Saturday, April 28, 2007

A slice of Konkan in Mumbai

“Powder madhe pikawle ki zaadawar”, a lady was asking the man selling Alphonsos if they had been ripened chemically or on the tree. This was at one of the twenty-two odd stalls that are selling Hapus and Paayri mangoes at the Amba Mohatsav 2007 which is being held at Prabhadevi till April 29 from 10 am to 10 pm. It has been organized by the Konkan Vikas Pratishthan. Rajendra Tawde, secretary of the organisation said that this was the fifth year that they were organizing such a festival. “The objective is to give small-time mango growers and entrepreneurs from the Konkan region a platform in Mumbai to sell their wares as they do not have the necessary marketing skills and it also eliminates middlemen”. Mangoes come here straight from the districts of Devgad, Vengurla, Ratnagiri, Rajapur and Malwan.

Devgad Hapus

The mango crop has suffered this year giving them only a twenty five percent yield. This gets reflected in the prices as the Alphonso is available from Rs 100 to Rs 325 a dozen depending on the quality and the size of the fruit. Ravindra Bhadsale, one of the stall owners has come from Jamsunde in Devgad. He has around 300 trees which yield him 800 petis throughout the season. He picks the first fruits on February 25 which are sold to the wholesale market at Vashi and the last on May 8. He says that his fruit is superior as it is from Devgad, a region where the trees grow between the red laterite stone called ‘jamba dagad’. If they have to plant a mango ‘kalam’, the stone has to be blasted and soil added around the sapling. The roots then go digging through this stone. The iron content in the stone adds the red color to the fruit and giving a better and sweeter taste to the mangoes from this region.

Not Just Mangoes

If mangoes are not your scene, there are more than fifteen stalls selling many other Konkani specialities. You can buy buttermilk dried chillies which make an excellent accompaniment with curd rice. They have various masalas like the Malvani masala, goda masala, special garam masala and the spunky coconut garlic chutney. Various mango products like amba vadi, mango pulp and saata, a preparation of pulped mango, rolled and dried under the sun. Buy the fansacha saata (Jackfruit saata) and jackfruit chips to give you a true flavour of the Konkan region. Also available are cashewnuts and khaja – a kurkure look-alike made of jaggery, besan and ginger.


Kokum is synonymous with Konkani cuisine. But do you how kokum is made? Kokum is made from Ratamba (Garcinia indica), a fruit from the plum family. The pulp and peels of the Ratamba are separated. The peels are soaked or smeared in its juices and sun dried. This is repeated often till the skin shrivels up but retains the red/purple colour and the slightly astringent flavour. This is now kokum, which is used as a souring agent in cooking and for making sol kadhi. Ratamba is used to make kokum sherbet. At one of the stalls “ Devi Sateri Amba Vikri Kendra”, you will be able to buy the Ratamba fruit at Rs 40 per kilo and kokum at Rs 80 per kilo.

Papads and Pickles

Go to the Grihani Papad Udyog stall and you will get to see home-made papads and pickles of all kinds. Papads made of palak, nachani(ragi), tomato, poha, methi, potato, corn, garlic, sabudana and a speciality “thecha papad” which is made of grounded fresh green chilly. Pick up the poha and nachani papad or the kurdai (made from rice flour they look like round vermicelli) which is traditional to this region. There were an equal assortment of pickles from the regular garlic, kaccha mango, lime, amla, to karvanda, gajar and karela. Lakshmi Kamble of G.P.U. says that she makes all the pickles at home and the most popular is the garlic one.

So go to this festival for a slice of Konkan with lots of luscious mangoes thrown in and you might be tempted to visit this beautiful coastal belt. If you are, on your way out you just have to contact the Kokan Tours stall who would give you a choice of tours for this region.

You can visit the festival this weekend at the Nardulla Tank Maidan, Next to Ravindra Natya Mandir, Prabhadevi till 29th April 2007. 10 am to 10 pm. It then shifts to Borivali and Thane.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Forty winks !

This stray dog was fast asleep amidst the din and dirt in a slum on the road outside the WSD kennels near Dhobi Ghat at Saat Raasta. He is sleeping outside a hut under the ladder which takes you to another kholi above. The traffic on this road has gone up drastically due to the diversion taken place because of the the ongoing TADA court at Arthur Jail. Yet he is able to grab his forty winks in the middle of the afternoon.
This stray belongs to the family which lives in the kholi outside which he is sleeping. Thousands of slum dwellers keep stray dogs like him as pets in hundreds of slums all over Mumbai.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


When Vivek Prabhu’s grandfather opened Sardar (named after a title which was conferred on his father) in 1932 in the heart of Girangaon to cater to the mill workers little did he know that the fabric of the area would change 75 years later and the mills would be replaced by corporate parks and high rise residential buildings. However painful it might have been Sardar had to keep up to the changing times and adapt to become what Vivek calls a true Bombay restaurant.

Sardar (not to be confused with the Tardeo Pav Bhaji serving namesake) is located at the junction of the Kala Chowki signal near the Voltas building on the main Babasaheb Ambedkar Road at Lalbaug. It is a simple, no frills moderately priced place and is open from 6 am to 9 .30 pm. Like all old restaurants, they too opened a mezzanine section for ladies and family in the sixties.

They have some very good Maharashtrian dishes on their menu. Try the vangi bhajiya (brinjal pakoras), kanda and batata bhajiya, masale bhat, alu (colo leaves) wadi, kothambir wadi, batata wada, sukha usal, batata poha, sheera, bhatsal (a mixture of batata wada and misal) and ofcourse misal. Vivek boasts that he serves the best misal in town. His misal still follows the recipe handed down by his grandfather and its masala consists of a concoction of more than eighteen freshly ground spices, dals and an ingredient that no one else adds to their misal… onion bhajiya that is fried, ground and added to the masala which lends the misal its unique and different flavor.

Modern culinary tastes of executives from neighbouring corporates like Voltas, P.N. Writer, Khandelwal Laboratories, A. C. Nielsen and Tata Tele Services and NGO's like Akanksha who started frequenting Sardar during lunch time compelled Vivek, a chartered accountant by profession to innovate his largely traditional Maharashtrian menu to a broader one. He introduced a range of ‘garlic’ dishes like various Dosa variants with Garlic such as Garlic Sada and Masala and Garlic Rava Sada and Masala. He also introduced Chaats and bread based items like Burgers and Sandwiches. Try the cheese and garlic grilled sandwich named ‘Sania’ and the cheese garlic baked bread named Navin. Their tossed American corn with butter and garlic is also a favorite.

They keep pretty busy during lunch time and sometimes you might have to wait to get a place. Their lunch time mini meals are light and complete. At Rs 25 you will get three chapatis, unlimited dal, one vegetable and chaas. They also have various sabzi’s on the menu. Their just launched next door take-away outlet “Viva Kitchen” will also serve you Oriental and Punjabi cuisine.

Upwas snacks are popular on fasting days and you can have Sabudana wada. Sabudana khichadi, Rajgira Puri Bhaji, Upwas Kachori and Upwas Misal.

You can also beat the heat with the range of fruit juices, faloodas,milk shakes, lassis,chilled fruit milk kokam sharbat, and limbu pani. Vivek will impress upon you to spend only Rs 17 on a similar but more concentrated Iced Tea you would get elsewhere for Rs 50.

Today, Sardar may not get any mill clientele for obvious reasons other than the retired mill hands that still drop in for a misal of nostalgia. But it has still managed to retain the principle of serving food from the heart. You will notice it when you see Vivek wander around chatting with his clientele who he knows on a first name basis. He says “we do not have any customers, only well-wishers”.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cafe De La Paix

Did you know that we have a little Irani café at Girgaum whose name was inspired by the famous 1862 opened Café De La Paix (pronounced – pay) located at place de l'Opéra in Paris and designed by architect Charles Garnier. The story goes that when the owner, Mr. Irani opened this café in 1932, the landlord of his building had just been to Paris and had been greatly impressed by the Café De La Paix there. So he requested him to give this name to the Irani café he was opening. It is located at the corner of Avantikabai Gokhale Road, which has the bustling auto spare parts market. And don’t worry; our Café De La Paix will serve you bun maska and chai at much more affordable rates than its Paris namesake.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Can we go home now !


Suresh Jadhav is a BMC worker who loves dogs and lives in a chawl nearby the WSD kennels at Mahalakshmi. Rani, his 10 year old mongrel was brought to the kennels as an OPD patient for an eye and ear infection that she is suffering.

Suresh’s friend found Rani as a puppy and Suresh readily kept her. She has been an integral part of his family much before he got married. His wife too accompanied him to the kennels and has grown fond of her. Rani’s attachment to Suresh is so evident that as soon as he went into the kennels to understand the medication which has to be continued, Rani barked the place down. She was happy when he emerged out with the medication, looked at him and it looked like she told him with a little stern grin , “ Can we go home now”.

Rani barking