Who framed Swati Snacks ... a tale with a twist

So what’s the fuss about Swati Snacks?

Yes I know I am Bengali. A non vegetarian. Didn’t eat the palki when I went there. Nor did we have the ‘snacks’.

And Swati Snacks is the vegetarian icon for many in Mumbai.

What would I know about it?

But I did try about 5 things and spent Rs 1100 between 3 people. If that wasn’t enough to alert me to the charms of Swati Snacks then what is?

And yet people rhapsodise about it. Even normal people. Non-vegetarians. Bengalis.

I remember a revered food writer friend of mine, a non vegetarian, and a Bengali food blogger…both men whose tastes in food I respect … ribbed me one evening for not having tried SS. Unless they were pulling a fast one on me.

I know of loads of people who go to Swati Snacks. In fact we did have to queue up for about 30 minutes in a mid week afternoon to get in.

I must say that there were a few on twitter who said Swati Snacks is overrated when I shared my plans to go there. Some said Soam is better. In fact a couple of folks even clubbed Swati Snacks with Bade Miya on the ‘overrated scale’.

Well I stopped going to bade Miya six or seven years back. Didn’t like the food. Found it over-priced.

Swati snacks was over-priced but air-conditioned, had a clean loo….AND the food wasn’t bad.

It’s just that after having lost my Swati Snacks virginity a few days back, after close to 15 years at Mumbai, I was left completely underwhelmed.

Well to be honest the green chilli pickle that they gave with each dish was really good. Pungent yet not fiery. Teased you in a nice way.

pickle and chutney
pickle & chutney

Fine, I won’t be mean.

The satpadi roti with gatte ke sabzi was  quite memorable. Suggested by someone on twitter. Satpadi, as our waiter explained, meant rotis whirled out into seven layers on the tava while cooking. It had a rough rustic feel whose wholesomeness was accentuated as it was bathed in ghee…a dish of near tribal purity which combined so well with the slightly tangy cooling gatte (besan dumpling) curry. 

This was the one and only standout dish of the afternoon. The only one I called for repeats of.

satpadi roti, gatte ke sabzi
satapadi roti gatte ke sabzi

The other twitter recommendation…corn handvo…seemed to be like a fried dhokla with an identity complex. Call me a barbarian but this didn’t work for me. The proclivity of Mumbai restaurants to add corn to make anything vegetarian seem exotic is quaint to say the least and can often be trying.

corn handvo
corn handvo

The drinks? My non Bengali lunch mate who had the aam panna said that the one in the Bengali Bijoli Grill was better.

I would have told you how my sugarcane juice was if I could have tasted anything beyond ginger in it. Give me the Linking Road sugarcane juicewallahs any day.

We had paneer chillas. I was told that chillas are ‘like dosas but are not dosas’. Well given that it tasted like a greasy dosa I would be better of at the Shiv Sagar restaurants who are adept at churning out corrupted dosas.

paneer chilla
paneer chilla

The other dish which we went for was the fadani khichdi. The waiter recommended it and the menu described it as a cracked wheat pulao.

fadani khchdi
fadani khichidi

Well it tasted like a regular sloppy daal and rice khichdi and didn’t have the magic of the bhoger khichudi that talks to us Bongs.

What else?

Yes. The ice creams.

I am not fond of coconut based ice creams. My Bengali colleague went for the fresh coconut ice cream. I shook my head with disapproval at his youthful folly.

Was guilty of saying ‘I knew it’ when he said he didn’t like it. He was looking for the ‘Naturals Ice Creams like taste’.

coconut ice cream
coconut ice cream

I chose for the fresh mango one looking for the creaminess of the sancha ice creams of Bohri Mohalla’s Taj Ice Creams.

I was disappointed.

mango ice cream
mango ice cream

Yes, you could say that the five minutes I spent chatting with my Bong colleague about pomfret fry and tava prawns of Malvani Asvad, while we waited for the food, biased my views.

But the fact is that I have had better vegetarian food at Mumbai. The Punjabi fare of Uttam da Dhaba, the Keralite Onam Sadiyas of Deluxe, the Marathi fare at Prakash and Aswadh and the Udipi delights of Swagath of Fort. These were memorable.

Swati Snacks, as they say in cricket, was military medium.

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Dinner at the Desais

But if you are Gujarati or vegetarian and plan to troll me then hold on.

The man they call ‘God’ on twitter, Anaggh Desai or @anaggh, not Tendulkar, saw my anguished tweets from Swati Snacks that afternoon. He DM’d me ‘come over to my place for dinner if you want to try authentic Gujarati vegetarian food’.

I jumped at the offer and headed to his place and joined some of our other friends from twitter.

Anaggh is the perfect host and his mom and his wife did all the cooking.

We started with snacks or farsan which combined perfectly with Tallisker for me and Old Monk for some of the others. Dhoklas, patrels, the pasta like things (khandvi?) and there was those little medu vada like balls which I just couldn’t get enough of.

Dinner was a proper sit down affair with Anaggh’s wife and daughter serving us on proper thaalis (plates and bowls). The three of them attentively fed us without joining in. Hospitality at its warmest.

And what an outstanding dinner it was. Pity I wasn’t carrying my camera but still let me tell you about the lovely fresh rotis, the potato bhaaji tempered with mustard seeds, the dry okra sabzi with a slight tang which we lapped up, a lovely nourishing wholesome daal, a thin and delicate Guajarati kadi and at the end homemade aamraas. I had three of these bowls of mango nectar.

I guess Surekha summed it up best through this tweet: “ @surekhapillai: yum dinner at @anaggh's place: http://t.co/4iuJuNSh never seen@finelychopped this happy eating a vegetarian meal. “
In fact the wisecracks continued at my vegetarian capitulation :)

 “Netra Parikh@Netra: Breaking News : This is just a pic of @Finelychopped's having vegetarian food... Wait for CD :p http://t.co/NvWT1QFP

Still, what a wonderful comeback thanks to Anaggh after the disappointment of the afternoon.

I am now a fan of Gujarati vegetarian food.

And that’s when it struck me. The truth is that if you want to appreciate and experience the beauty of any cuisine, be it Bengali or Gujarati or anything in the world, your best hope is to find yourself a great host and hope to get lucky.

And with the Desai family you have got the best around. 

Thanks guys.

Next time it’s my turn to cook for you.

IMG02811-20120425-2149 check out the aamrasNo, the Desais aren't in the picture

(Some of the others at the dinner included some fairly popular twitter folks from Mumbai such as:@neetakolhatkar @shubHASHISH @surekhapillai (Delhi) @calamur @manishalakhe @anaggh @netra @NomadWanderer)

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missydee said…
I think it may be a sacrilege for me to admit to my love of Gujarati home cooked food. But there it is. As you rightly said, the best food is found at home, and that's why I show up at my friend's place (even if he isn't in town) and persuade aunty to whip up some delicious veggie goodness for me.
gaurav said…
hey. i live a 5 min walk from Swati, so we are in and out fairly often. Must say there are certain things you should try next time you are there (i think they do deserve another shot)

The Panki, Baked Masala Khichadi, The Dahi Puri & The Dahi Misal. I pretty much avoid the rest.

It certainly is expensive, no doubt about that but a clean joint offering a menu like this is rare (soam at Giragum is the only one that comes close menu wise)

Next time you are around give me a shout.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Gaurav was remembering our interaction over your Oh Calcutta post when I wrote this ;)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
with age I have begun to appreciate a good vegetarian meal. at times :)
missydee said…
With age, comes questionable wisdom? ;)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
soft in the head
Gaurav said…
that was a lifetime ago wasn't it... back in the day :)
Neha said…
I first ate at Swati snacks on a trip to Ahmedabad. You wont believe me, but the dhansakh I had there tasted a dozen times better than what I've had at Britannia or even Cafe Universal in Bombay. I am not a Parsi and I don't know to what an extent the guys at SS stuck to the original recipe...what mattered to me was the taste and it was mind blowing.
Somehow,none of the SS outlets at Bombay have been able to recreate that taste for me.
Nevertheless, i love SS food. Too bad you couldn't enjoy. Different strokes for different folks I guess
lovely tempting ... I love vegetarian meals they r light .. and more hygienic.
Brilliant stuff!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
well Neha like you said different strokes for different blokes :) the place is obviously popular. I find the dhansak at Ideal Corner & mocambo to be better than that at Britannia and Universal
Anonymous said…
Kalyan, while I'm not half surprised by your reaction, you should have tried some other stuff on the menu. Dal dhokdi, khichdi and panki chatni are my favs. Ditto with the pitla, khichdi kadhi. But considering you've had the real deal with a gujju family to boot, I suppose you've been spoilt now. :)

Swati is most certainly over-priced, and over the years I find they've gone the same way as many people who's fame gets to their head.

That said, I do hope you get around to giving it a second shot with these dishes.

Anonymous said…
Shall definitely check out these places. Danke !