Notes from the Fort Seafood Finely Chopped Walk… A Mumbai Food Walk feat Hotel Deluxe, Pradeep Gomantak, Apoorva, Jimmy Boy, Anjali Koli, Gostana, Vedica Spring

I am thrilled to share that I will be a part of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival this year and along with heritage architect Kruti Garg will be doing a Food Heritage walk there on 6th February. Details are here. Hope to see you there

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Prelude:

So here's the plan for tomorrow.

We meet at 11.30 at the Bombay Stores on DN Road, Fort. There will be around 10 of us. We will spend the first 15 minutes or so getting to know each other. The idea of the Finely Chopped Walks is to simulate a walk among friends and a big part of the walks is getting to know from folks who are like minded and yet different.

We then move on and will hit 4 restaurants in the walk. We are into 'real time eating' on the walks. Which means no prior reservations or plated meals. We get the same experience that any regular customer at these places so that you get a real feel of the atmosphere. This means we might have to queue up at places. Or might not always get to sit together. At each place I will introduce you to my favourite dishes and we will sample some of these. Sharing is encouraged because I want you to keep eating till the last stop. In case you are wondering, there will be no Mahesh or Trishna on the walks. Instead it will be a mix of places which are less 'famous' but are no frills attached family run places which serve fresher, better and more honest food in my experience.

This is the mail that went out to the participants of the Fort Seafood Finely Chopped Walk on Friday which pretty much sums up what the plan was.

We met at Bombay Store and this time we actually had a sponsor in a sense for the first time with Bisleri handing out bottles of Vedica Spring water to the participants and running a twitter contest for 2 seats on the walk. Of course we have had loads of support for the walks starting with Bombay Stores who happily give us space to convene and of course the innumerable restaurant owners who have helped us get seated, ensured we are served well and occasionally given us complimentary dishes. I just love the way folks including participants come together to support the walks. This time we had with us architects, lawyers, doctors, ad film folks, government officials, food writers all united by their love for food and desire to explore and get to know Mumbai better.

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This is a walk which was focussed on two things. Seafood that Mumbai is all about and the multiplicity of cultures that symbolises our city. So I was back fishing at my favourite hunting grounds, pardon the mixed metaphors, Fort.

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Our first stop was Hotel Deluxe. A Keralite place that a Malayali reader had first tweeted to me about as a place where he went to for his fix of home food. A place where I have spent many afternoons over the banana leaf sadya thali, fish curry, Moplah biryani when I worked at Fort. A place I have written about in the BBC Good Food India Magazine, a copy of which the owner has stuck on the walls of the first floor. The first floor is where you get the banana leaf sadyas.

This time our eyes were on the Keralite coconut kissed surmai (kingfish) curries mopped up with plump, luscious Malabar porotas. With hospitality typical of Deluxe they handed our papads and cups of payasam to us too.

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Curries from the South tasted we headed for some local fried fish and Bombil of Bombay duck fry at Pradeep Gomantak is as local as it gets at Fort. Here we ate some crunchy Bombay duck fry and washed it down with some refreshing and digestive, sol kadi. This is a place introduced to me by a Goan who headed here when she missed home food. Gomantak food is a Goan cousin of Malvani food in Maharashtra and hence the local touch too. While Fort has a proliferation of Irani cafes and South Indian restaurants there are hardly any Maharashtrian restaurants here. As Saee of the blog My Jhola told me, that’s probably because most Maharashtrians used to work in the mills of Central Mumbai which explains the spree of Malvani and Gomantak joints in Dadar and Worli.

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When one used to talk of seafood joints in Mumbai when I landed here in ‘97 the three names mentioned the most were Trishna, Mahesh and Apoorva. Over the years I found out that these were Mangalorean joints which Mumbai had welcomed and made its own. I have never eaten at Trishna as it was considered quite high end. I used to frequent Mahesh quite a bit till I discovered Apoorva where I found the food to be more honest possibly as the family is directly involved in running it.

Apoorva is where we headed to from Pradeep Gomantak. We started with the very decadent squid butter pepper garlic fry. The squids cooked perfectly, not tough at all and embracing the flavours of the butter pepper and garlic.

 

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The other dish that we tried was prawn Gassi, the popular Mangalorean curry. LA based food writer and Iron Chef judge, Simon Majumdar, always makes a beeline for the gassi at Apoorva when he is in town. To go with our gassis were soft, muslin thin, neer dosas.

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And then a walk down Horniman Circle to our last stop, Jimmy Boy. In our year of dating before we got married and before I got invited to Parsi weddings, Jimmy Boy is where we used to head to share the Laganu Bhonu or wedding feast thali. This time we were there to sample the star of Parsi weddings, the hallowed patrani machhi. Pomfret, the fish that Parsis so love and revere, marinated in coconut, coriander, green chilli and spices steamed in a banana leaf. The dish that makes or breaks the success of any Parsi wedding. At Jimmy Boy we had fresh, juicy, succulent patranis, with Parsi rotlis on the side.

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We had some interesting seafood gifts in the goody bags this time. There were the home made Koli (the local fishing community of Mumbai) Masalas which Anjali Koli of Annaparabrahma very kindly sent us giveaways when she heard that I was doing a seafood walk. Plus I had picked up Bombil fish pickles made by Gostana who have now started retailing the pickles that they used to send me to taste.

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I was left with a big smile at the end of the walk. A great bunch of participants with a hunger for food and knowledge. Lots of support including from the restaurants who ensured our group was looked after. And of course the joy of being able to share some of the reasons that have made me fall in love with Mumbai.

Here are some tweets from those who attended the walk:

Shashin@sdvalia Jan 25 @Finelychopped thanks for the superb seafood walk...need some more of these!!! @TrustInMiracles @meerasodha @arzan @Mohtte

arZan@arzan Jan 25 Had an amazing food walk thanks @Finelychopped w/ @sdvalia @TrustInMiracles @meerasodha @Mohtte

Rohit@TrustInMiracles Jan 25 @vedicaspring @thebombaystore the GANG is all ready for the food walk :) @arzan @sdvalia @meerasodha @Finelychopped pic.twitter.com/kDoKpCxy4Y

Mohte Chand@Mohtte Jan 25 Echo the same sentiment as @arzan. Thanks Kalyan @Finelychopped , as usual, a wonderful way to spend a Sat afternoon! More walks please ;)

meera sodha@meerasodha Jan 26 I think we should all campaign for @Finelychopped to keep his food walks going in #Mumbai - they are full of delicious + lesser known food

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