|Mejwani thali by Saee Khandekar|
I alarmed some of my friends last night.
I told them that I was travelling all the way to Vashi for a vegetarian (!) meal.
I am a notoriously lazy traveller in Mumbai, To top it, it was very a Maharashtrian vegetarian meal.
Now, while I like the Maharashtrian vegetarian snacky dishes like thali peeth and pohe and sabudana vada and missal at places like Aaswad and Prakash, I have never really enjoyed Maharashtrian main courses at restaurants. I find them too masala and coconut heavy and the food has rarely excited me.
Well, I had nothing to do last evening, was alone at home and some of my friends were going to be there at the dinner. Plus this thali at Four Point by Sheraton in Vashi was being curated by Saee Khandekar of the blog My Jhola. While I had never eaten her cooking before, apart from a lovely pavlova, I trust her sensibilities in food.
|With Pooja, Saee, Kurush, Harini, Rhea, Alka and the bunch of happy people |
at Four Point
It took me about an hour to reach Vashi. Turns out people eat early there (!). Everyone had finished eating by the time I reached barring Saee who was waiting for me.
So I ate while the others chatted with me.
The meal last night was to celebrate the month of Shravan.
Shravan is a month where Maharashtrians turn vegetarian and even avoid alcohol. A sort of cleansing says Saee.
"Unlike in Lent, sex is allowed" chipped in Kurush who loves to shock his audience.
The food was served as a thali and Saeee told me that she had reprised some traditional recipes for this and that they went to great length to sourcing the spices and certain ingredients like the hand rolled Maharashtrian pasta for which they needed the stock from 3 shops. Saee trained the kitchen staff and the festival is on till the 15th of September, 2015.
Felt great to see a blogger and home chef putting up such a stellar show in a commercial kitchen. Good job Saee.
|Saee in the Four Point Kitchen|
Pic courtesy Pooja's twitter feed
Saee told me that the dishes in the thali were not specifically "Shravan" dishes but that they are traditional vegetarian dishes and fit in the mood of things.
What I really liked about the food was that there was a home like feel to it. The masalas didn't dominate, and unlike in restaurants, you could taste the produce used. What we ate yesterday was from the coastal region and used coconut liberally. The other thali, from the plains, is more peanut heavy Saee told us. None of the dishes were spicy unlike the lovely Maharashtrian sukha mutton that I had from Sadicha in the afternoon which made me sweat with its inherent heat.
Saee told me that there is a science to eating a Maharashtrian vegetarian meal. You start with a light salad (made with cabbage & moong daal last night) and pickles. The bhajiyas (brinjal and onion) come next and then have the puris (wholewheat unlike flour in Bengali luchis) alternately with each of the vegetable dishes and then have the masala bhaat with the tomato saar (soup).
A bit like the Bengali style of eating dishes course by course.
I thought I would have just a couple of puris as they are deep fried. They were so good that I had all 4! The potato (batayachi) bhaji was very nice but then it takes a lot to muck up potatoes.
I liked the contrast of tastes between the vaal usal, which had mellow flavours of coconut running through the bean curry, and the spinachy alu chi pataal bhaaji made with coulcasia leaves. Both dishes tasted different from each other and had very distinct flavours.
The masala bhaat, unlike others I have had in the past, was not spicy or pasty and sticky but was quite light and flavoursome.
I loved the resounding coconut hit in the creamy tomato saar (soup) which gave it a multi-dimensional taste.
The dessert of gahvlyachi kheer, made with Maharshtrian pasta in reduced milk, reminded of a Bengali shemoiyer payesh.
|Last night's menu|
Vashi is a bit of a stretch from Bandra but it's worth the hike if you want to get a flavour of home-like Maharashtrian vegetarian meal and can't wrangle an invite to someone's home.
Can I confess that I enjoyed the sukha mutton in the afternoon a wee bit more? But then I am Bengali and we don't believe in detox!
Note: The festival is on till the 15th and only at nights. The cost for the thali with taxes is about Rs 450. We were hosted by Four Point
Do check out this article by Kunal Vijayakar on his Shravan memories
I asked around on twitter today to see if it is just a Maharashtrian thing and this is what I I found out. Thanks to those who responded.