Maharashtrian-styled puri bhaajis for breakfast at Bandra (west). Now who would have imagined that?!

Puri bhaaji from Social, Khar, called in at home today

Puri bhaaji devotee trainee

My first office in Mumbai was at Dadar at a place called Mhatre Pen Building. I worked in a research agency called IMRB back then. They had moved to Dadar from Nariman Point just before I had joined. They were one of the first agencies to come to Dadar. This was in the late 1990s. There was no Phoenix Mall then. It was just an empty mill complex. Nor were there fancy office buildings at Lower Parel. This was 'Lowest Parel' as a colleague who had moved in from Delhi used to wryly say. There were no Tulsi Pipe flyovers. No eating joints around. Just a bare concrete road with slums and pavements that doubled up as toilets.

It was quite a shock after coming in from Kolkata where our branch then was at the fairly Tony Jhowtola Road near Ice Skating Rink, Dhaba and Modern High School.

The office canteen at Dadar was run by a young Shetty gent whom we called Jaggu. I did not like anything that he offered I confess. Barring the misal pav perhaps which was there for breakfast every day and the puri bhaaji which was the Thursday special option. I was addicted to the latter and would never miss it.

When I returned to the company for my second stint, this time as a manager, the folks at the canteen knew that they had to keep a plate of puri bhaaji reserved for me on Thursdays. I am no early riser and was never the earliest to reach work you see!

I missed the Thursday morning puri bhaaji when I moved on for good to Nielsen which was then at Parel and which had no canteen of significance I think.

One day, I went from shop to shop at Bandra's Pali Market (which is close to where we live), as if I was Guru Dutt looking for a lost lover in a movie, asking people if they knew of any place that sold puri bhaaji. I even tried the Gujarati run chemist shops but there, but drew a blank.

Seasoned Mumbai puri bhaaji devotee

The puri bhaaji at Prakash, dadar, that I dote on

The reason for this was simple. The puri bhaaji that Jaggu made at the IMRB canteen were the Maharashtrian ones. Small, crunchy, wheatflour puris. Served with a turmeric hued potato bhaaji, which had cubed potatoes cooked with whole mustard seeds, curry leaves, finely chopped garlic and green chillies, turmeric and barrels of oil.

You would get versions of this in the Maharashtrian vegetarian restaurants of Dadar such as Prakash (my fav for puri bhaaji), Aaswad and Gypsy Corner and in south Mumbai, Vinay Health Home at Girgaum.

The Bandra puri bhaaji project

The Bandra maushi stall puri bhaaji

Thanks to the demographic profile of Bandra (west unlike the east), your chances of scoring Maharashtrian style of puri bhaajis here are almost zilch. Bandra is the place to have Irani style kheema and anda bhurji pav, Goan potato chops and chicken mayonnaise sandwiches, and of course some truly international class eggs Benedict and waffles. Not puri bhaajis. This is not really a Maharashtrian heavy suburb after all.

A year back back, my friend Siddharth (a Marwari from Kolkata) told me about a couple of Maharashtrian ladies who had set up a stall and sold puri bhaaji and other Maharshtrian snacks made at home at Peter Dias Road near Mehboob Studio.

I went there one day. Loved their food. Was super impressed by their spunk. Wrote about them.

It was raining when I called for this today though the sun came out when the food came. What you
see is half of the potato bhaaji sent by Social. There was 1 more puri & some more sheera too

Today was a rainy morning in Mumbai and I did not feel like making breakfast. I decided to call in for it instead. I remembered seeing on Swiggy a few days back that the Social Offline restaurant(s) at Khar offered a Maharashtrian puri bhaaji plate and called for it. I have had their Punjabi paratha breakfast at the restaurant earlier and liked it. They were one of the first of the modern, youth hangouts to introduce Indian regional dishes on the menu.

So I ordered in from the Khar Danda outlet today. The puris that reached me were reasonably warm, thin and tasty. The potato bhaaji was quite nice too and (I say this as a non-Maharashtrian) the flavours were spot on. It lacked a bit of salt I felt but they had sent a mango pickle, a green chutney and onions with it which took care of this and one did not have to add further salt. The quantity was enough for two, though the menu said one. One, if you are in your late twenties or early thirties perhaps. Not in your mid forties!

There was a sheera (suji halva) with it. I tasted a bit. Seemed a bit watery but anyway I was not planning to eat that in any case.

At the end, I just felt happy that I now have options in Bandra from where I can have a good old 'Marathi maushi/ aai' puri bhaaji.

Don't know if my GP or cardiologist will share the same joy though!

I just realised that I am going to complete 12 years of blogging in a few months and have reached a stage now where I just can’t stop blogging. And I am loving this!

I remember a time a few years back where I’d lost my urge to write. Or cook. I do truly feel thankful for the turnaround. I know that I owe a lot to all of you who read it and thank you for that.

PS: I am not really connected with the world of market research these days but does anyone know if IMRB (I think its called Kantar) still operates out of Mhatre Pen? If so, does Jaggu still run the canteen? If so, can anyone send me a picture of the plate of puri bhaajis?

My post on the ladies who run the puri bhaaji stall near Mehboob Studio


Anjali said…
Gosh, I started reading the post and had the same thoughts as your PS. We even had a Project Jaggu in 2005. Nita Gopal made us change the project name to something really bland, much to our annoyance.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Anjali i can quite imagine Nita doing that!!!!
Shaswati said…
Now you make me really curious. I think I'll explore the Maushis around Mehboob Studio for some of this puri bhaji. :)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@shaswati but please make luchi and shaada alur torkari and call us home first