The Finely Chopped Bohri Mohalla Ramzan Walk & announcing an encore on 3rd August, 2013… Taj Ice cream, India Hotel, Haji Tikka, Rehamniya, Valibhai, Tawakkal Sweets

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(Scroll down for details for the encore planned on 3rd August 2013, Saturday.)

We didn’t manage a group photo at the end as the rain came crashing at midnight just as our Finely Chopped Bohri Mohalla Ramzan Walk got over.

The day of the walk couldn’t have started better with a feature by Karishma Goenka in the DNA on the Finely Chopped Walks. The good luck held on through the day. The magic of Bohri Mohalla took care of the rest. Bohri Mohalla is after all my favourite place to eat in at Mumbai. Archaeologist, Parsi Caterer and friend, Dr Kurush Dalal, introduced me to it. Since then, through the blog and the walks, I have introduced Bohri Mohalla to others. A food blogger’s chain as I call it.

Here’s a link to the article

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I think the full credit to this walk goes to the wonderful bunch of 15 people who had joined the walk. They had come from all corners of Mumbai… Vashi, Thane, Virar, Andheri, Bandra, Borivili and yet were in time for the the start and in cheerful spirits.

We also had three participants who had come from Houston via Powai and two who had come from California via New Delhi. Bourdain would have been proud of the way his fellow countrymen tore into the food at Bohri Mohalla using their fingers with no reservations. Their verdict - very different from any Indian food that they had had and with Bohri Mohalla winning the stakes. Bohri Mohalla won the approval of the local Mumbaikars who came to the walk that evening too.

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The Amazing Fifteen

They were the most patient and good natured group of people one could have walked with. They didn’t mind the muck around, a result of the rains. They stood in queues and ate by tiny tables, squeezed in by the crowds. Most in the walk were probably out of their depths as Vidya wrote in later and yet all went through it without a word of complaint. When we had to wait an hour for Vallibhai to open everyone agreed to do so most sportingly. As I always say, we’ve been extremely lucky to be joined by a wonderful set of people in every walk that we have done and the Bohri Mohalla gang was the perfect example of this.

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Taj Ice Cream

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Our first stop, Taj Ice Creams. We started at 8.30 pm just as the shop was being cleaned up after the feast breaking meal earlier of the folks in the shop. We started here with ‘welcome ice creams’ over ice breakers. Come to think of it, an ice cream start is in the best traditions of the Bohri wedding ‘thaal’s which often start with ice creams and alternate between sweet and savoury. At Taj, it is all about pure milk ice creams made fresh every morning with seasonal fruits through a process which has remained the same for the last 120 years. This evening our options were sitafal (custard apple) and strawberry. I told people that Taj ice creams were my favourite ice creams in Mumbai and many agreed after they tasted what was on offer that evening.

India Hotel

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Next stop, The India Hotel. We stood by a table in front of the tavas as I placed our order …the martabak and Moghlai paratha like baida roti, the Karachi styled chicken rolls, the burger like naan sandwich and the iconic bheja (goat’s brain) masala of whose making we got a live demo in front of us. People in the group stood by the table and lapped up the dishes throwing all compunctions, no offal, no beef, chicken, to the wind and this spirit of discovery continued through the night. In case you are wondering, the dishes got a big thumbs up from the group…’better than any bheja I have had before’, ‘unlike other Indian food that I’ve tried the spices don’t drown the meats here’ and so on.

Haji Tikka

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We then moved on to Haji Tikkas and stood patiently while our orders of khiri (cow’s udders) kebabs and  beef meatball kofta skewers were put on the coal fire barbeque. The food was then laid out on a table on the street and was soon polished off. As expected, the khiri was the star. It was even the preferred choice of the non beef eaters who ignored the chicken sheekhs ordered for them.

Chai at Rahmaniya Restaurant

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There was a slight logistical issue after that. It was 10 pm and our first 3 stops were done. Our next stop, Vallibhai, would open at 11 pm. There was another barahandi around but Vallibhai is the best according to Kurush and I agree. I put the issue in front of the group and people volunteered to wait till Valibhai's opened after I assured them it was worth waiting for. Did I tell you that we had a wonderful group of people walking with us? Some suggested walking around the Mohalla, someone suggested a cup of tea. That made sense and we headed to Rahmaniya and had cups of tea at a Raj Babbar approved price of Rs 12 per cup of tea. The chatter among the group continued as people in the group made friends while the ajino moto hued fumes of the ‘Chinese’ woks of Rahmaniya enshrouded us.

Valibhai Payawala…Baara Handi

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Come 1030 pm and we went to Valibhai and sat down. By the time they were ready to serve food at 11 pm the place was packed. Going there at 1030 to book our seats made sense. I ad libbed from 1030 till 1045 on bara handis and the rotis and then the show began at 1045 pm. The ustaad removed the slab of stone under which the bara handi vessels were simmering and then began his alchemy of mixing the contents. Our orders … topa (hump of ox) and chhote ke paya (goat trotters) with extra nihari (marrow) in a silken many hued curry. Food which made people agreed was worth the wait.

At Vali’s while waiting I came up with this stellar idea. The next Masterchef Australia finals should have the participants come here, taste the food and then recreate it in 6 hours. What say? Enough of Zumbo and his macaron pyramids

Tawakkal Sweets

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Next stop, Tawakkal Sweets for desserts. Our first order firni. Folks wanted the yellow (kesar) and orange (mango). Those who stuck to my reco of white (plain and sand food colour) enjoyed it the most. Next came the fantastic egg and flour malpuas that they make here. Crunchy at the rims, soft and cuddly in the centre, served with malai…a sweet end to a lovely evening spent with some lovely human beings.

In case you are wondering, the goody bag this time had patrel farsan from Feroze farsan and mawa paan from Tawakkal sweets.

(This time I gave Kainaz the Sony Nex and requested her to take the pics of the walks. That’s why I am in them for a change)

The Finely Chopped Bohri Mohalla Walk Encore

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Many people had wrote in wanting to join the walk. I had to decline a few as we didn’t want too large a group as that would be difficult to manage. Which is why I decided to do an encore, next Saturday for those who missed it. The walk is sort of half booked by those one couldn’t accommodate last time. Do let me know if you would like to join.

The plan is similar to last time and here’s what we will do.

Meet at around 9.15pm. By 9.15 the eateries would have begun to open after a day of fasting and the streets would have cleared up after the breaking of the fast.  The Ramzan crowds grow post 10.30 pm so starting at 9.15 pm gives us a bit of a head start versus the crowds. Stating earlier would mean a long wait for Vallibhai’s

We could probably start off the evening with ice creams. Ice  creams that are made in a process that has remained unchanged for 120 years. A formula which ensures that the cream is omnipresent in this ice cream unlike in modern pretenders. If you are a health nut, and if fruits are your thing, then you will be happy to find that every single bite is packed with fresh fruits here. With ice creams we wash away the weariness of having travelled from various parts of Mumbai to reach the Mohalla and energise ourselves for the evening ahead.

What follows next include live demos of how tava fries are made – 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’. The queues get pretty long during Ramzan so patience would be required and will be rewarded.

Desserts at the end of course. Firnis to cool you down and then sinfully deep fried gigantic malpuas that bring out the naughty child in you.

This is not a walk for those who squeamish about what they eat and where they eat. This a walk for those who relish their meals with a sense of adventure and are hungry for new culinary discoveries.

Ramzan also coincides with the monsoons in Mumbai so chances are that the roads would be squishy and it might rain too so be prepared to walk from kebab stall to tava fry shop with an umbrella keeping your dinner dry.

The Mohalla is likely to be more crowded that usual on a Ramzan Saturday. We will respect the sentiments of devotees who congregate at the restaurants after their evening prayers and will try to ensure that we don’t get in the way. The idea is for everyone to have a great time and at Bohri Mohalla that means a very tasty time too.

Specs:

Date: 3ed August, 2013, Saturday

Timing: 9.15 pm to 12.00 AM

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, an umbrella, 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 2000 (two thousand) per head

Write in at k.finelychopped@gmail.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.

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