Visit Surat Via Babulnath At Soam


soam gujarati food babulnath mumbai


Soam is one of the few restaurants in the city – apart from thali places – that serves quintessential fare rarely found outside of Gujarati households. The menu also includes items from Rajasthan and Maharashtra as well as a rather inapt section featuring French fries and pav bhaji. Walk up the steps to Babulnath temple after the meal if you must, but don’t leave without dessert.

Soam, Ground Floor, Sadguru Sadan, Opp. Babulnath Temple, Mumbai 400 007 Phone: 022 2369 8080


“So isn’t this murrabo?”

“No. Murrabo is different.”

“How? This looks like murrabo. Only they’ve cut the mango all strange.”

“This one has kalonji. See.”

“Ah yes. And dry fruits!”

“My mother never put dry fruits.”

“So that’s the only difference then – kalonji and dry fruits?”

“No, murrabo is made in the sun. It takes at least 25 days. This is cooked on the stove.”

“What is this?”

“This is methambo.”

“Maybe we should ask him to refill this methambo before our meal arrives.”

Barely seven minutes have passed since a slightly hassled waiter took down a rather large order for our party of two. We’ve already tasted demolished the mint chutney, green chilli pickle and said methambo from the tiny metal containers on our tiny wooden table. We are ready to stuff our Gujarati guts. The preoccupied waiter returns with two glasses of chaas – one white, one green; one masala, one Surti. I sip tentatively, letting the lethal chilli-garlic-fenugreek combination bombard my palate and tingle my nostrils as I peer at the once familiar cityscape behind my mother.

Soam celebrates Gujarat’s gastronomical overlap with its neighbouring states.

If I’m being honest, I must admit that the food at Soam isn’t the primary reason for my repeated visits. The native Gujarati menu does have the potential to transport me to Surat, the land of my forefathers. But how can one feel nostalgia for a place you have never lived in? Home has been, and will always be, Bombay, and Soam brings me back to the streets of my childhood. At the end of the lane, past the Hare Krishna temple, is a drab but imposing stone building that reverberated with the wails of the Dalal siblings in the late ’80s and ’90s. Even Neeru ben’s post-injection “Kismis” couldn’t tranquilise us traumatised toddlers. (Yes, we even call doctors ben. Let the stereotypical Gujarati jokes begin). Opposite Soam lies Babulnath Mandir, the temple that remains unvisited by my father despite his six decades in the city. On the road that leads up to Malabar Hill is Triveni, an apartment complex with a partial view of the Arabian Sea that has witnessed many a splendid Sunday in its heyday. After our friends moved, there was no reason to come back – until we discovered Soam.

“The shape of this vatana ni pattice is different.”

“Yes. Has the outer layer got vermicelli?”

“Yes. We don’t use that. And we put coconut.”

“Yes. They haven’t. This is pure peas.”

“Pure bliss.”

Now, I’m all about the food. I come to Soam for the unadulterated Gujarati cuisine, which faded away from our family around the same time our accent staged an exit. The presence of Sarnova (our woman Friday) at home over the past two decades has ensured the inclusion of Maharashtrian, Mangalorean, Konkani, and Kannadiga influences in our meals, but not at the cost of all tradition. French beans may now be cooked Southern style, but they will always be accompanied by chutti mag ni dal and kadhi. Because that’s just the way it is. You can’t have one without the other.

We do prepare typical Gujarati fare in our fusion kitchen on occasion. Makar Sankranti means undhiyu, Dushera demands the presence of jalebi-fafda, and what’s Diwali without doodhpak? Sometimes, the names differ. White dhokla is called idla in Surat. Methi na theplas are better known as dhebras. And we may have adopted the Maharashtrian moniker, but puran polis become vedmis once you cross Vapi.

The native Gujarati menu does have the potential to transport me to Surat, the land of my forefathers.

Soam celebrates Gujarat’s gastronomical overlap with its neighbouring states. That’s how gatte ki sabzi, thalipeeth, and turiya patra all find space on the same page. But these unfamiliar words and wordy descriptions could seem daunting to many a diner who abandons the possibility of a magical gastronomical adventure for more recognizable terrains. I cringe each time a sev puri or plate of French fries is deposited on a table next to mine. Shake my head, purse my lips, and click my tongue type cringe. It’s absurd to order anything from the menu that can be found in 20 other restaurants in a 1km radius. It’s like going to K Rustom and asking for a milkshake. Just because it’s on the menu, doesn’t mean it must be ordered.

What needs to be ordered, is dessert, I think. My Gujarati sweet tooth is sending a clear message, but my brain is fighting back. I can’t possibly eat anymore. But it’s shrikhand. You love shrikhand. But Sarnova also makes amazing shrikhand. Hers is so subtle and airy. But I’ll have to wait till Diwali for that. That’s so far way. But I won’t be able to finish an entire bowl by myself.

“Do you want dessert?” my mother asks. “Shrikhand?”

“Oh. I forgot all about dessert! Sure. But only if you want some.”

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