Dadar Maharashtrian Food Walk
When friend and food blogger Kalyan Karmakar thought about the idea of having an evening Dadar Maharashtrian food walk,I was thrilled! Dadar,Girgaum and Lalbaug are considered some of the Maharashtrian strongholds.I was born in Dadar,lived and schooled in SoBo and then have been at Dadar,ever since.
Everyday I learn something new about my culture( I am half Maharashtrian-half Bengali)
Kalyan's walks are fun because you meet all kinds of interesting people who have their own stories to tell, so no two walks are ever the same.It's like being out with likeminded friends and you never feel you are meeting them for the first time.We had Fiona with us who is an Australian author who travels widely and writes the Love Travel guides,Lindsey who is a British ex-pat blogger and Jeannie who is a nutritionist! Julia ,a British expat who is all smiles and very adventurous,is an amazing blogger.Paul is a banker,Jeff is a researcher (and isn't afraid of spices ) and Mick is a batata vada fan! Geeta loves going on walks and while having a conversation on them realized her cousin conducts them in Chennai.Rohit likes non veg but has a bunch of veg friends (reminding me of Kalyan's predicament many years ago...haha) so he decided to come on these walks.The Lahiris are an adorable bunch and I didn't quite guess that Vidya's "mom" is actually her mom-in-law.We got a glimpse of their foodie baby on the phone...chewing the end of a book...hungry for knowledge,yep! Aanchal is all keen to learn recipes and Sania happy to try things from her past.
Out of fifteen of us at the walk,half of us were Indians and the other half from other countries who were keen to know more about Mumbai.Our walk started with a restaurant called Aaswad, opposite the Sena Bhavan, which specializes in ethnic Maharashtrian food
The first thing we tried was the Thalipeeth which is a breakfast item made with whole grains( such as jowar,bajra,ragi) and made by hand and roasted on a tava.This is served with white butter and yoghurt.Many of us Maharashtrians make this at home as the readymade flour (Bhajni Thalipeeth) is also available.I was thrilled to see everyone relishing this!
Being Mango season,there was a dish called Amba Dal...which was green mango and ground Bengal gram mixed together.
There are a host of local beverages...like Panha seen above made from boiled green mangoes to which saffron is added.My mom makes this really well.
Sania from Indore enjoyed it...the passionate foodie that she is,she told us about Sarafa,the food market that replaces the jewelry market in Indore at night.There was Aamras for everyone and was happy to see the smiles on faces after having it.One dessert that is seen in Maharashtrian restaurants is Kharvas....made of cow's colostrum
After Aaswad,we crossed the road to Santosh Masale....a small shop that sells all kinds of Maharashtrian masalas...Bharli Wangi Masala (which is what you stuff into brinjals and is quite a delectable dish) and Goda masala.Mr and Mrs Jules tried the Goda Masala and guessed its ingredients! You can use it the way I have in Peas Usal.
An unusual item was the Karela (bitter gourd) pickle which had less oil.The salt in the pickle contrasted with the bitterness of the gourd.Ofcourse someone with high blood pressure would have to avoid pickles altogether.
Also on sale was Solkadi,a delicious beverage made of coconut milk and kokum berries with tempering of mustard seeds,curry leaves and coriander.This is served as an appetizer or a digestive in many coastal cuisine restaurants in Mumbai.Some prefer using buttermilk instead of coconut milk.
We crossed the road yet again to head to the Kokan Bazar at Sena Bhavan which houses among other things Kokum Sarbat and Kokum Agal.The Sarbat is sweet and has sugar and cumin seeds.The Kokum Agal is used to make Sol Kadi.A great source of vitamin C.Refreshing in the summer heat! Dried kokum is added in fish curries as a souring agent.Another Maharashtrian beverage is a gooseberry--ginger concoction
This shop run by Nayan Khadapkar helps connect rural women with urban folks.It houses millet (ragi) and brown poha....that is eaten in Konkan villages and is fibre and iron rich.Made as a breakfast item.Poha(flattened rice) has a special place in Maharashtrian cuisine as it is what is served to the potential groom's family when they first come to meet the bride.Legend has it that poha was what Lord Krishna's poor friend Sudama gifted Him as it was his favourite.Poha has many renditions....Dadpe Pohe,Dahi Pohe(with yoghurt) and Kande Pohe (with onions).This is my breakfast cereal.
At this store you will see the Vidi or the grater...used to grate coconuts.
Here you can see grinding stones that no mixer can match in terms of flavor they render to the food.Mortar and pestles too.
White onions from the Konkan that are sweet in flavor and can be had by themselves with lime,salt,sugar and coriander.
Next we headed to Prakash,another restaurant well known for Maharashtrian food.Here there are days they serve food eaten on "fast days",the days regular food is not taken for religious reasons.Kalyan had them serve Missal....a mixture of lightly gravied moong sprouts,onion,coriander and a sprinkling of sev.Everyone seemed to love it! Puneri Misaal and Kolhapuri Misaal is far spicier.Dahi Misaal is the same dish served with yoghurt
Kalyan ended the walk at a restaurant called Sachin on Gokhale Road,serving Gomantak fare.Coconut and triphal are two distinctive ingredients in this cuisine.Sachin is one of the many places in Dadar where you can have this fare.Gomantak,Malvan Cha Katta,Saibini,Sindhudurg,Chaitanya are other places that serve such fare.You will always find these places packed with Maharashtrian people,specially on Wednesdays,Fridays,Saturdays and Sundays.They mostly have seafood (and meat occasionally) on these days.
The Dadar walk covered Shivaji Park and Gokhale Road.Ranade Road and NC Kelkar Road are also well known but time and waist constraints did not allow us to go any further! Gypsy Corner is one quaint place to have Maharashtrian mains and watch the world go by.
My friend Harshad Rajadhyaksha has captured the essence of Shivaji Park in his gorgeous black and white pictures below.Might I add that Harshad's grandfather Bal Joglekar cinematographed a film called Shevatcha Malusara which is based on a descendant of Shivaji Maharaj's most trusted lieutenant Tanaji Malasure! Tanaji Malusare died fighting for Shivaji Maharaj.I have heard in my childhood, stories of how he climbed fortresses with the use of monitor lizards (ghorpad),Incidentally this movie has Ashok Kumar starring in it along with Baby Sachin
Shivaji Park...this is where Dadarkars walk.Non-Dadarkars too :) One of the oldest and largest open spaces for the public in the city.
Shivaji Park is named after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj,who was the founder of the Maratha empire in the 17th century.He was well known for his astute acumen and guerrilla tactics.He won battles against far larger armies with his sheer intelligence.He promoted the Marathi and Sanskrit languages.Today several establishments all over Mumbai are named after him, as is Shivaji Park.
Last year when Balasaheb Thackeray,the founder of Shiv Sena left for his heavenly abode,the city stood still to pay homage to him.Massive crowds gathered.He was given a state funeral on these very grounds
When you pass by,you can see several youngsters playing here today.Years ago,Sachin Tendulkar did the same,under the guidance of Coach Ramakant Achrekar
What's charming about Dadar is that the old world exists amidst the new and we would want that to stay with us forever
Just as we would like to cherish our food heritage.
Authentic recipes from the Malvan are published in a book called Malucha Mangana by Malutai Nabar.In it,she has talked of her life in Malvan,also representative of the life of a middle class woman in the Konkan.The book has recipes on Kairichi Amti(mango curry),Bharlele Vange (stuffed brinjals),Sasav (made with pineapple or mango),Ambat Batata and of course seafood recipes such as Bombil Bhujne(Bombay duck gravy) and Kalvachi Amti (oyster curry)
Anjali Purohit's book Ragi Ragini talks of life of a young girl called Ragini who lived in a Konkan village and her trials and tribulations.This book includes recipes of millets (ragi custard,ragi rotis,ragi pancakes) used in the past which could well provide us much healthier options in our current day meals.It also has couplets or ovis by Bahinabai that women of the Konkan sang while doing their daily duties
Just came across Tara Deshpande Tennebaum's beautifully written book on Konkan cuisine which talks of her childhood days (in Belgaum and Karwar which are in Karnataka) and also gives a delightful description of Maharashtrian food,enlisting different ingredients,vessels and food history.
Yes, Konkan cuisine is only one part of Maharashtrian cuisine and every part of our wonderful state has its own recipes and ingredients.The Mahalaxmi Saras Festival held in January is one such event that highlights other cuisines.
Kolis who are fisherfolk of Mumbai have their annual festivals which I have covered on this blog,including the MNS Koli Festival at Shivaji Park.
We came away feeling happy after the walk,greeted warmly by the simple and down to earth people of Dadar,who were so happy to include us in their lives!
Was a pleasure meeting Fiona,Lindsey,Julia,Jeff,Jeanie,Paul,Mick,Vidya,Sudeep,Deepali aunty, Anchal,Sania and Rohit at the Finely Chopped Walk
Thanks Kalyan in doing your bit in bringing the world a lot closer.....