The Dadar Maharashtrian food trail from The Travelling Belly rolls on to the Mumbai Mirror

My article in The Mumbai Mirror
26th December 2016

Vijayeta Basu from the The Mumbai Mirror recently got in touch with me and asked if I would like to share a food trail with them as my recently launched book, The Travelling Belly, is built around the concept of food trails.

In the book I tell you about various places that I have eaten in across India and the stories of what happened there - whom I met, what I ate, what I learnt from the experiences and what made them memorable to me.

When given an opportunity to choose the trail to talk about, I decided to write about the restaurants serving Maharashtrian food in Dadar. One of the joys of food blogging for me was getting to meet fellow food lovers who introduced me to the food that they have grown up on, including Maharashtrian food.

I can't call the restaurants that I went to my 'discoveries'. They are all very popular and packed with people. However, the crowd usually consists of Maharashtrians. So what I tried to do through my blog, then my food walks and now through the book, is to share what I learnt about Maharashtrian food with the world at large and thereby temp them to try it.

I am pasting the original (unedited) text of the article below or you could click on this link to read it in The Mumbai Mirror where it appeared.

A big thanks to Mumbai Mirror for inviting me to write this. It feels lovely to feature in a paper one reads everyday. Quite proud of it actually.

I am also glad that I got an opportunity to express my debt of gratitude to the city and people of Mumbai who had welcomed me years me back and accepted me as one of their own.

Here goes:

I came to Mumbai from Kolkata 19 years back as a young market research trainee. I fell in love with city and made it my home. Life has changed a lot since then. I began food blogging nine years back and have just published my first book on food and travel. Very different from the automotive styling and whiskey brand naming market research that I used to do when I first came to the city.

One of the things that made me fall in love with Mumbai was its cosmopolitan spirit. Some of my earliest friends here were, like me, young professionals from across the country. Most of us used to live in PG digs by ourselves and eating out was a big part of our lives.

Mumbai was where I discovered whole new tastes from across the country which were so different from what I was used to, and I loved every bit of this ride. From the biryani at Lucky in Bandra which made me realize that there is biryanis different from our Kolkata Shiraz and Aminia biryanis. The Tibbs Frankies which were so different from our Nizam’s mutton rolls of Kolkata. The chicken rolls of Chiquita (hot dog subs with shredded boiled chicken and mayo stuffed inside) were different from the chicken rolls of Kusum in Kolkata's Park Street and the pani puris of Elco were no phuchkas for sure. The atta based pooris of Puncham Puriwala tasted very different from the maida luchis I had grown up on.

It was not just about differences from Kolkata of course and I had a number of whole new discoveries. The Goan sausage of New Martin Hotel in Colaba for example, which was so different from anything I had tasted. The Mangalorean pomfret gassis of Apoorva and Mahesh and the Keralite Onam sadya of Hotel Deluxe and the buff chilli fry and porotha of Sneha at Mahim and Sunny at Chembur made me realize that there is more to south Indian food than idli dosa and vada. Just as the sukha aloo, paneer bhurji and ma ki dal and rajma of Crystal at Chowpatty made me realize that there is more to Punjabi food than tandoori chicken. I struggled my way through over the top and lavish Gujarati thalis at places such Golden Star Thali and Samrat till I found Soam and it’s a la carte Gujarati fare which was more to my tastes. I was introduced to Parsi food through the lagan nu bhonu (wedding set) at Jimmy Boy near Horniman Circle , and, rather fittingly soon married a Parsi girl from office!

However, I had no idea of local Maharashtrian food in all these years. It was only after I begun food blogging and made friends with readers and fellow bloggers from the Maharashtrian community that I got to discover restaurants serving Maharashtrian food in Mumbai. I came across the amazing sukha mutton and vade (deep fried multi grain puris) of Hotel Kshirsagar at Parel near the ITC Grand Central Hotel and the Malvani pomfret fry thali at Malvani Aaswad at Andheri east near an office where I worked. Both serving food from coastal Maharashtrian, There was also Vinay health Home with its light and wholesome Mahrashtrian vegetarian fare at Girgaon which caught my fancy.

Then I began to discover the treasure trove of restaurants near Shivaji Park offering Maharashtrian food. I got to understand the food better as I was often accompanied by local Maharashtrians who indulged my curiosity and happily explained the food to me.

I blogged about the places I went to and the food that I ate. Did food walks where I took people from across the city and visitors from across the country and overseas to eat here.

The thing about many of the restaurants serving Maharashtrian food in the Dadar area is that while they are usually packed with locals. they are often unknown to others. What I’ve tried to do through my blog,  my food walks and now my book, The Travelling Belly, is to share what I’ve leant about the food of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai gives you a little sample to tease your curioisity.

When visitors to city ask me where to eat in Mumbai I often suggest that they go to Dadar as it is centrally located and you can get a taste of local food here.

You can go Prakash near Shiv Sena Bhavan, My favourite there is the poori and sukki (sic) alu bhaji whish is a dry stir fried potato dish. The missal here is light and flavoursome and not very oily. It is served without pav as missal was originally served in Maharashtrian houses.  Pavs area comparatively new introduction to the community.

Talking of missal, Aaswad down the road is now pretty famous for it every since it won the Foodie Hub award and queues to get in get quite long. With experience you will realise that missals vary in spice levels and flavour bases from shop to shop and house to house and that preferences tend to vary too.

While at Aaswad do try to the thali peeth which are savoury, shallow fried multi grain pancakes and, if there at lunch time, the vadan bhaat toop, dal rice and ghee.

If non-vegetarian food is what you crave then you can cross the road down Sena Bhavan and head towards Plaza  and go to restaurants such Sindhudurg, Sachin and Malvan Katta. These restaurants served Malvan food from coastal Maharashtra and coconut is the key ingredient used here. A Bombay duck fry is a must here and do try out different curries made with local seafood such pomfret and surmai (king-fish) and youshould order clams and prawn masala too. Though seafood is the mainstay here, the kombi vade (chicken masala and vade) and mutton sukha have its fans too. The food here is different from the iconic seafood joints of Mumbai such as Trishna and Mahesh as the latter serve Mangalorean dishes.

A good food trail should end with desserts and you can go to one of the Panshikar sweets outlets around. Originally opened at Thakurdwar in south Mumbai, there are a number of Panshikar outlets run independently by members of the same family across Mumbai.  There is an outlet at Ranade road and then another at Mahim near City Light market. Mahrashtrian sweets are primarily mawa (reduced milk) based and you get a variety of pedas and barfees depending of the filling used. Look out for aamras during mango season. Most of these shops will have puran poli which is a roti with a sweet lentil based filling consumed  on festive occasions in Maharashtrian families.

To end your trail have a glass of refreshing piush, a drink which uses a sweetened hung curd based dessert, shrikhand, as its base. It’s pretty intense in terms of sweetness but can fill you with a burst of energy.

I hope that this piqued your interest to explore some of the local Maharashtrian food of offer in Mumbai and then head across the state in search of more.