When the Prince of Wales moved into Mumbai's suburb of Khar...Irani bakery tales

2016. A world with camera phones
2001 AD

We had rented a tiny apartment in Mumbai's suburb of Khar when we got married close to 15 years back.

We were clear that we wanted to stay at Bandra. Khar was next door and the apartment there was all that we could afford,

The apartment had a really tiny kitchen. The 'kitchen' was actually a balcony where the landlord had put in a sink and a kitchen platform. We added some wooded racks to put our newly bought vessels on and spices too. 

The kitchen was so small that the K and I could not stand beside other at the same time and at that time I weighed 20 kilos less than what I do today.

With K and her late grandmom in 2002
You can see a bit of the kitchen
A year of being married had fattened me a bit already
But the two of us couldn't fit into the kitchen in 2001,
when I was slimmer,  either
We used an electric stove, given by my mother in law, to cook on. We then bought a microwave and finally got a gas connection with a stove with a single burner. That was cheaper than a two burner stove and every penny counted.

We bought a fridge too and had to keep it in the hall as the kitchen was too small. We bought a washing machine which we put in the other veranda. We had decided to spend on essentials rather than on a wedding party.

This was also the kitchen where we taught ourselves to cook. K, my wife, would download recipes from the net at work, print them on pink (!) sheets and cook from them for me. She would occasionally use her grand-mom's pressure cooker recipe book. We all had those, remember?

I would use some of these recipes too, ask my grandmother and my mother for recipes occasionally, experiment myself and cook.

K cooked because she knew I loved to eat. I don't think she ever 'loved' to cook.

I cooked because I loved to eat. I loved to feed her too. And, of course, I loved to cook.

And we cooked because we were too broke to order in or to go out and eat.

We both wanted variety on our plates. Recipes would be a mix of Bengali, north Indian, European, Chinese and Thai. Never Parsi though.

We loved our own cooking. We had many happy meals there.

Sometimes K made desserts and that deserves a post of its own. Perhaps some day when I feel enough brave enough to write it.

Bread rolls and buns and 'conti' creations

This post is to do with the 'western' dishes that we would make.

There was something that I called the 'chicken casserole'. I would put in chicken, salt, chilli flakes and oregano from sachets that we would bring back from pizzas ordered in office, finely chopped onions, capsicum, tomato, cubed potatoes, and a mayonnaise that my mother in law would make, some cheese slices too and butter, all in a baking dish, which I would put in the microwave and nuke for around 20 minutes.

We were quite fond of the end result.

The other was a 'chicken stew'. Inspired by a dish my mother would make in Calcutta. Chicken on the bone, halved onions and potatoes, cubed tomatoes, beans, capsicum and carrots, put into a pressure pan with water, salt and black pepper powder. Three whistles on a high flame and then another 10 minutes of simmering on a law flame.

The result was a hearty and soul comforting broth. We would add butter to it. 

We would occasionally have dinner of soups made from Knorr packs, I think K liked something called the noodle soup, with fried sausages on the side. We would sometimes add cheese slices to the soup.

We were young and reckless and without a cardiac care in the world.

I might have made some fried chicken and chips too but I am not sure.

We would eat these dishes with bread on the side. We would buy regular, commercial sliced bread. Toast it with the toaster I had borrowed from my mom in law. The toaster didn't have a timer so K and I would look to the heavens each time that we toasted bread.

My mom in law frying bombils for us in the kitchen at Khar
We called for help after my disastrous attempts to fry bombil
Pic taken sometime in 2001-02.
Not on a digital camera or phone

All hail the Prince of Wales

Then, one day, while returning home from the Khar station, I noticed a small shop called the Prince of Wales Bakery.

The shop was quite tiny despite the grand name. Open in the front. Not air-conditioned. They were selling an array of sandwiches and stuff there and then I saw pavs and then dinner rolls and little buns.

The rolls and buns reminded me of Mocambo and Floriana and Peter Cat.

I was still fairly fresh off the boat from Calcutta then.

The stuff in the shop was not expensive. Rolls and bus were perhaps a Rupee or so each. I took some of the buns and rolls home.

They were so soft. So tasty. So dreamy. 

They became a permanent guest at our house when either of us cooked 'contin' at Khar.

We moved out of Khar, and into Bandra, two years later.

2016 AD

We stopped making the chicken casserole ages back and don't have soup from packets for dinner. We make the chicken stew only if either of us has a bad throat or the flu. We are no longer as blasé about adding butter and cheese to our meals.

I go go to Khar still though we live in Bandra now. To the fish market near the Khar Station to buy fish.

At Poonam and Sangeeta's at the Khar fish market

Today I chanced upon the Prince of Wales Bakery opposite the main entrance of the Khar market.

The place looked the same. The bread, like the memories, looked as fresh as ever.

"Yeh dukan kitna purana hain," I asked one of the folks at the counter about the history of the place.

 He said that according to the 'bara saab', the owner I guess, it is 120 years old.

'Khar existed then?' I asked sounding shocked.

The gentleman at the counter smiled and said, "It did. The shop also had a chemist section and a sit down eatery. Now only the bakery remains." 

Well, by the time this Canterbury boy moved into Khar in 2000, the Prince of Wales had already become a bakery.

From what I gathered, it's Zoroastrian Irani owned and not Muslim Irani.

I stepped away from the Prince of Wales Bakery and and went to the fish market and bought a whole snapper among other things. Maybe I should have bought some dinner rolls and had it with a grilled snapper tonight.

I took a photograph and left and decided to write this post instead

Life goes on


k said…
I want to eat casserole
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Let's ask Teddy to make the mayo