Where can I eat…

Very often, someone will ask me for a food recommendation and then they’ll regret it. A food conversation with me does not stop until I see you taking notes. One of my work beats is food — not fine dining, I’m afraid. I do the rasta food, and the nice little mom-and-pop shops, and the grotesque food and little food economies. So I talk about food a lot. 

Which got me thinking, that we’d never spoken about it much. Let’s do meetha. Here’s a list of must-eat Bombay treats depending on where you are in the city. Let’s start South.

Chocolate Eclairs from Theobroma, Colaba

When I walk into the Colaba branch of this patisserie, the server asks me, “One or two?” He means chocolate eclairs. Their hazelnut ganache filling is piped into the née firm choux, instead of sandwiched. The year before last, they made  a half-kilo birthday eclair for me and it wiped away my weariness. The lemon syrup cake, dense chocolate loaf and banana loaf are my reliable hostess gifts.

Theobroma was also the landscape against which I met my favourite philosophy. At one time, I used to work in the early morning shift for the afternoon edition — 3 am to 8 am. This meant we could end our shift with breakfast and we’d try a new place each time. At Theo’s, a mother was coaxing her daughter to eat a sandwich and bribed her with the promise of a sweet treat if she did. The girl insisted she wasn’t hungry and finally, her mother gave her permission to pick whatever she wanted from the display. The little girl chose the biggest and gaudiest birthday cake. “I thought you didn’t have place in your stomach,” challenged her mother. “It’s for my other stomach,” replied the girl.

RTI Lemon tarts, Fountain or Colaba Causeway

Bright yellow, synthetically strong and surprisingly crumbly pie. The routine at work was to call RTI and ask if they had them, and then book them all and go sprinting. Best Rs 35 fix.

Mawa jalebi from Bhendi Bazaar (Mohammed Ali Road)

This is by far the most obscene treat. The little stall behind Hara Masjid (Jama Masjid) opens after 5 pm. He squirts mawa (essentially the same thing that gulab jamuns are made of) into squiggles, deep fries them, dunks them into chashni and then BOOM! Widow-maker. They look like turds and I can’t eat more than one.

Taj Ice cream, Saifee Ambulance Lane, Masjid

Saturday was Taj Icecream day at the newspaper. It was also Badshah day. These guys hand-churn the full cream milk in 150-years-old copper containers. Mango or Strawberry is the flavour I suggest (fresh fruit chunks). You may not be able to stomach the environs (it looks like a mori), so order in.

Firni at Shalimar, Majid

There is a kheer they make in my marital household, which I can only describe as angel semen. The milk is reduced on a low flame for nearly three hours, then in go ghee-roasted vermicelli, slivered almonds and pistachios. After this it sits in the fridge overnight and makes its way to my welcoming gullet. The phirni at Shalimar is a near replacement. I suggest the glutton’s platter — rabdi (not overly sweet), kulfi and phirni all together. It’s not for amateurs. 

Pedhas from Gaurishankar Chitarmal Mithaiwala 

The best pedhas in the world come from this mithaiwala under the Parel bridge. I’ve eaten them all my life (Ajoba and maami come home with a white floral bundle under their arms. Glee ensues). The thumb-pressed squares are the right form factor, perfectly sweetened. I served them at my engagement and wedding, and one guest took a plateful and made a meal out of them. I also like squashing them into thickened milk and freezing the mass into kulfi.

Suttarfeni from Damodar on Dadar TT

Suttarfeni loyalists are divided into the Parsi Dairy Farm and Damodar camps. But through a purely scientific method, it has been concluded that Damodar is the best — light, fluffily and not too sweet. Parsi Dairy farm’s suttarfeni is too greasy with ghee for my taste. My heart was ruled by their mawa samosa for years until it was discontinued in 2008-2009. That was the worst kind of betrayal.

Strawberry Mille Feuille at Oven Fresh, Shivaji Park

I am a fan of this place’s ethos — mark a territory and serve it to the best of your ability. They turned 20 recently and my favourite thing on the menu has to be their Sour juice (blueberry, raspberry, banana). They hold sampling sessions often (during which I perform feats of pastry architecture on my paper plate) and there I met a strawberry mille feuille, which didn’t make it to their permanent menu, but is a strong contender for my birthday cake this year.

Jhamas at Chembur, Vashi, Nerul

You’ll need a list — pista katri (slivers of pistachio embedded in kaju katri); sev barfi (fragrant with rose water); and kalakand. For a easy fix, their warm gulab jamuns (also kept on a simmer) and the simple barfi are enough. Everythign about that barfi appeals to my senses — a nice even cube, moist but not liquid, not too sweet and fragrant not inherently, but by virtue of the sev barfi it sits next to. 

Malpuas at MM Mithai, Malad

This gift came to me via colleague Vikas Hotwani. I wasn’t into malpuas until I met these. Paper thin, crisp around the edges and about three inches in diameter. I like them cold when the sugar has crystallised a bit.

I hope you’ve got that down. I need to make a food map.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

About Thailand…

Guys, I ate Thailand. I know how much you were looking forward to going there; but sorry, it’s gone. Parts of Cambodia too — most of Sihanoukville.
I wasn’t expecting much from my trip to Thailand. In fact, we pinned the destination with some reluctance. All the desis go there, so we were wary. I am not fond of meeting my kind abroad. But it was cheap and a good place from which to kick-off some travel writing since I will be funding it myself until fame catches up.
But as we found out, it’s very hard to not have a good time in Thailand. I opened my mouth the minute I got off the plane and shut it only when I got back on.
We were there for nearly a month, with about a week spent in Cambodia. If I had to give you one piece of advice about travelling to the latter, it would be: Don’t exchange your dollars. If you asked for more, I would say: In Siem Reap, ask for Mr Hong. In a land of survivalist rickshaw drivers, you’ll want the gentle Mr Hong. Call him on +85512325405.

About Thailand, we did a bike trip, we went to Krabi, and we ate through the land. There’s a lot of food that went undocumented, but here’s some that didn’t:

IMG_1652

In Angkor Wat, when you order pancake with sugar and lemon, it’s an actual cake made in a pan. Dessert for lunch.

IMG_1537

I am not one for unidentifiable meat. My usual routine for meals was to point to the noodles, the vegetables I recognised and dump in shrimp. I are shrimp like it was salt. I ate variations of this mix, but my favourite was one with glass noodles. Cambodia does a spicier version.

IMG_1535

Sorta the same thing in a soup-y base. Point, point, pay.

IMG_1306

IMG_1304

The Khmer barbecue makes you work for your meal. We no-thank-you to crocodile meat and settled for prawn, fish and chicken. Into the moat flow the meat juices, in which cook noodles and vegetables.

IMG_1301

Prawns in white pepper. Unremarkable. Siem Reap.

IMG_1297

Snakeskin fruit. Tangy. Bitch to peel.

IMG_1295

Most commercial establishments in Sihanouville are run by foreigners. We stayed at SeaView hotel which had happy hours for meals. This is vanilla ice-cream with a hot, fresh raspberry dribble. I’m sure it had a fancier name, but this is what it was. I had some nice salted orange liquor crepes from the French guy next door. Called again by a much fancier name that I can’t recall.

IMG_1244

Caramelised banana chips. Sugar is a vital component of all my meals.

IMG_1241

Sugar dusted bun filled with sweet rajma mash from a Japanese coffee shop on Sukhumvit Road, Thailand.

IMG_1237

IMG_0810

I have recurring dreams about this Japanese bun. The fragile and crisp shell is a Swiss Bank for custard cream. Green Tea flavour is omnipresent in patisseries and the plain custard is good too. It’s at the Central World Mall food court if you are going. Pick up some for me please.

IMG_1203

An eggy-pork bun from Chatuchak weekend market. Not a fan.

IMG_1201

Also at Chatuchak, water chestnuts covered in a sort of jelly, I suspect China Grass, and served with chilled coconut milk and ice. Did not do it for me.

IMG_1022

IMG_0962

Lemongrass juice. Too sweet. Even for me…

IMG_0971

IMG_0633

Grilled various things. I had the banana and the sweet potato. Good for breakfast if you can’t find a fruit vendor.

IMG_0960

Deep fried dough coil covered with crystallised sugar syrup. At Chiang Mai night market.

IMG_0942

Passionfruit juice. Without sugar.

IMG_0847

Chewy waffles with coconut. Chiang Rai

IMG_0846

Mint flavoured candyfloss. Chiang Rai. My civilisation lacks flavoured candyfloss. My culinary inventor friends and I have often discussed how to amend this. This came in coils, that sat upon each other. Much fluffier and denser than our variety.

IMG_0823

Coconut milk dumplings. Meh. Chiang Saen. Saved me from eating food that couldn’t be bothered to disguise the fact that they were dead bodies.

IMG_0819

Like a sweet uttapam folded over coconut gratings that have been lolling indecently in sugar.

IMG_0815

Bangkok crepes are crispier, like dosas.

IMG_0807

Noodle soup in Krabi. Did not do it for TB.

IMG_0804

My travelling companion loves burgers. This one was at Good Dreams Hostel in Krabi town, and quite acceptable. Mike’s Original Burgers in Chiang Mai was our favourite.

IMG_0803

Green curry with shrimp.

IMG_0800

IMG_0798

IMG_0763

One of my favourite things to do while travelling is check out the bhaji market. I usually buy fruits for breakfast because I’m crankiest on an empty stomach. Fuelled, I am all set to look for a second breakfast. Thailand handed me little packet of cut fruits at every corner. Some I forgot to photograph in my havratness. Raw and ripe mangoes, Chinese apples, berries and some I didn’t recognise. Above are mangosteen, rambutan and a kind of pear.

IMG_0755

A whoopee pie at Bangkok

IMG_0751

coconut icecream with roasted peanuts

Coconut ice-cream at Bangkok and Chiang Saen. I liked the northern cousin better, topped with roasted peanuts.

IMG_0715

A Japanese cheessecake with green tea layer. That rosette felt like red bean paste. Most curious.

IMG_0655

Ancient ice cream in Taro root flavour. Creamy. Didn’t have a chance to try all the flavours — my stomach could not process as quickly as I ate.

IMG_0646

Crispy pancakes with sweet egg cream and salty desiccated coconut. I met these guys on our second night in Thailand and only weaned myself off after I ate 25 of them in Chiang Rai.

IMG_0639

We did a road trip to the golden triangle and enroute, there were roadside vendors selling pineapples. I scored this little fellow. Juicier and less tart than the Indian variety.

IMG_0608

Dragonfruit juice. A lot of our gluttony played out against the background of the Chiang Mai night market. I was a real lady of the night there.

IMG_0607

I don’t remember what juice. Not pineapple, or dragon fruit. Chrysanthemum?

IMG_0594

Classic waffles with plum sorbet. Tart. Chiang Mai night market.

Malay crispy pancakes2

Malay crispy pancakes2

Crispy Malay pancakes, more visible as you go south. I was introduced to them on Ao Nang beach and promptly consumed three. The lady selling them was flattered. They come in dozens of versions and so many escaped my clutches. My favourites were the crispy, lemon and sugar, and cinnamon avatars.

Things missed:
Fried seaweed: Available at 7/11.
Sushi by the penny: Rows of sushi arranged by price. Five to 15 Baht tops. So for under Rs 500, you can pack in a lot of raw fish and rice foreplay. I beginning to find my food-sex references disturbing.
So many burgers
Chicken satay
This glass noodle, shrimp thing at a street vendor in Bangkok
Kaukswe at a noodle house in Bangkok

Clogged

I have been struck down by viral infection of the snotty kind, which crept up on me while I was on anti-biotics for a violent urinary tract infection. This is why I don’t believe in doctors. I don’t like doctors. I don’t go to doctors.
I like instead to self-medicate by eating the right kind of foods, do jal neti, rest and shout a few encouraging words to my body while it fights the infection. I also depend on pani puri ka paani which can cure everything, including cancer. In that respect, it is superior to chocolate.
Whining is my preferred road to recuperation. I like to walk around the house moaning, “I’m dying. I’m dying” like a ghoul. Tushar escapes to work. “I’m dying of UTI,” I call him to say, “Will you miss me?”
Usually, I’m left to the dog, that selfish, demanding piece of tar who is as sticky as he looks. Whatever you read about dogs sensing you are ill and comforting you is a lie. Tell a dog you’re dying and he looks at you expectantly. Tell him again and he wags his tail. “Are we going for a WALK? TO THE DOWNSTAIRS?” Your dead body is as good for cuddling as a live one, albeit a bit colder.
Tushar’s mother, who lives with us, keeps saying things like, “Doctor ke paas chali jao” or “Paracetamol lo”. She means well, bless her soul, but she’s no expert in wasting illnesses. I try to break it to her gently that there’s no use in trying to deal with the dying, but she doesn’t believe in rhyme.
Unless it’s pretty drastic, I put off telling my own mother. But with Tushar at work, the dog trying to crawl back into my womb and mother-in-law more interested in scientific reasoning, I have no choice.
Besides, my mother smothers illnesses with her love. The last time she took me home, this happened.

1. Took me to her doctor and told him how hard I work and how I don’t get enough rest, or eat the right food and asked for a supplement to make me stronger. I won’t say I don’t enjoy this.

2. Make me ALL my favourite food. It gets better if I say I don’t feel like eating. Then she brings the tray UP to my old room and FEEDS me while I lie in bed. I also get my choice of breakfast, but the best thing about having a mother is that you don’t have to tell her what you want; you just tick one of the multiple choices offered.

3. Ask if there’s been trouble between me and Tushar. Frankly, I think my mother’s disappointed that I haven’t banged the door on Tushar’s face and come home to wage a cold war for a few days.

4. Insist that I get a full medical check up.

5. Offer to support me financially I want to quit my job and stay home.

And all I had was a sinus infection.

Baby, you just got to release me

Sometimes, I feel really sad that farting isn’t socially acceptable. Is there anything more satisfying than the hydraulic- release of the gases from your intestine? The curiosity and amazement of how long and rumbling it can be and the satisfaction of a caved in stomach? The relief of letting out a small, irksome bubble with a pop? And the glee of releasing a silent but noxious soldier? And above all, the laughter! Is there anything funnier than the sound of a fart?
Why can’t we treat it like a sneeze or cough, and just say “bless you” and continue the conversation? Let’s sympathize with, “Cabbage huh? You should have smelled the ones I let out last week. Ruined the paint.”
Raise a thigh if you agree.

List of things to eat when I get home

1. Goda-varan-bhaat with fish made in my family’s daivadnya masala.
2. Pratap’s prawn sukka with neer dosas
3. Oven Fresh’s special nachos
4. Aaram’s sabudana khichdi
5. Vijay Punjab’s tikkas
6. Pratap’s butter chicken and garlic naan
7. South Corner’s single butter-double cheese-sada dosa with garlic chutney
8. Kala khatta
9. Kulfi
10. Usha’s khichdi with vagar and garlic papad.
11. Usha’s stuffed baingan and arbi

Day Five: Hospital updates

Tushar’s surgery was over in two hours and went well. I hadn’t told TB about the enema because I wanted it to be a special surprise. Hypochondriacs love medical surprises. Remember that during birthdays. Things that did not happen:

1. The doctor did not ask about me.
2. I didn’t run dramatically alongside the stretcher.
3. I didn’t look expectantly at the surgeon when he came out of the OT.

What I did do:
1. Read the paper while sitting on the floor of the balcony that opened to the sea.
2. Smuggle in the fried fish my mama brought and eat it in the room.
3. Find a route into the hospital when only one relative is allowed.

Tomorrow, I’ll blog about my shoes if I don’t find inspiration.

Day Three: But the good part is

1. This is not an unhappy place. Busy, but not sad.
2. I’m really excited about the hospital stay. TB has promised me a nice room and I look forward to reading by French windows that open to the sea while he fights off people with needles.
3. People will be obligated to visit us, so I get to meet friends without getting out.
4. Someone is bound to bring us chocolate or a Zoë.
5. There’s great shopping and eating in the area. I’m sure my husband doesn’t expect me to be by his side ALL the time. May be the anaesthetist could put him out for longer.
6. We have jobs and medical insurance. This would have been a dismal scenario without either. So thank you Prudence.
7. I’m distracted from the unbearable impatience I feel about KK’s visit.
8. I get to drive a friend’s cute car without fighting TB for it. SUCK IT!
9. I got new tops and a cute doctor to wear them around. What? He’s practically family!
10. I has Boo.

DSC04502