The scent of a samosa. The legend of Guru Kripa. Sion Finely Chopped Food Walk Part 1


Chhole samosa at Guru Kripa, Sion. AKA A1 samosa


Bollywood dreams

When I was new to Mumbai and living here all by myself in a PG, I would often go to watch movies at what was known as the Gaiety Galaxy complex in Bandra on weekends. This was in the late 1990s. I would go after dinner to catch a night show. During interval, I would buy myself a pack of samosas and a machine made Nescafe ‘cappuccino’, served in a tiny plastic cup, and one which had more sugar than an entire bhaar of KC Das rasgullas from back home in Calcutta. I was alone, but content.

I began dating sometime later and K (now my wife) and I would go to Sterling in ‘Town’ to watch movies. We would buy a pack of samosas during the interval. Nutty fingers from the RTI counter as well.  And a diet (!) cola. This was after Sterling was refurbished and years before it became a multiplex. 

K & I realised that we both equally loved the crust of the samosa, and the carby crunchy deep fried near sensual delight that it offered, more than the filling. 

These samosas were my favourites in Mumbai. You would get two in a white butter paper packet, the words ‘A1 samosa’ written in red on the bag. I later learnt that they were supplied by a shop called Guru Kripa in Sion

A Mumbai suburb that's frozen in time


Look beyond the traffic on its roads and you will always find
a restaurant in Sion


I had wanted to visit Guru Kripa ever since I heard of the A1 samosa connection and am happy to say that I finally did so yesterday. 

I realised that I had involuntarily become a Mumbai based food writer who wrote about everything except Mumbai in the past few months. This was not out of choice. It was because of a frequently recurring bout of lower back pain attacks that needed me to rest at home. Most of my food explorations therefore happened when I was out of town. When at home, I would rest and write when I could. Fuelled by home cooked food.

Yesterday was the day to change this I guess as I had a window from the pain as my physio had promised I would have after our morning session on Monday. I took the opportunity and headed off to Guru Kripa for a date long due. That with the samosa!

It did not take me much time to reach Sion from Bandra west at around 1230 in the afternoon by cab. We were soon at the Sion circle which one has often crossed on the way to New Bombay, and Lonavla and Pune too. The first thing that struck me when I looked out of the car and past the traffic was how the pavements seemed to be chockablock with small restaurants. Sion, they say, used to be the food hub of suburban Mumbai and this seemed to prove that. The people here sure do love to eat!


Samosa sighting 


That's Guru Kripa on the left. The black sheets are to protect the curomers
from the afternoon heat

Guru Kripa is located in one of the inner lanes of Sion and near the circle. At a place that reminded me a bit of Delhi’s Bengali Market. 

There is a series of small shops (galas) at the ground floor of the building which together make up Guru Kripa as I realised.  I could see pattice being fried in one room, dosas and idlis coming out of order. In between, there is a larger room where people sit and eat under harsh white, non-Instagram friendly, tubelights (you know where I did not go). In the corner was a small room where chaats were being prepared. And in the open area, there was someone making kulfi faloodas opposite the sweet counter. There were some table stands kept in the courtyard where you could place your plate and sit on the wall and eat. That is where I chose to sit. It was a lot more atmospheric sitting in sterile, from the 80s socialist era, sort of dining room I felt. 

A peep into Guru Kripa

The way it works here is that you go to the one of the cash counters, place your order and pay and then take the chit to the relevant counter and collect your food.

All great stories start with a samosa


Samosa chhole at Guru Kripa

I started with a plate of samosas with chhole (Rs 45). You could have samosas by piece too. Unlike in the samosa chaat that I had in Lashkara in Bandra a few days back, here they knew that the samosa was the hero. They kept the samosa whole, aside from the channa in another section of the plate and did not smash it in to the channa. This way you could taste the goodness of samosa by itself too unlike in Lashkara where it was served as a chaat (they had asked me whether they should serve it separately to be honest at L). 


Samosa chhole at Lashkara, Bandra. I love the samosas here too. They have a
higher potato quotient than at Guru Kripa


I eagerly took a bite of the samosa and then broke into a huge grin. This was the same taste of the samosas that I loved when I had moved into Mumbai, but hundred times better when had freshly fried. The crust spoke of joy and love and every childhood pleasure that you could think of. 

The potatoes in the samosa at Guru Kripa, unlike in their A1 movie theatre ones, were not stodgy at all. The potatoes offered a lovely confluence of starch and tart and chilli heat that give support to the glorious and majestic crust.

Easily my favourite samosas in Mumbai. 

The potatoes had so much more life here than in the movies

If you felt guilty about having so much of deep fried carbs and starch, there was the protein that came in in the form of the chhole/ channa (chickpeas) to add balance The beauty of the chhole was that it had a slightly homelike feel to it and the gravy was not too thick. The tamarind chutney added to it added a touch of sweet and sour. The sliced raw onion, a bit of sharpness to balance the metaphorical mushy love. 


I later learnt from a manager at the counter that the ‘hotel’ (Indian English for restaurant) had come up in 1975 or so. The owners used to sell samosas from a stall here before that and then expanded their business and grew the way only the industrious Sindhis can.

‘How long back was that,” I asked.

“I don’t know. From the time I was a kid,” said the gentleman who looked as if he was in his 60s.

Curry for the soul. Or Kadhi as Freddy mama keeps correcting me.


Kadhi chawal. Thanks for the tip Mahesh

When he heard that I was headed for GK earlier in the morning, my friend Mahesh Gidwani, a Sindhi himself, insisted that I have Sindhi kadhi chawal (Rs 135) there. I was so glad that I did so. The sweet and sour, gram flour based runny kadhi, which was packed with drumsticks, okra and curry leaves, made for the perfect summer meal when combined with the rice. Light and soothing and most maternal indeed. It came with a pattice and a laddoo and of course the mandatory papad which Sindhis love.

Joseph and the technicolour falooda

I did try the kulfi falooda (Rs 100) which my friend, Dr Pradeep Rao, loves. I guess it was too sweet for me to eat with a clear conscience these days and I left most of it in the bowl I am afraid. In another time and in another life, I would have wiped the plate clean perhaps. Pradeep is fond of the chhole pattice and the pani puri as well. I am not a pani puri (team phucka) fan though and I skipped it. I did not have the space for the chhole pattice that my kadhi chawal plate did come with a pattice.

Pani puri and kulfi. They should call this the Dr Pradeep Rao stand

Sion and the spirit of Mumbai


The term 'melting pot of people' is often used in the context of Mumbai. Guru Kripa is where the phrase comes to life and no longer remains a cliche.

There were people of all age groups at Guru Kripa that afternoon. Kids with their parents, having lunch after a shopping visit. Youngsters polishing off chaats. Elderly folks buying traditional sweets, the sev barfis and gulab jamuns to take home for their grandchildren.

There were people from all social classes here and professions too. White collared, blue collared, tee shirts with no collars. Saris, salwars, tank tops and jeans.

Everyone enjoying their meal in the spirit of peaceful coexistence.

A family of two kids and their parents and shopping bags came and sat beside me and I pushed myself to the side to give them more space. The father kept going to the counter and getting them treats. They did not seem very well off and you could sense that it was a bit of a banquet for them and I felt privileged to share the sense of pure joy that they felt.

With Rahul

I bumped into a Finely Chopped reader at Guru Kripa, Rahul, who came up to say hi. He had finished his plate of samosa chhole he said. He told me that he had followed my Delhi trails from the blog and shared some of his experiences with me about the same. I took a selfie with him and requested him to click me too.  


"How come none of this shows on you," he asked. 


I looked up from the half eaten plate of samosa chhole and the yet to be eaten plate of kadhi chawal and said, "this is rare for me these days. I eat at home more often. That helps I guess."

Can't tell you how happy I was

I guess Rahul was being kind and I am no size zero.

The main thing was that I was so happy to be out again and yet thanks to the Sindhi kadhi chawal that I had, as close to being at home as possible. That explains my smile.

Emboldened by my experience at Guru Kripa, I tried out three more places in Sion before I returned home. Will be writing about them soon so please keep a look out for that.


My lunch today while I wrote this post as prepared by our cook Banu
#LittleJackHornerMeals as I put it
Also of interest from Finely Chopped:

Comments

Sachin said…
This post brings so many of my childhood samosa memories in Nashik. When I was in School, there was a guy who used to sell samosa for 1 rupee and vada pav for 2 rupees back in 2001-2005 outside of my school. I still remember the taste. Then, in my colony, there was one uncle who used to roam around and sell samosas (cost around 10 rupees for 2 samosas) with best sweet-spicy tamarind chutney in a residential area on his kinetic luna. I still remember the delicious taste of scrumptious textured samosas and those sellers faces.