The First Finely Chopped Walk… Bohri Mohalla Coming Soon

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Ed: Looking at the week after this weekend is Muharram and Bohri Mohalla is going to be packed

It took me fourteen years in Mumbai, and a friend who is an archaeologist and caterer who in turn had a friend who showed him the path years back, to discover Bohri Mohalla.

Since that night Bohri Mohalla, or Bhendi Bazar, as it is officially known has become my favourite place to eat in Mumbai.

Bohri Mohalla is a tiny stretch below the vast recesses of the J J Flyover. A part of Mumbai that most of us sail over as we travel to South Mumbai and back. A place mentioned in google maps but left untouched by Wikipedia.

Yet Mumbai old timers swear by its marvels.

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Bohri Mohalla the home to the very warm, hospitable and charitable Bohri community. A big-hearted community that know how to eat well.

Over my last few trips I have discovered Bohri Mohalla’s many wonders and the journey has just begun. Some of its treats have been kept ready for us over more than a hundred years. Bohri Mohalla is a part of Mumbai which almost seems like a museum brought alive. A part of our city’s heritage which still remains the way it was even as Mumbai takes rapid and impatient steps towards the future.

The food here is a meat lover’s paradise. Chicken rolls made the way they were in Karachi from where its makers came to Mumbai decades back. Fried chicken, minced meat, beef and then organs…livers, kidneys, brains…tossed on a tava in a way that is so uniquely Mumbai. After all this is the city that invented the phrase ‘bheja fry’.

Kebabs barbequed in front of you. Beef kofta as soft as the proverbial cheeks of a baby. Khiri, or udder. What I call the ‘mother of meats’. The bite of which is a pleasure that is intoxicating to say the least. And for the less adventurous… tandoori chicken.

Then there is the Bara Handi. Lentil base broths slow-cooked in 9 to 12 vessels over six hours waiting for you. Mixed and poured on cuts of meat – the hump, trotters, the tails – once considered poor man’s food which, through over a century of culinary research and development, have been transformed into a sublime meaty pleasure.

Mopped up with huge rotis, which were once made for soldiers who marched across the plains, to be broken and eaten in huddles at night…rotis that even today are wrapped in newspapers and are taken by Bohris for relatives who have moved overseas and yearn for these. That’s how long the rotis last!

The feast can go till you reach the sweets…aflatoon and, in Ramzan, huge malpuas made with enough eggs to feed an army. If that seems daunting then there are ice creams made in a process which is over 120 years old, and has remained unchanged since the beginning.

Some of this brought to you by the Bohris. Some by the Qureshis. Some be the Sheikhs. Food comes together here.

Eating at Bohri Mohalla is all about grunge eating. It is not for the faint hearted.

You won’t get a serviette here. It’s a good idea to wear a pair of jeans to wipe your hands on them as you eat. You won’t get individual plates and cutlery. Instead you will have to break a piece of naan bread and scoop up mouthfuls from plates of gurda or kaleji or bheja. This is what community eating was once all about before we moved into our skyscrapers. You won’t have a maître’d taking your coat but you can stand by a tawa and see how bheja masala is made and go home and practise it. You won’t have to stand in a queue to enter a restaurant but you can stand by the open coal barbeque and have the kebabs hauled from the coals and put straight on to your plate. You won’t get your own chair to sit on but you could balance yourself on a wooden bench and look with awe as the bara handi ustad performs his alchemy. No air-conditioned ice cream parlours here but you can get to taste the result of a 120-year old technique that brings back the cream in to ice cream and is bursting with seasonal fruits.

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Is the food hygienic?

Well, the locals eat here daily and pack food for home. My friends and I have eaten at Bohri Mohalla quite a few times but then we call ourselves the ‘food commandos’.

Intuitively food served on your plate straight from the tava it is tossed on, or from the skewers that they are barbequed on, or food that has been slow-cooked from dawn to dusk, would be as sanitised, or more, than high-end restaurants with low turnovers. But then there are no guarantees in life and the risk is yours. Eating uncooked food from the streets or un-bottled water and juices could of course be a bit of  Russian roulette. If you are vegetarian, or don’t eat beef ,then come here if you want to take in the atmosphere. You could go back a tad hungry.

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If this interests you then join the very first Finely Chopped Walk which I plan to do at Bohri Mohalla.

Will put up the cost and time specs soon.

The date is likely to be the week after the Muharram weekend. So end Nov, early December. But soon

We would start around 7.30 pm and end at 10 pm.

This would cover a few of the food packed lanes of Bohri Mohalla with a tasting menu of tawa fries and rolls, kebabs, the legendary but dying art of bara handi and the gigantic rotis that go with it and the hand made sancha ice creams to cool it off. A trip covering four restaurants or stalls eating the way we do…with no reservations or table bookings…with the food cooked in front of you as you chat on the streets and take in life.

To get an idea of what’s on store go to the middle of this video clip of the segment that I hosted on Mumbai for Street Foods International on the Travel Channel USA. It features Bohri Mohalla.

Or take a look at some of the blog posts on Finely Chopped on Bohri Mohalla:

My first time at Bohri Mohalla

Ramzan eats at Bohri Mohalla

At Bohri Mohalla with the author of ‘Eat My Globe’ and judge of ‘Iron Chef’, blogger turned author and TV personality, Simon Majumdar

If interested write in to me at k(dot)finelychopped(at)gmail(dot)com or post a comment here.

Or tweet me at @finelychopped or write in at The Finely Chopped Facebook Page 

See you there.

PS: Took me a while to put this into shape, get out of my comfort zone and press publish. Owe it to all of you have suggested these walks to me at various points. And some great folks who at times have goaded me… guided me too…Shivi & Shaili who coaxed me one afternoon to start, Simon, Maunika, Rushina (who started it all with her Masala Trails) , Anurag , Kaniska, Marryam, Sassy Fork, Kurush (whom I owe Bohri to), Rashmi, Shubho, Robyn,  K of course…and the list will grow…wish me luck

Comments

Sheikha said…
So I got how to contact you...change the date on the heading as it says or means 24th December! Looking forward to the details.
The knife said…
how embarrassing Sheikha and thanks for pointing it out...restarted comp and fixed...really appreciate it
~j~ said…
Yay! Like I said in my tweet, I'm in. Will email you too.
being a bohra food blogger I have always wondered why enough Mumbaikars dont talk about the Mohalla! As far as I know everyone who has ever experienced it has loved it. Thank you for doing this.
The knife said…
The pleasure is entirely mine Kulsum. Bohri Mohalla is my fav place in Mumbai to eat. Love the hopsitality of all here. Would love the share it with all

J: You are special. The first one to say yes for this :)
anagha said…
That sounds wonderful! it will be a perfect gift for my hubby.( are dates flexible? he is not in town this weekend)I just WANT this for him.
Abbas Ali said…
I will suggest changing the date to post 24th Nov as it will be Ashura (10th Muharram) around that time which is the culmination of Muharram mournings. You will enjoy more in the following days.

Note that I am not from Mumbai so don't know how the atmosphere will be there around that time but being a Bohra I know that it will be Imam Husain's Teejya (3rd day after someone's demise) on 24th Nov so a few shops *might* remain closed.
Rushina said…
Like I said, I would have been the first to sigh up, but am out of town. If you move dates, I am there :) You are going to ROCK :) R
kaniska said…
all the best with this. finelychopped goes real. and really sweet of you to mention me. always an honour.
The knife said…
will probably push it to the week after because of Muharram so would be great to have him here
The knife said…
Thanks a lot for your suggestion. I really appreciate it. Went to the Bohri Mohalla today. Bohri Muharram is on Fri and then the next one is on Sunday. The folks there were very excited but advised to do it the weekend after...so I shall
The knife said…
well I pushed it for you :) ...thanks you for all the tips and suggestions and sharing your experiences...the long chat really helped....much appreciated
The knife said…
thanks to you got the guts to press 'publish' ...so thank YOU :)
Unknown said…
Very interesting, Kalyan ... pls keep me posted on vanita.visvanath@gmail.com.. I might join depending on travel schedules
k said…
Had loved my first walk in the Mohalla this Eid. Cant wait to go back soon enough.
And Khiri...boy o boy is that meat for the gods or what!
i can make it between 28th and 7th and day so let me know the dates
AD
wow..I really like this! It should be excellent..I am in Pune and would love to join in with my hubby. Please let me know the dates as soon as you have it scheduled. All the best to you for the walk!! Thanks in advance :)
crypticrow said…
this is so awesome! please put up the details. am so in! :))) i still remember reading all your posts on Mohalla (esp. the very 1st one) and salivating :P
The knife said…
hey Vanita....likely to be next weekend now and will keep you posted
The knife said…
khiri....one word says it all
The knife said…
would be within that ...night though...most places wake up in the evening
The knife said…
thanks so much...i will...can't wait myself...thinking of the 1st but just want to be sure before this time...hope to see you there
Anonymous said…
This is too lip-smacking and fantastic. I'm so thrilled that you are starting something like this. Are there any 100 year old restaurants in Mumbai that have been really popular once upon a time and still going strong? just mone holo!
anagha said…
yayyyy am so happy...pl reserve a seat for me( i mean for him)and do let me know how to go about it further.
The knife said…
@ishita...thanks...great to hear that you like the idea...there are some...but very few...one will be a part of this walk
The knife said…
done :) Very encouraging to know that. tentatively planning it for 1st december evening. Saturday. Working out costs etc
Kimaya said…
This is exciting news... i was wondering when you would organize one of these. Would love to join in (with 3 of my friends). Will look out for updates.

Thanks! :)
Anonymous said…
I was so hoping to participate as per your previous date..alas may be travelling the weekend after!! But am praying there will be more opportunities pleaseee
-TD
The knife said…
looking at 1st dec now
The knife said…
is there any id where I can send you the details once ready?
The knife said…
Hi Vanita, thinking of the 1st now...will send you details once ready
The knife said…
Ananya, you really touched by your interest and faith in this. Likely to be 1st dec and we will end at 10 pm. will that work for you? is there an id I can end you details? would be an honour to have you both
The knife said…
that's wonderful. is there any id where I can send you the details once ready?
The knife said…
that's fantastic. is there any id where I can send you the details once ready? Wd be great to have you. Might split over 2 days if the group becomes large
The knife said…
there definitely will...I am sure we will walk together soon :)
anagha said…
here is my id:anagha567@gmail.com
The knife said…
thanks Anagha. Will send details in a couple of days
Anonymous said…
hi please do mail me the final details on pujabanta@yahoo.com...may have a candidate(my husband) who i imagine would love to do this but has never really said it aloud as he knows that it's a bit too adventurous for me...i am hoping his visit will inspire me for the next time - and also hoping he'll get doggy bags:)
Anonymous said…
Will look out for updates..on this one and others. Dont want to miss it if I'm around..
~j~ said…
And I really want to be part of the first ever Finely Chopped Walk. I hope I can make it on the 1st. There's a wedding I might have to go to. But I'm trying my best to get out of it. :P
ishita said…
Hi,I am super interested in coming along.Do let me know once the details are out!
Suruchi said…
Hii.. I read about the walk in today's bombay times.. I wish to join .. Please share the registration details..
Im game.. let me know the dates.. i arrive to India on 28th
The knife said…
planning to put the details out latest by tomorrow...planning the first one for 1st December...overwhelmed by the response. My plan was to keep reasonably small groups so that the walks would be interactive rather than one huge directionless crowd. In which case I could do multiple walks over the next 2,3 weeks at Bohri Mohalla and probably start in order in which people join...or special requests like if someone is in Mumbai just for that period...this is the first time so still trying to plan out what works best...so do bear with me till then
The knife said…
Have put up the plans here. Hope to see you all http://www.finelychopped.net/2012/11/the-first-ever-finely-chopped-walk.html
The knife said…
here you go AD. It's for the 1st. Hope to see you there http://www.finelychopped.net/2012/11/the-first-ever-finely-chopped-walk.html
The knife said…
here you go http://www.finelychopped.net/2012/11/the-first-ever-finely-chopped-walk.html
The knife said…
Great. Here you go http://www.finelychopped.net/2012/11/the-first-ever-finely-chopped-walk.html