|Mutton puffs in Candies|
Kunal Vijayakar has started a column on food in the Hindustan Times which is pretty nice and anecdotal.
One of the earliest posts that he wrote there was on patties and how they are such an unsung part of Mumbai’s food culture. Here’s the link.
Which made me wonder why I have not written about patties so far. After all I really love patties and have done so from even before my teenage years.
There is something about the flaky crust of patties which makes me give my heart to them.
Makes the ‘crush’ part of the Mumbai term, ‘crush patties’, seem like a bad pun.
There is a confectionery chain called Jalojog (meaning snacks in Bengali) in Kolkata which was such a big part of my growing up days.
The more posh Flurys, Kathleen and later Kookie Jar, were beyond our reach then as my mom raised my brother and me on a meagre college prof's salary after our father passed away. These places were located in downtown Kolkata. A world far away from the suburbs of Bansdroni where we lived.
However, Jalojog was always there for us on special occasions. Whether it was for birthdays or Christmas or New Year, Jalojog, with its reasonably priced mutton patties and chocolate pastries and rockhard motichoor laddoos, would be a part of celebrations along with egg rolls from the local shop.
Places like Merwans in Andheri would be the Mumbai equivalent of our local Jalojog.
I guess the Jalojog stores were franchised and a sweet Bengali couple ran the store close to our house in Bansdroni.
I would sometimes collect a few precious coins and go and pick mutton patties for Rs 1.50 I think. If memory serves me right, these patties were triangular.
The chicken ones were more expensive at Rs 2.50 and had long strands of fried onions and pepper corns in them and seemed like a once in a lifetime treat then.
In college, during holidays, I would visit a classmate who lived close to us. The Jalojog shop was next door to her house and Anasuya’s mom would get us something from Jalojog to eat while we chatted about college, our friends, college romances, teachers, studies and career plans.
A year back I met Anasuya and her mom after about 20 years in Gurgaon and it felt great. Anasuya had made lovely kochuris for us that morning.
I worked for a year before I left Kolkata for Mumbai. The first thing I did with my salary was eat at all the places I aspired to in my student days. High on that list was Kookie Jar which was just next to office.
The flaky crust of the Kookie Jar patties and the flavoursome chicken filling, were light years ahead of the tough crust of the Jalojoga patties and the minuscule mutton filling in them.
In fact, years later on a trip back to Kolkata, I took K to a Jalojoga and figured out that by now Jalojoga dishes tasted a lot better in memory.
But those were precious memories.
I remember being confounded in a training session after I landed in Mumbai where a local colleague spelt patties as ‘pattice’ in a questionnaire.
Later I realized he was referring to what we call chops (nothing to do with lamb chops of the Western culinary world) in Kolkata. Potato encased croquettes.
My first patties memories of Mumbai are when K’s mama, a rare vegetarian Parsi, would send me chicken garlic patties from Merwan’s in Andheri.
These are some of the best patties I have ever had. Perfect flaky pastry, delectable and moist chicken filling inside. They were so good that you could eat them the next day and would not even need to warm them up.
In terms of excellence the Merwan's chicken garlic patties would match up to the patties at Kookie Jar in Kolkata, which are superior to those in Flurys, the other Kolkata confectionery icon, in my opinion.
And here’s the thing. The Parsi owned Merwans in Andheri (no relation to B Merwan in Grant Road) is a very simple place which caters to the masses. The stuff here is very reasonably priced and would be a Jalojoga level place. It's hard to get the chicken garlic patties as they are usually sold out. You can settle for the beetroot stuffed vegetable patties then.
Merwan is different from Kookie Jar, which in Kolkata would be a tiny notch below 5 stars though its prices seem quaint after Mumbai!
Then Candies came into my life. Our second home. I am there most mornings, writing, as I am now. K and I come here to snatch a breakfast together whenever we get time or in the evenings after work.
In the evenings I sometime indulge myself and have mutton puff at Candies and douse it with ketchup.
The Candies mutton puff is everything they say I shouldn’t have…maida (flour), mutton, loads of oil or butter, ketchup…and it gives me a lot of happiness. Don’t tell anyone but at times I eat the chips (called wafers locally and crisps in the UK) which come with the patties here.
The filling in the mutton patties, like in the vegetable one, is covered with spices used by Catholic Goan families as Candice, after whom Candies is named, once told me.
Mrs Carvalho, the lady whose family owns the American Express Bakery had once told me that traditionally mutton puffs/ patties/ pattice (In American Express) in India were called curry puffs and that’s why the filling is always spiced with Indian spices. This was true of the Jalojog mutton puffs too.
The filling in chicken patties on the other hand, she told me, is marinated in a more Western white sauce. I think Kunal referred to it as the French Béchamel sauce in his piece.
The crunch of the puff pastry in the Candies mutton puff is alluring and smothering. The joy of each fatty bite is therapeutic in a sense doctors will never understand.
K and my mother love the chicken sausage puff there which is a bit like the sausage rolls I have had in Sydney.
For me though it has to be the mutton puff at Candies in the evening and its simple, mischievous, uncomplicated pleasures which make me feel like a school boy again.
Talking of being a school boy, my chat with Kunal over lunch on Sunday on patties reminded me of the roller dokaner (roll shop) ‘patties’ of suburban South Kolkata.
I used to go to the roll shops of Bansdroni for these when I was in high school and then in college.
These ambitiously called patties are a dish in the their own right.
Mutton mince, fried with peanuts and finely chopped onion and green chillies were enveloped in a spring roll casing like maida sheath and then deep fried!
As they fried they bloated up and were then kept on the flat griddle, on which the rolls were made, to keep them hot. They were put into a thonga (bag made with recycled newspapers), smothered with red and yellow sauce and covered with chopped chillies, cucumber and beet and the wet thonga was then handed to you when you placed your order. Used to be less than 5 Rs for sure when i used to have them in the mid 90s.
Memories of biting into the sweetish ketchupy crunchy crispy floury goodness of the crust, and then the brown powder (which I think was meant to represent mutton mince), rushed back and I never wanted to hop into a flight and head back to Bansdroni as I did at that moment.
Darn Kunal, see what you have done!