas which local blogger and the friend who helped me plan the walk, Sassy Fork, helped translate. Folks bought loads of stuff here and one of the expats remarked on how one of the masalas cost about 30 Rs or so versus the 250 Rs which someone had charged her for a curry powder in Crawford Market.
That’s the thing about a place like Dadar which is a commercial cum residential area is that at shops like Santosh the prices remain fixed and you don’t have to keep looking over your back to see if you have been gypped.
We finally gently bid goodbye to the folks at Santosh Masale and headed to Kokan Bazar, the stop many were waiting for.
Mrs Nayan Khadapkar, the lady behind Kokan Bazar was there to receive us. Everyone formed a circle around her as she told us the story behind Kokan Bhavan. Despite the heat with so many of us inside, people hung on to Mrs Khadapkar’s words as she told us about how her attempts to help women in distress helped her come up with this project. We listened to stories of how she helped train the folks in the Konkan region to become self reliant and make some great products which they then sold in the big city of Mumbai.
K just can’t have enough of the parathas made with methi aata that I got from here earlier.
Folks in the walk then burst upon the corners of the shop as they bought spices, flour and masala mixes, papads, pickles, juices and the much coveted and rarely found here, mortar and pestles.
As I looked around I felt as if it was a birthday party going on in someone’s house. Nayan, her husband and her team were out there offering all of us glasses of kokum juices and then trays of snacks such as chaklis, jackfruit chips, til ladus. To strengthen the birthday party motif we all came back with ‘return gifts’ of bottles of Kokum Sherbat mixes from the Khadapkar’s…a gift I treasure a lot because I believe that the unsung Kokum sherbat is one of the best drinks going around and is world beater.
Reality TV at Prakash
Shopping done we headed in search of more food. Next stop Prakash.
It was a typically busy evening with people queuing up at Prakash just as they were at Aaswad. Except that we were here unannounced unlike in Aaswad where they were expecting us. Yet, we were seated in about ten minutes by the manager with seats found for us across tables in the corner. We shared tables with others eating there and this was as ‘real time’ as our Dadar Eating would get.
On the menu was the every domesticated, though a tad spicy, missal here. They make a lovely rendition of the missal at Prakash and I find this to be one of the best example of an Indian dish which matches those of the Orient when it comes to balancing contrasting colours and textures. For those who found the missal a bit too hot for their taste buds there was the sweet, shreekhandish, yogurt based Piyush.
As we went through the walk I realised that the variety of Maharashtrian drinks that we tried that evening was amazing. There were the panhas, then the kokum sherbats and the piyushes that followed….and there was one more.
A trip to Malvan via Sachin
We headed to our last stop. Sachin.
We had reached half an hour before what I had planned but once again Suchita and her team immediately got a section cleared for us.
Our next drink of the evening followed, sol kadi and then seafood delights of fried prawns and Bombay ducks. At Sachin they don’t squeeze out the water from the Bombay ducks so the fried fish is of the plump and juicy variety. A dinner which climaxed with a crescendo with the astoundingly succulent and intense mutton sukha they serve here which we had with bhakdi or the local rice based rotis.
It was time to take out the goodie bags which the folks at Aaswad had very kindly sent across to Sachin’s. Mithai boxes full of puran poli, shrikhand vadi…both new favourites of mine and pedas.
The other heroes of the Finely Chopped Walks
Talking of sweet stuff I guess I must add some more stars to the tales of the shop keepers and restaurateurs that have been supportive of the walks.
I must also doff my cap to the great band of folks who have come to walk with us right from the beginning. Some for their second, third or even fourth Finely Chopped Walks and then some new people who join in every time.
People who are very open minded, curious, eager to discover the city of Mumbai with absolutely no hang ups. Patient folks. Supportive folks. Encouraging folks. People without whom the walks wouldn’t happened. People without whom the walks wouldn’t have been such fun. People who are not judgemental and are fairly broad minded and live with the mad, unstructured shapes which these walks take…entrusting us with their time, money, appetites and meals…that’s a huge responsibility.
But then whom am I kidding? It’s no chore. I enjoy every bit of the walks.
Through the blog and then through the walks I have always tried to share the parts of Mumbai that I so love and getting to do so with folks who are as excited about it is a big big high.
Feedback to the Dadar Walk
Sassy Fork who helped my plan this walk and then came and helped me manage it though she was unwell blogged about the walk here
Julia Edwards, who brought her husband and friends to the walk blogged about it here. Turns out we are neighbours in Bandra and own the same Fabindia bowl design!
And this is from facebook:
Rohit Sharma Hi Kalyan, thanks a lot for the walk. Enjoyed this much more than the earlier walk. Now waiting for the next one.
Vidya Murthy-Lahiri Great food, shopping and company! Thanks Kalyan!
Thank you so much for your words of encouragement folks. That’s what keeps one going.
A private walk at Fort
Last weekend was a weekend of walks. There was the Dadar Marathi Walk on Sunday and then on Saturday morning an exclusive Fort Enchanted walk for Andy & Jill a couple from NYC, excited about discovering India they chose to start their journey with a Finely Chopped Walk before they headed to Uday Vilas via Leopolds, Aer & Zia.
There was not a sign of jetlag as they enthusiastically embraced the shopping at The Bombay Stores, Bombay sandwich at Mohit’s stall, brun pao, chai and bun maska and Khari biscuits at Yazdani, lassi at Moti’s and then prawn gassi and neer dosa with chilled sol kadi at Apoorva, pao bhaaji, vada pao, kanda bhaji and bhel puri at Khao Gulley, Bombay Duck Fry at Pradeep Gomantak and jalebi and samosas at Vidya Dairy.
I just loved the way Jill and Andy tried out everything. Their interests diverse, from the flora around which Andrew said was never as diverse in NYC to the humble chai at Yazdani and then getting awed by the decor at Starbucks (‘the most beautiful I have seen’). Eating with no hang ups and Khao Gulley straight out from the luxuries at the Oberoi where they were staying. Taking the spice of the gassi and the sweetness of the jalebis with equal joy.
I love folks like these how are willing to try everything without being rigid.
Their enthusiasm and love for Fort and its food was truly infectious.
This was what Andy & Jill had to say about the walk… & do follow them on twitter for their travel tales through India
and as they left India :