Losing my heart to a fish called Wanda ... Malvani Aswad, Andheri East

Wishing you all a very Shubho Poila Boishakh or Happy Bengali New Year (15th April). The best way to celebrate it is to eat well. This is a post on a local Maharashtrian sea food restaurant.

I finally came across some really good food at Andheri E.

Malvani Aswad place had all the signs. Not the sort of place that would feature in food programmes on TV or food articles in the press. Local food, local cuisines dished without any reference to fancy terms such as ‘carbon’, 'slow' or ‘organic’. A crowd of people waiting to come in while others ate with looks of concentration on their faces. Hushed conversations. Waiters running around with precariously balanced still plates. A busy owner. Watchful. Keeping things under control. No delegation here.  A Spartan room, basic tables and benches, no air conditioning, very little leg space … a happy, well fed lazy buzz. Hot food. Tasty food. Honest food. My sort of place.

We were headed back to work the other when I pointed at a Gomantak (Goan Maharashtrian) fish joint to my colleagues. One of them mentioned another place at the alley before our office instead.

"We went there the other day. The food was very good" Then he looked at me apprehensively. "It's a hole in the wall. Nothing fancy. Not a good place. You might not like to sit there". By the time he finished his sentence I jumped out of the air conditioned comfort of the car and headed towards to the restaurant that he had indicated.

Malvani Aswad is a simple restaurant no doubt but was much larger than the 'holes in the walls' that I was used to. We got a place easily. It was slightly before 1 pm. I saw the crowds increase as time passed by. There was a huge queue by the time we finished our meal. I could sense angry glares burn through the back of one of our group who ate at a very leisurely place.

Malvani food comes from the coastal Malvan region of Maharashtra and coconut forms a key part of it.
 My lunch mates were young Maharashtrians. Both were Brahmins. Meat and fish were not allowed into their houses. But was not entirely illegal as their parents knew that they ate non vegetarian food outside. As did others in the family. The looks of joy on their faces through the meals was the final stamp of approval on the food. They guided me through the intricacies of he cuisine.

I went for a chicken sukha (dry) thali (set meal). The chicken was served in a coarse choppy bed of grated coconut. Edgy, the way I like it. The boys ordered chicken masala that came in a curry which was quite tantalising and teased your palate. The 'sukha' and the 'masala' were a bit like Sonny and Michael Corleone in the Godfather series.

Each thali came with the digestive/ appetiser sol kadi,a pungent cough syrup coloured pink drink which is cloyingly addictive and not advised before a first kiss. There was another base gravy with the set meal. My lunch mates pointed out that the chicken sukha, the masala and the gravy had very distinct tastes and that this was not always so. The waiters later brought rice which was beyond me though my younger lunch mates polished these off. There was a green chutney which my Maharashtrian lunch mates said was meant be eaten as an achar or pickle. I took a bite and swooned in its heady flavours. 'Extremely fresh' was how my lunch mates describes this coriander, chilli and coconut paste.

The thalis came with a choice of Maharashtrian breads. We chose one type per thali so that we got to taste all types. There were simple wheat rotis - flatter and larger in circumference at Maharashtra than in most parts of India. Local Brahmins apparently call these 'polis' and not rotis unlike the others apparently. In case you are wondering, Brahmins refer to a caste in the Indian caste system. Then there were 'vade's', similar to puris, deep fried in oil, but a coarse grainy texture which gave a rather 'multi grain' feel to it. You knew that these were sinfully doused in oil and yet there was an earthy reassuring feel to these. The third option was 'bakri' or very elegant and demure white rice rotis. You again had a Sonny and Michael thing going on here between the rough vade and the well heeled bakdis.

Chicken sukha with bakdi or white rice rotis. The pink liquid is the sol kadi

Chicken masala with fresh green chutney and vades

Chicken masala with polis or rotis


We ordered a plate of fried prawns with these. Coated in a very faint semolina batter, so fresh that it almost seemed like the prawns would get up from the plate and break into a Macarena. They were a pleasure to bite into well after the prawns went cold. Not chewy at all. The mark of real good stuff.

fried prawns

And then there was a whole fried pomfret. No batter here. A thin coating of masala and then deep fried. Now I am not a fish man. And yet, I bullied my younger lunch mates and ate up most of the fish once I took my first bite. That's how good it was. I have not eaten fish with such gusto in a very very long time. This was the 'Godfather' of fish. An eternal classic.

Can we please get some fish?

The 'Godfather' of fried pomfret

A very rare sight

No desserts here but my lunch mates treated me to a 'pot kulfi' from the ice cream counter. A cold icy pistachio's delight. Just what the Gods of Food would prescribe after the sweat, grit, guts and glory of the meal.

The rest of the meal - three chicken thali, extra vades and bakdis, 3 extra sol kadis, 1 fried fish, 1 plate of prawns came to about Rs 650 or around 15 USD.

Pot Kulfi

The next time I go to Malvani Aswad there I will order the sol kadi, the pomfret fry and bakdi, the rice rotis.

Mr Kumar, the busy owner of Malvani Aswad

I met the owner Mr Kumar on the way out. He was extremely busy managing the counter and keeping an eye on the tables. We spoke for a short while. He told me that his restaurant was around twelve years old. His men went and sourced sea food from fixed suppliers at Crawford Market every day. He didn't go himself as he had to get the kitchen ready during this time. His personal involvement showed in the food. Kumar told me that he worked hard to ensure that the food is of good quality and that the taste is good. He then apologetically said that the only thing he had neglected was the 'ambience'. That the restaurant was 'too simple'.

Thank God for that.

If I want to go to an over priced, over rated, over hyped Malvani restaurant then I will head to Gajalee at Phoenix Mall.

Note: Malvani Aswad is at  Sahaji Raje Road close to Andheri Station on the East side.


Sassy Fork said…
How exciting to find a small unpublicized restaurant that serves great food!
BTW,the word is Polis not Poris(which means girls) and Bhakris not Bhakdis.
The Girl said…
You have made me drool early on a friday morning at work.. hmm must plan a malvani lunch this weekend. Anyways, there is an excellent Malwani joint at Shivaji Park called 'Sai bini' (small and non-fussy) apart from the usual chicken sukkha and prawn fry, they also have a delicious 'tandoori' crab!!
Scarlett said…
I'm drooling over that chicken sukha!

BTW, nice to see Gaurav on Finely Chopped.
Surendra said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Surendra said…
Thanks a lot Kalyan for sharing this. Was planning to visit some Malvani restaurant. Was thinking about the Malvani Kalwan at 7 Bungalows but will try this. Small correction at the end, Sahaji Vaje Road (it should be Sahaji Raje Road). Thanks and wish you a happy new year.
Anonymous said…
Shubho noboborshe'r onek preeti o subechha :) for you and your loved ones.

And now, no fair. You guys went to O Calcutta to celebrate the one time we decide to give it a miss. Had gone there for last year's celebration but decided to check out Bijolli Grill in Powai this time.

I head for Andheri East station every day but never spotted this place. A google search has put it down as Vile Parle. But could you please let me know which side will I have to walk down if I am facing the Andheri East station entrance?
Thanks a lot!

Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Sassy, thanks for ensuring that the moral police didn't come after me. Fixed it

@The Girl, sounds interesting, years back someone took me to a little Gomantak joint near Mahim Sitaladevi...great food there too

@Ash, the chicken was drool worthy but the fish was something else. Gaurav was good company

@Esskay, shubho nobo borsho to you too.

I go to Oh Cal tardeo most years. This year we were looking at some other place. So I worked the folks at office up and went to the Andheri one

Will check on the Andheri Stn bit next week and get back to you
Slogan Murugan said…
Please do try the small Malwani joints in Parel/Lalbag. Mast Malwani, Sri Datta Boarding lodge. You will like them too. And since the people who eat here are mostly from Malwan, taste is awesome.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Would love to Gopal but currently relegated to being a 'burbie' at work. If you could call Andheri E that. I enjoyed a visit to Pradeep Gomantak when I was Fort sometime back http://finelychopped-k.blogspot.com/2010/09/of-item-numbers-and-fish-curries.html
Anurag Mehrotra said…
I am not sure how far you would travel in the burbs, but there is a gem outside Goregaon (E) station. it is called Satkar. Give it a try.

I totally agree with you on Gajalee, due to time constraints, I chose to eat at Gajalee in MIDC and was shocked at the prices. Almost 300 for a fish thali, which included rawa/maida pakodas masquerading as fried bombil!
Anonymous said…
'If I want to go to an over priced, over rated, over hyped Malvani restaurant then I will head to Gajalee at Phoenix Mall.'- I soo completely totally agree with you.

Satkar, Goregaon (E) which Anurag Mehrotra has mentioned is a great place for awesome fish tukdi too. Another must try is Saayba restaurant, just before Lucky restaurant at Bandra (W).

Enjoyed the post! :)
vagabond.. said…
We have a travel website which is a Maharashtra travel Guide in which we have a page for Malvan with lot of information regarding the place including Malvan Hotels. Other than this we also have a website exclusively for Malvan - www.Malvan.net

We also have a page for malvani cuisines and blogs on Malvan. Do let us know if you would like to feature your blog in the Malvan Blogs page.
Please write to puneritraveller at gmail dot com