Good Morning Mumbai...Maharashtrian breakfast at Prakash, Mahim




I don’t know what spurred off this trip. The disastrous coffee shop breakfast the previous day. Or a long standing desire to discover some of the Maharashtrian food of Mumbai. But if I had tweeted that I was going to a Maharashtrian vegetarian restaurant at Mahim for breakfast on a holiday then folks would have thought that my phone had been kidnapped.

But every journey needs to be led by an intrepid explorer. In Bhairavi, who has covered thirty five countries so far and counting, is one. We met through twitter and then at Gostana, a common favourite, by chance. Plans to go to Prakash were made and finally kept. Prakash is a simple Maharashtrian restaurant at the cusp of Mahim and Dadar at Mumbai. In a Maharashtrian dominated locality, not too far from Bandra. Mumbai, of course, is the capital of Maharashtra.

Time flew as we drove to Prakash despite the Saturday traffic at Bandra as we chatted about our travels. Bhairavi compared the traffic around us with the disciplined no honking traffic of the cities of South America and even Beijing. She regaled me with stories of her 28 country in 90 days trip as a part of a peace march association a couple of years back. Of her discovery late in the day that Mauritania is a country in Africa and is not Mauritius.  Of being stuck at Columbia without a visa. Of eating with the locals everywhere despite being a vegetarian. And of how seventy members of the global peace corp stayed overnight at a bomb shelter at Zurich.

We reached Prakash close to one. It was reasonably empty. A bit after breakfast and not quite lunch hour yet. But the tables began filling up as we ate. Soon there was huge queue outside. And then people came and stood by the tables including by our shared table which had two Maharashtrian ladies standing beside us. If you needed any proof that the place was good then this answered it. British food writer and chef, Maunika Gowardhan, went to Prakash during her recent trip to India. She told me that the food tasted exactly the same as it did more than a decade back when she used to go here with her mom.

The crowd starts to form

Packed to the gills with more coming in

The very busy manager or owner
Marking their territory. Our table was theirs


I started with the poha of course which many had recommended to me. Bhairavi took a bite and said that the poha (a dish made with rice flakes) in this Maharashtrian restaurant was exactly the same as that made in her Gujarati household. I had been subjected to poha molested and mauled by various canteens for over a decade. A tasteless unappetising debris in most cases. I must say that I had questioned the point of going to a place whose flagship dish was poha. 

Well the poha at Prakash was light, pure, warm and rather motherly. The exact opposite of whatever I had tasted in all these years.

Poha


As was the missal. A dish which I had always known as an oily, spicy, chickpea and fried gram flour based tasty though suicidal office canteen and bus terminus shop dish. The missal at Prakash was very demure and domesticated. It was made with moong sprouts, had soft pieces of potato, a very thin layer of sev and not the heavy fried gram flour farsan mix. It had a very granny’s kitchen feel to it. I was rather full by then but yet kept having spoonful after spoonful of this soothing, nurturing dish.

Missal


Of course it was not all so innocent. We had deep fried savudana vadas which were crunchy outside and fluffy inside. Again very different from the sticky, jaw clamming stuff of office cafetarias. As Bhairavi pointed out, it didn’t come with the usual sweet curd chutney.

Sabudana vada



We followed this with thalipith which is a roasted grain based dish. It looked interesting. A very primordial, close to nature local bread. The thalipith at Prakash  was rather salty and burnt and disappointing. Bhairavi assured me that thalipeths are normally quite different and tastier.

Thalipith


We ordered batata vadas, the quintessential street food dish which feeds the whole of Mumbai. A good comeback after the thalipith. Hot, fresh, bouncy but not as pungent or piquant as the street ones. Again seeming as if it was straight from granny’s kitchen.

Batata vada




Piyush, heady though not intentionally

We started our meal with Piyush, a sweet local drink which had the same effect on one as a can of spinach had on Popeye. Our meal had a sweet ending too. Shrikhand, the sweet thick milk based local dessert.Bhairavi felt that shrikhand here tasted off the modaks which were offered to Lord Ganesha at Mumbai’s most famous temple, Siddhi Vinayak. Which, according to her, is not the way shrikhand should be. Well it was sweet, mildly sour, creamy and thick. Worked for me.

Shrikhand



This huge array of dishes cost us all of Rs 240 (5 USD). The service, smart, efficient, very friendly. Our waiter, Yadav





As Bhairavi pointed out, the food wasn’t spicy or hot. Nor was it oily. Which is probably why I felt that each dish seemed like it was made in someone’s home. Possibly by a wizened granny. Not my home of course. I won’t be able to tell you how ‘authentic’ it was? But then do two grannies ever cook exactly the same way?

What I do know was that the food was cooked with a lot of honesty. With a pure heart. Food which was a tribute to the earnest and hard working patrons of Prakash. A rare example of simplicity in an increasingly complex world. Of earnestness. And warmth.


Comments

Sassy Fork said…
That's lovely! Yeah,I like the Poha too.
Scarlett said…
Must admit I never ate too many batata wadas when I was in Bombay but I miss them now. Miss the spicy potato filling with fried green chillies and chutney!

Cal's aloo chop comes closest to it. Actually, I'd say it's even better...so spicy & yummy. But God knows what oil they use to fry it, and I can't replicate it at home :(

Do you have the aloo chop recipe?
Harshad said…
Aahh, so you finally did a Prakash-darshan after all these years! In fact, I haven't been there in a while, and the place looked renovated from your pictures. Was a little old rickety place a couple of years back.
Thankfully, the food looks just the same :) Another place which remains rickety, but you should try out for their Batata-Vada, Sabudana-Wada and Misal is Aaram, opposite VT station at the Capitol Cinema building.
Sudha Kanago said…
Will try out one of these days....Havent tried Marathi khana in Mumbai beyond street vada pav and Diva Maharashtra....as we make kannada variants of these dishes at home, esp Thalipeeth that Kanndigas make is different from the marathi version...primarily a mix of besan, riceflour with seasoning like onions, coriander chilli powder
The knife said…
@Sassy: had a nice feel to it

@Scarlett: so you actually like something at Calcutta? ;)

@Harshad, I think you were the one who first told me about Piyush. The drink that is :)

@Sudha: Would be good to try out the Andhra thalipith
Kunal said…
One of my favourite places for batata wada and Piyush, apart from Aswaad which is little bit before Prakash,just diagonally opposite Sena Bhawan.They have a similar menu but more variety.The Sabudana puri is also quite nice at Prakash or the Upvasache Thalipith (the one to be eaten on fast days).
The Bride said…
I too was attracted by the batata wadas and that's what going to pull me there when I'm in Bombay next. Having grown up in Bombay, I don't have a favourite wada stand...I'd just buy them wherever I was. Which makes life difficult if one is on holiday and on a specific quest for them. Any other wada reccomendations from you or your commenters? Could you (or have you) done a post on it?
spiceandmore said…
Oh yum. I have to stop looking at your blog. I thought that when I got to the photo of sabudhana vada (which I love) and then came the photo of batata vada...double yum. Good thing I have a cake in the oven to console me.
The knife said…
@Kunal the food was pretty good

@The Birde, i did a couple of batata vada posts but like you, I too like most, as long as they are fired fresh in front of me. Not a big fan of Jumbo

@Spice & More, good thing I have some rasgollas in the fridge to console me since there is no cake
Kavita Rasam said…
FINALLY.....!!!! I have been looking for your blog for a long time now....i read about your culinary adventure posted by one of my frnd on her FB page...when I read that article i was floored those were all the places i would go to as a college kid from Jai Hind...goin around town in search of good food....!!!!!
I love your posts..and this post about prakash brought back so many memories....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am now in US and miss the Mumbai street food and buzz terribly...But keep doing the work you do i enjoy ut posts very much
The knife said…
Hey Kavita,

Glad you liked the post and glad that it reminded you of happy times. Hope you get to make a trip back home soon :)

I used to work at nariman Point a long time back and know the lanes around Jai Hind quite well :)