Mr. Papadwala’s Pickles, Papads, And Preserves

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MR. PAPADWALA'S PICKLES, PAPADS, AND PRESERVES

Mr. Ashok sells papad and dried wafers from his cart outside Kailash Parbat in Colaba. You can find wafer varieties such as sabudana, garlic, methi, and onion. He also sells pickles.

Ashok Papadwala, 5, Sheela Mahal, 1st Pasta Lane, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005.

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You never know what you will find stacked atop Ashok Papadwala's cart. Plump cylinders of lotus root. Flat fiery papad bombs studded with garlic and red chillies. Stacks of dried palak, guvar, bhindi, and methi. A heap of vividly-coloured pickles. Chubby dal wadis, and puffs of makhana. All manner of dried wafers – sabudana, garlic, tomato, methi, onion – ready to douse in a bubbling bath of oil. Karela, rice, and chilly kachire. A kaleidoscope of mukhwas bottles.

"What shall I buy?" I ask Mr. Ashok, who is smiling his most winsome smile at me. I watch his face grow grave, focussed, as he scans his treasure. Then his face brightens. "You are Parsi, na? You will like this papad. It is just like your saria papad. And this bhee pickle. Try it, you must try it. Arre, I know what Parsis like, believe me." He waves away my weak cries of denial. Ashok Papadwala will not be denied. I crumble in the face of such vehemence.

My bag fills quickly. With bhee pickle. With papad. With dehydrated guvar. With Sindhi mung wadi. With a dollop of makkana. "You must fry these, they are delicious. Arre, I know what Parsis like!"

And it’s true. He does. I go back the next week, and Mr. Ashok's smile is broader than ever.

Feature photo by Suruchi Maira