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The Marvel of Mahalaxmi Mandir

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THE MARVEL OF MAHALAXMI MANDIR

The goddess Mahalaxmi has a small but critical part to play in the birth of Mumbai, so it’s only fair that she gets the best view of the bay.

Mahalaxmi Temple, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai 400 026. Phone: 022 23514732

READ KRUTI DALAL’S STORY

Mumbai is the chosen city, not just of migrants and dreamers, but also of the Goddess Mahalaxmi. She wanted a home in Mumbai at a time when the city was just seven islets kept apart by the angry Arabian Sea; when the city was still Bombay. She decided to invade the dreams of a sleepless engineer tasked with building the embankment at Worli. The waves were washing away his men’s valiant attempts at blocking off the Great Breach (Breach Candy) between Dongri, Malabar Hill, and Worli, and his morale had hit rock bottom. That’s precisely where he found her, at the bottom of the sea. The stone idol was fished out and housed in a temple, the sea-wall was made, and more reclamation followed. Bombay was built, and Mahalaxmi got her home by the sea.

More than 230 years later, the temple perches precariously atop a cliff, the dome peeking out from a jumble of hutments, the orange flag flapping in the sea breeze. When the scalding mid-day sun scorches up the muddy waters of the Arabian Sea, the temple transforms into a silhouette, standing tall and silent behind the Haji Ali Dargah. The Temple By The Sea and The Dargah In The Sea. This tranquil scenario, this picture perfect postcard, this symbolic frame is the calm before the storm.

mahalaxmi mandir

Every day is like a mela at Mahalaxmi Temple. Stalls selling puja items line up the lane leading up to the entrance. Garlands of marigold, rajnigandha, and mango leaves hang in what seems like one, long, unbroken chain; stacks of tough, brown coconuts occupy the front; red and gold chunaris in a dozen different designs lie neatly folded at the back. Women in cotton sarees sit on top of wooden counters, sprinkling water at regular intervals to keep the lotus stalks fresh and dewy. Pyramids of sindoor, kumkum, and turmeric in tiny, round, plastic containers glow in the sunlight. Devotees dither at the sweet shop. “White, yellow, or brown?” I always go for the gentle cubes of brown peda rolled in powdered sugar. That’s what the goddess likes best. And my brother.

As children, we had to be bribed with a trip to the nearby Crossword to make the arduous trek up 200 steps to the temple. As adults, we realised the 200 steps were actually just 20. Streams of sweat would cool our little bodies as we stood under the lone fan inside the marbled hall at the top. This atrium is now a wooden snake. Men, women and children trample all over the elevated planks, digging their elbows sideways into strange stomachs, holding their thaalis high above their heads, sidling up to their relatives at the front of the serpentine queue, shuffling ahead on tiptoe to catch a golden glimpse of the goddesses.

Mahalaxmi, Mahakali, and Mahasaraswati gaze nonchalantly at the swelling swarms. Priests work like clockwork, helpers skin coconuts, cleaners swab the floor. Together they chant, “Aage chalo, aage chalo”, the litany floating up and overeager outstretched hands and heads, right till the very end of the haphazard queue. One quick bow, eye contact with the priest tearing open the peda packets, and you’re out of the inner sanctum.

mahalaxmi mandir

The customary circumambulation reveals a bevy of believers pressing coins against the shiny wall, waiting with bated breath for a second, and then watching the money clink between the polished, steel bars into the donation box. A father tries to show his young son how it’s done. A girl in a pink, frilly dress seems non-pulsed, picking out coin after coin from the abyss of her fist. A single coin clings to the wall. It could be faith or just superglue.

A poster prohibits photography (“selfie and normal”). A uniformed guard ignores the gaggle trying to be as discreet as an outstretched arm holding a phone can allow. The hordes flow down the steps at the back, rushing to meet the sea. There are a bhajiyawala and a cold drink stall just before the Dariya Hanuman Mandir at the bottom, a welcome diversion on a hot, summer day. Fuelled and fed, families tumble into the open area right by the water. Children play hopscotch on the burning floor, eager adolescents press their faces against the wired fence to squint at Haji Ali, and parents find a shaded bench to catch some shuteye. But the horizon beckons, eyes gaze towards the open sea, and the mind marvels at the view from Mahalaxmi’s digs. She’s got the best seat in the house.

Photographs by Suruchi Maira

 
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A Potato Lover’s Guide To The City’s Best Chips

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A POTATO LOVER’S GUIDE TO THE CITY’S BEST CHIPS

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA

Recently, my diet has been absolutely appalling. There is no getting around it. I have eaten potato wafers for lunch, dinner and, one horrifying day, breakfast. And I have done it over and over, again and again. I am a woman given to appetite; I do not apologise for it. In these smug, sanctimonious times of “clean eating” and whatnot, I stand valiantly on the frontlines, wading into the frothy, murky waters of fat and salt. Only this time, I did it for a story. Here is the honest truth. I love a crisp, well-made wafer; thoughts of fried potatoes frequently drive me to distraction. I don’t mean that pallid, mass-produced stuff with the blanch of death on it. No, I only bend my knee to the likes of A1, B Wafers and that Bombay behemoth, Camy — it is they who ensure that no potato dies in vain.

THE WORTHY

Camy Wafers

Out of all the kilos I consumed (four, at last count) I believe still, as I believed before, that Camy’s true majesty remains undimmed. Its plain-salted flavour, the worker bee of the wafer world, is the crispiest, wispiest wafer of them all, keenly salted, and palely gold in colour. Its Sweet & Salty flavour has a smokiness to it, a barbecue taste that cohabitates amicably with a dip; the Green Chilli has the bite and bitterness of an actual chilli; its Pudina was immensely compelling, refreshing, an instant family favourite. Only its Navratan flavour was too enthusiastically dredged through a mundane masala powder.

5-6, Oxford House, Near Colaba Market, Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 022 2282 8430

B Wafers & Chips

B Wafer store, who thankfully offer 50g instead of the ubiquitous 200g packs, was a surprising challenger: their wafers, fried to a greaseless crisp, are light and elegant. The Cheese is only mildly anointed with cheese flavouring and, as a consequence, goes down very smoothly with a chilled beer.

A/11, Anand Nagar, Forjett Street, Mumbai 400036. Phone: 022 2388 5266

A1 Wafer Company

At A1 Wafer Company, the potatoes meet their oily doom in the room behind the shop; consequently, they emerge fresh, bronzed, and dusted with salt, garlic, lime (ridged! I love ridged), tomato (a tad too sweet), cheese (a strong hit of cheese, like eating cheese-balls), and masala, depending on what flavour you choose.

Victoria Building, Behind Apsara Cinema, Balaram Street, Grant Road, Mumbai 400 007. Phone: 022 2307 7151

Avarya

Avarya breeds a vast variety of wafer, but I picked only the garlic (not hugely garlicky at first shatter, but it builds up), peri peri (ambitious, but too fragile for my dip), and koda masala (did they mean goda masala?) Either way, this last one was a rugged crisp, baked rather than fried, and smothered in a masala whose provenance was, at best, dubious.

Shop No 4, Narendra Bhuvan, 51, Bhulabhai Desai Marg, Breach Candy, Mumbai 400 026. Phone: 022 2351 8400 [Also at Ghatkopar (w) and Santacruz (w)]

THE UNWORTHY

Ramanlal Vithaldas, purveyors of miscellaneous edibles such as puris and dry fruits, also stock wafers: I tried the lime and plain salted. Now perhaps I am too pernickety, but the lime tasted almost sweet, and was therefore deemed unworthy of consideration, and the plain salted was slightly too greasy and brittle for me. I love a crunchy crisp, but this was hard, shattering into shards in my mouth.

Chheda’s wafers were dismissed as unremarkable, wilting under a light slick of oil, but alas! It was Foodspot who was the biggest letdown. Its Chilli Potato wafers had no discernable chilli, and were heavily spiked with something tangy. Perhaps we were handed the wrong packet? And its Potato Takiya wafer, although perfectly salted and crisped, left me gagging with a strong oily aftertaste. The packet remains unmolested, to date.

Disclaimer: I realise this is a contentious issue. Mileage may vary, depending on consumer. Also, this review contains an tightly curtailed variety of stores and flavours, in deference to my arteries and waistline.

 

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Beer, Bhut Jolokia, And Board Games At Doolally

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BEER, BHUT JOLOKIA, AND BOARD GAMES AT DOOLALLY

Doolally Taproom is a microbrewery from Pune that has four outlets in Mumbai. It has beers such as Belgian witbier, oatmeal stout, weizenbock, porter and more on tap and opens at opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast. All the Doolally outlets are pet friendly.
Doolally Taproom; Bandra: Shop No. 5 & 6, Geleki, ONGC colony, Bandra Reclamation, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050; Andheri: C18-21, Dalia Industrial Estate, Near Fun Republic Mall, Andheri (w), Mumbai 400 053; Kemps Corner: 1st Floor, 135 Kwality House, Kemps Corner Flyover, Mumbai 400 036; Colaba: Ground Floor 1, Plot 75/77, Park House, Nathalal Parikh Marg, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005.

READ KRUTI DALAL’S STORY

“So?” I finally ask him. He’s been sipping on his witbier without breaking the conversation. Surely four sips are enough for my new Belgian friend to proclaim his verdict. Even a whiff should suffice! After spending nine days on the Zanskar dreaming about fresh brews and debating about the best ale-producing countries in the world, we’re finally having some suds. “Oh. It’s very nice,” he says, “but these fries are out of this world! They’re Belgian too actually, you know? Not French.”
That’s the thing with Doolally Taproom. You walk in for the artisanal brews, and chances are you will return for those and more: in my friend’s case the house fries with five accompaniments, including a lip-smacking aioli and mayonnaise made with the deadly bhut jolokia chilly. Chances are you won’t see a single table sans this signature dish on a Saturday night. Techies, corporates, artists, hipsters, and students – you’ll find them all here, nodding away to Bob Marley while dithering between the American Pale Ale and Hefeweizen.
Chances are you will bump into me at one of Doolally’s four outlets over the weekend as well. Doolally is what my home looks like in an alternate universe – a warm, sparse space with French windows, unpretentious white walls, and light wood furniture where you can pet dogs and stack Jenga blocks all evening while sipping crisp apple cider.
Chances are you will sign up as a member, which entitles you to a free size upgrade on every drink and your personalized nametag on the tumbler. Which means it would be a crime to skip that mid-week tipple.
Now that we’re here, one apple cider please.
Feature photo by Suruchi Maira. 
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Discover Topli Paneer, An Elusive Parsi Delicacy

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topli paneer aban pardiwala

DISCOVER TOPLI PANEER, AN ELUSIVE PARSI DELICACY

Topli paneer is a soft cheese that is difficult to make and hence a lesser-known Parsi food item. While it’s not commonly found in restaurants, you can order some from members of the community such as Aban Pardiwala, who make and sell it from their homes.

To order from Aban Pardiwala, you can call her at 93222 77950. Orders are to be collected from her home at Pedder Road.

READ MEHER MIRZA’S STORY

There’s nothing quite like the iceberg-white topli paneer, coiled in its saline bath, to summon memories of my childhood: of large jars of paneer tucked away within the innards of the fridge to evade my ferreting eye; of bowlfuls eaten in my great aunt’s house, after lunch, while the lulling afternoon dozed and yawned around me; of my blythe, beautiful mother, ladling out an early birthday breakfast of warm, sugared ravo and cool, salty paneer, the sun squinting through the open windows.

It is a difficult dish to make, an elusive dish, not usually offered at Parsi restaurants whose menus are built around a greatest hits version of Parsi food.

But Aban Pardiwala makes it. Out of the beatific Ms. Pardiwala’s kitchen come all the Parsi food staples – sali boti, chicken farcha, kid gosh, dhansak pastes. Most significantly (for me) though, the topli paneer.

To understand what topli paneer tastes like, imagine a panacotta, wobbly, creamy, tangy, and streaked with salt. Ms. Pardiwala conjures up delightful vegetarian versions with the aid of her beloved Rosie, sprightly at 79. “It’s very hard to make these,” she says. “It has taken me 10 years to get it right.”

Those 10 years were well spent. I carry home a dozen delicious paneers, sloshing in their eddies of whey. By nightfall, they are over.

Feature photo by Elvis D’Silva

 

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A Parsi Girl’s Guide To Parsi Food In Mumbai

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A PARSI GIRL’S GUIDE TO PARSI FOOD IN MUMBAI

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SURUCHI MAIRA

Some days draw me into the world of restaurants and cafés, tempting my tongue with the intriguing and the unaccustomed. Others though, are meant to be spent in the company of familiar Parsi flavours, a simple dhun dar chawal or a khichdi kheemo, comforting, frugal and unapologetic. This story points to these days. The shops and eateries I mention below are all unshowy and unpretentious, but the food is always compelling. They are my home away from home.

RTI

RTI (Ratan Tata Institute) outlets are sprinkled through the city, but the one I keep returning to is the RTI café cloistered within the gardens of the Parsee General Hospital. This is where friends and relatives of incarcerated patients come to tranquillise the winnowing flail of hunger that assails them at mealtimes. On the menu – hearty Parsi cooking like dhansak and curry chawal. On the shelves – a catalogue of Parsi snacks like bhakra (a sort of tea-time cakelet), chocolate rum balls, chapat (pancakes fattened with a dense coconut stuffing) and cheese straws.

The B.D. Petit Parsee General Hospital, Bomanji Petit Marg, Cumballa Hill, Mumbai 400 036

Paradise

Dhansak is the butter chicken of Parsi food, the dish that inexplicably flies the pennant of Parsi cooking. A delicious dish forsooth but, to my mind, overrated. I choose the sali boti instead – dark, sticky hanks of meat, covered with a pelt of crisp-fried potato sali. But whichever road you choose to walk down, make sure it ends at Paradise. By way of décor, Paradise is restrained, even spartan; its service is desultory, at best. Go anyway. The food has the unmistakeable stamp of good, honest home cooking.

Sind Chambers, Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 022 2283 2874

paradise bombay parsi food

Parsi Dairy Farm

What draws me to PDF’s dazzling blue shop-front is the corpulent canine usually lolling outside. I am lured within by its slabs of malai kulfi. And the mawa ni boi, the fish-shaped sweet shimmering in its silver leaf skin. And tangled pats of snowy sutarfeni. And ghee fashioned from buffalo milk, and white butter. The list goes on…

261-63, Princess Street, Marine Lines Flyover, Marine Lines (e), Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 002. Phone: 022 6775 2222

Meher Cold Drink House

Included for the frivolous reason that its name matches mine. Meher Cold Drink House has settled very comfortably into old age and has dedicated itself to the twin virtues of lassi (sweet and salted and most refreshing) and sweet dahi, set in little tea glasses.

5, Ground Floor, Mackawee Mansion, 7, Rustom Sidhwa Marg, Borabazar Precinct, Ballard Estate, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2266 0444

parsi food bombay meher cold drinks

Ideal Corner

It’s a bit of a thrill to stumble upon this quaint little cafe in the tangled lanes of Fort. Ideal serves the usual suspects of Parsi food, but on Tuesdays they make kharoo gosh, a chunky stew of mutton and potatoes, flanked with rotli. And on Wednesday there is railway mutton.

12/F/G Hornby View, Gunbow Street, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2262 1930

Paris Bakery

Don’t be dissuaded by Paris Bakery’s unassuming exterior. It is here that you will find the simple troika of flour, butter and water transform into the khari biscuit, the Bakery’s finest offering. Light as a cloud, with a sunny-coloured glaze, the khari biscuit is meant to be submerged in hot chai at tea-time. Second best are the stubby little lumps of batasa biscuits, spiked with caraway seeds.

278, Dr Cawasji Hormusji Street, Our Lady Of Dolours Church Lane, Marine Lines, Mumbai 400 002. Phone: 022 2208 6619

parsi food bombay paris bakery

Jimmy Boy

Full disclosure: I’ve eaten here only once, a long while ago, but reliable sources have told me that this is where one goes to get lagan nu bhonu i.e. the much-vaunted wedding spread of pulao-dar, patra-ni-macchi, marghi-na-farcha (fried chicken skirted by lacy batter), saria wafers, achaar and lagan-nu-custard. If I go again though, I’d order the dhun dal and tareli macchi, which is nothing but yellow dal and rice served with fish that has been fried until its skin blisters.

11, Vikas Building, Bank Street, Near Horniman Circle, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2270 0880

Kerawalla

This little store has been sliced into two, one half given over to the sale of sapat (slippers), topis and other Parsi worthies. The other half is devoted to pickles and pastries like the khajoor ni ghori (pastries infiltrated by date and jaggery, then fried until crunch gives way to tender); khaman na ladoo (velvety balls of dough with bellies of sweetened coconut) and patrel (colocasia leaf and gram flour furled together, then fried or roasted).

218, Chandra Mahal, Dr. C.H. Street, Marine Lines, Mumbai 400 002

Parsi Food Trail_007

Royal Sweets

Go to Royal Sweets for its crisp whorls of jalebi. Stay for its malai na khaja, slender panes of pastry stuffed with cream and tinged with nuts. Come home with the fudgy, coconutty kopra pak.

L.T. Market, Opposite Novelty Cinema, Grant Road (e), Mumbai 400 007

PAC

This is one I would have left out since I have already written about PAC for The City Story, but it has crept back into this story, by sole virtue of its chicken pattice: a flaky, crumbly, golden-brown carapace that shields its creamy chicken depths. During the winter, PAC also stocks badam pak (a sort of savoury almond fudge) and vasanu (a spicy-savoury breakfast fudge, rumoured to impart strength on wintry mornings).

292 Shastri Hall, Shop No. 3, Nana Chowk, Tardeo Road, Mumbai 400 007

parsi food bombay pac samosas chicken pattice

Photo by mitrs3 – stock.adobe.com

Dadar Perviz Hall

At Dadar Parsi Youth Assembly’s Snack Centre, the best thing is the chutney egg, a dish of potato and green chutney folded round a boiled egg, and deep-fried to a crisp. Dar ni pori (discs of pastry, plumped with sweetened dal) comes a close second.

803-D, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Road, Parsee Colony, Dadar, Mumbai 400 014. Phone: 022 2412 9437

Bonus: Honourable mentions must be made of Motilal Masalawala and Belgaum Gheewala, purveyors of all Parsi masalas, pickles and other condiments. This is where Parsis go to buy the Parsi dhana jeera, Parsi sambhar masala, dhansak masala, gharab nu achar (pickled fish roe), tarapori patio (Bombay duck pickle) and bafenu (an entire Alphonso mango submerged in a mustardy masala).

Motilal Masalawala, 405 Grant Road, Mumbai 400 007. Phone: 022 2373 4306

Belgaum Gheewala, N. Bharucha Marg, Nana Chowk, Grant Road, Mumbai 400 007

parsi food bombay pickles
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Beyond Visiting Hours At Hospitals In Mumbai

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BEYOND VISITING HOURS AT HOSPITALS IN MUMBAI

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA

Meher Mirza recalls her time spent as a patient and relative at Mumbai’s hospitals.

When people talk about their happy childhoods, they bleat about time spent climbing trees, being cosseted by their grandparents, escapades at school, and such like. Not me. My childhood was pockmarked with countless hospital stays, and that’s what I remember. Not that I didn’t enjoy those stays – I saw life outside the hospital as abrasive, and squalid and it was easy for me to succumb to its dubious charms. Mostly, I was swept into Breach Candy Hospital with a swirl of sirens, a hospital I still feel very fondly about.

Breach Candy Hospital was certainly not the charnel house people seem to conjure up when they think of hospitals. After my first operation (I was maybe six? seven?), I was wheeled into my room and was startled by how posh it all was – no noise, an entire air-conditioned room, a telly all to myself and a splendid view of the sea and Breach Candy Club. The food was sadly indifferent (once, before another operation, I was handed a large slice of boiled, unseasoned pumpkin) but the canteen downstairs made up for it. Most fun was had when doughty relatives visited, duty and virtue shining through their faces; then I would show them my freshly-wrought stabs and stitches and laugh boorishly as they lurched away in disgust. I was a most unpleasant child.

Their rooms overlooked its efflorescent gardens, so beautiful and peaceful that I know healthy people who made walking within a regular evening activity.

Years later, as I grew older and healthier, my mum’s knees gave up the ghost and we had to scurry to the orthopaedist’s office; it turned out that she needed an operation and the best place was Kokilaben Ambani Hospital. Kokilaben Hospital is more mall than hospital – a food court, an upscale “fine-dining” restaurant, a Subway counter, a coffee shop, a bookshop, even a gift shop (yes!). It was said that Bollywood stars languished in their suites upstairs, accessible via a special lift that was not open to hoi polloi. It is that kind of place.

Quite recently, a different sort of shadow fell upon my family. A procession of elderly Parsi relatives started staggering into Parsee General Hospital for assorted illnesses. Their rooms overlooked its efflorescent gardens, so beautiful and peaceful that I know healthy people who made walking within a regular evening activity. Far more affordable than its neighbouring Breach Candy Hospital, Parsee General had another trump up its sleeve – its handsome building houses a tiny RTI on the premises. This is where harried relatives often escape to – the crusty chicken pattice soothes nerves that have been shot to pieces by peevish, elderly relatives.

But this story ends sadly, as befits one about hospitals. Because last of all, there was Jaslok hospital where my delightful granny was admitted after a debilitating stroke. She was not very old but the stroke was severe and we sat around helplessly, watching her life ebb away. Doctors sauntered in and out of the room, sibylline nurses murmured around her bed. My granny seemed suddenly fragile, less vivid, less herself, more frightened. There was no reprieve, we were told; this was the final glide down an icy slope. In the face of so much intractable grief, I don’t really remember much of that hospital. It had all the usual hospital accoutrements – a decent canteen, a frenetic lobby and apparently excellent facilities for foreign tourists (including translators and airport pickups). I remember walking around a lot, trying to distract myself, tire myself out enough to sleep. But no matter where I went, I would find myself encased within the same shell, stewing in my own sad air.

Breach Candy Hospital Trust, 60 A, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai 400 026. Phone: 022 2366 7788

Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, 15, Dr. Deshmukh Marg, Pedder Road, Mumbai 400 026. Phone: 022 2353 3333

The B.D. Petit Parsee General Hospital, Bomanji Petit Marg, Cumballa Hill, Mumbai 400 036. Phone: 022 6118 6118

Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Rao Saheb Achutrao, Patwardhan Marg, Four Bunglows, Andheri (w), Mumbai 400 053. Phone: 022 3099 9999

Feature photo by xy – stock.adobe.com

 
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The Essential Guide To Combating A Hangover In Mumbai

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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO COMBATING A HANGOVER IN MUMBAI

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA

A great night out doesn’t mean you have to suffer the next day. Our guide to surviving an epic hangover has you covered. You’re welcome.

After a sybaritic night on the town, when the dank, fetid winds of hangover start blowing your way, there’s only one thing for it: Food, the cure-all, the do-over, the magic wand. If you have the strength to drag yourself from the rubble of your miserable morning-after, may I point you in the direction of these scrumptious sustaining dishes? There’s a time for fine dining but this isn’t it.

Sharda Bhavan

When you wake up with the taste of last night’s tequila still coating your tongue, there’s really only one thing that can wash it away for me, and that’s sugary, frothy, milky South Indian filter coffee. The rough, sugar hit, the walloping burn; you can be sure that a slug of the potent stuff will slick away any remnants of your hangover. Drink and then down a plate of deep-fried vada, floating in a moat of fiery rasam.

Sharda Bhavan, Lakhamsi Napoo Road, Matunga, Mumbai 400 019

Hotel Noor Mohammadi

Started in 1923 by Abdul Karim, Noor began as an early morning eatery (6 a.m.) catering to the pious Namaz offerer. Noor has a sketch by MF Husain. Noor has a dish named after Sunjay Dutt. But what Noor does best is its nalli nihari – deep, swarthy, velvet-soft thigh meat, ballasted by spice and smothered in a zesty, savoury gravy. Eaten with crisp roti and a fizzy soda, it is a killer cure for a hangover.

Hotel Noor Mohammadi, 181-183, Abdul Hakim Noor Mohammadi Chowk, Bhendi Bazar, Mumbai 400 003

Valibhai Payawala

After a torrid night, it is time for the simple pleasures of life – meat and grease. At Valibhai, the meat is cooked through the day on coal fires, dum style, until it is soft, luscious, unresisting enough to fall off the bone at the slightest nudge and dissolve into the gravy. Order the paya (trotters), the pichota (oxtail), the nalli (thigh / shanks) or the topa (neck); it doesn’t matter which. Scoop it up with the fluffy, charred tandoori rotis. Smile insouciantly. Your hangover has been vanquished.

Valibhai Payawala, 45, Gujjar Street, Bohri Mohalla, Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai 400 003

Sarvi

As a child growing up in a Parsi household, I was regularly fed kidney, brains and trotters. Which is why the bheja masala fry at Sarvi’s is a Proustian memory for me. There is something gloriously warm and emollient about the dish, something that harks back to the happiest, simplest version of myself, a time when I didn’t have to grapple with the world weariness that nips at my heels after a drunken night out.

Sarvi, Dimtikar Road, Nagpada, Byculla (w), Mumbai 400 008

 

Want home delivery options if you just can’t get out of the house and need sustenance brought to you?

RECOMMENDATIONS BY KRUTI DALAL, GENESIA ALVES, JUHI PANDE AND SHIVANI SHAH

If it’s one of those mornings where you need to wrap a pillow around your face and wear your sunglasses over it, then may we suggest you stay home and dial some delicious? Here’s a list of places that will send you exactly the sort of food that you’re craving:

Coma Coma

Burritos, empanadas and tortas with a generous helping of perfect picco de gallo is food heaven for most of us. The 15,000 km gap between Mumbai to Mexico is bridged with ease by Coma Coma.

Order online from Scootsy

Sukh Sagar

There’s nothing better than butter to battle the bitter aftereffect of beer. And no one north of the sea link uses butter better than Sukh Sagar. Crisp pao lathered with liquid gold and a creamy bhaji that could give Sardar hot competition. Fiery onion and tomato masala stuffed inside a moist bun. Golden brown dosas that snap beneath your fingertips like khakras. And then there’s the suspiciously purple, but delightfully tart cocktail juice to wash it all down. Hangover? What hangover?

Sukh Sagar, 11, Subhkammna, Mahavir Nagar, Kandivali (w), Mumbai 400 067

Oye Panjabi Kitchen

Oye Panjabi built its formidable reputation on the highway to Nasik, but you’re too drunk to drive. Stay put and order in. The delivery is efficient. The basics are excellent; maa ki daal, murgh makhani, palak paneer, dum aloo Punjabi. The kebabs seem almost too sophisticated for your average brother-trucker – cleverly seasoned, not too spicy and perfectly cooked. You could pretty much pick anything off the menu and it will be light, wholesome and actually nourishing. Just like mum used to make – without the lecture at the absolute state of you!

Order online from Scootsy or Swiggy

Swati Snacks

If you wake up feeling nauseated at even the thought of food, you need something liquid. If you’re not from the “battle a hangover with more alcohol” school of thought and it feels like good ol’ water may not do the trick, don’t despair – that’s where Swati Snacks and its life-saving coconut punch come in. Hydration: check. Energy: check (we’re pretty certain there’s much sugar in there). Taste: double delicious check (They also have sugarcane juice, limbu pani and sweet lassi if you need options).

Swati Snacks, Karai Estate, Opposite Bhatia Hospital, Tardeo, Mumbai 400 007

 
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A College Student’s Guide To Affordable Meals In Mumbai

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A COLLEGE STUDENT’S GUIDE TO AFFORDABLE MEALS IN MUMBAI

WORDS BY AVANI UDGAONKAR AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SURUCHI MAIRA

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a college student in possession of a small budget must be in want of cheap food.

There’s nothing quite like college life in Mumbai. Life works on fast-forward, zipping through rushed mornings when you’re half dressed and entirely late, not-so-subtle notes passed in class, racing down corridors to meet an extracurricular team before your next lecture, inside jokes, serious debates and a myriad of responsibilities that you’ve expertly procrastinated on – all successfully accomplished before noon. But classroom lectures consist of the least interesting part of your day, for it’s after the bells have rung and/or you’ve ditched your last couple of lectures that the real life of a college student begins, and there’s a lot of food involved.

The J

College Food Guide_002Photo by Stephanie McCabe

When in need of a snack on a lazy day, there’s one great place I turn to. Opposite HR College, tucked away so that you almost miss it, is The J. Popularly known as “J’s fries”, it sells one thing and one thing only: French fries. Gloriously crispy, perfectly cooked fries with a variety of toppings and sauces (dear Lord, the sauces).They’ve tried every combination and put up the best, from Tandoori Chilli Fries to BBQ Chicken Fries. The best? At first, I didn’t believe it and so was told to combine any toppings and sauces I liked, and if I thought my combination was better than theirs, they would add it to the menu. After much experimentation (all of which failed miserably), I admitted defeat and downed my sorrow – quite happily – in the form of Chicken Nacho Fries.

The J, 3, Vaswani Mansions, Dinshaw Vacha Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 2284 4650

Kyani and Co.

College Food Guide_003

When overburdened, when all the work I’ve been procrastinating over comes back to bite me, I go to Kyani and Co., one of the few old Parsi cafés still left standing. Fit into the side of the building, a few steep steps (aided by a dangling rope) lead up to a maze of tables, covered with red chequered tablecloths. I order a chicken-cheese burger and akuri on toast with optional baked beans (always the baked beans). The food there is simple but delicious. I wash everything down with a raspberry soda and one of their chocolatey desserts, conveniently displayed near the entrance. After I spend a few hours engulfed in the old world feel of this shadowy café, chatting with friends over nothing and everything, my impending assignments and projects don’t feel as threatening, reality isn’t quite so dark and I can almost feel my stress melt into air.

Kyani and Co. Ratan Heights, Dr. DB Road, Opposite Navjivan Society, Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 008.

Dosa Guy

The title may be incongruous, but that is what every student of Sophia College calls this much loved dosa seller just down the road from the college’s main gate. Setting up his roadside stall every working morning from June to April, he is as much a part of the college as the bhaiyas in the canteen. He attracts customers from college students, professors and residents alike and is famed for having some of the best dosas in Mumbai. His Mysore Masala dosas with their mysterious chutneys, perfect combination of vegetables and crispy buttery edges are to die for and his Sada Cheese dosas include a whole grated block of unhealthy goodness (hallelujah). After picking my dosa (try the Mysore Masala Uthappa, I dare you), I sit on the pavement going up Vivek Singh lane and make a mockery of every crow that eyes my dosa enviously.

Vivek Singh Lane, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai 400 026.

WTC Pasta

College Food Guide_004

Every evening, as the night creeps in and the commercial areas of the city wind down, one place remains a hive of activity and life. The divider opposite the World Trade Centre at Cuffe Parade turns into pasta central. Stalls under the name “Manoj Pasta” are set up along the road, and steaming pasta dripping in sauce is tossed into the air. With a menu ranging from a simple “white sauce pasta” to the “penne Italian pasta magi with chilees”, the pasta always comes in large quantities, piping hot, covered in enough cheese to block all your arteries, and is unutterably delicious. Sitting under a tree, eating the pasta precariously balanced on my knees and playing music from my phone is the perfect way to unwind at the end of a long day.

Outside World Trade Center, Cuffe Parade, Mumbai 400 005.

Bademiya

College Food Guide_005

As the sun sets and lights begin to turn on to fight off the impending darkness, my friend and I wind our way to the back roads of Colaba. Bademiya, consisting of a stall on the street with a small dining area across the road, is an integral part of the Mumbai experience. While we wait for an order of our favourite kababs (Reshmi Tikka and Mutton Boti), we play with the cat that never wanders far from the stall. As soon as our order is ready, we pack it up, along with a couple of bottles of coke from the shop down the road, and head to Marine Drive. We sit on the sea-face, our backs to the rush of the city, watching the dark waves crash against the rocks and tracing the lights of the distant ships on the horizon as we devour our juicy rolls. It is contentment in its truest form.

Bademiya, Tullock Road, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 039.

Feature Photo By Sachin Gupta (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 
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A Dessert Lover’s Guide To Seven Days Of Sweetness

SPACE EXPERIENCE PEOPLE FOOD + DRINK VIDEO

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A DESSERT LOVER’S GUIDE TO SEVEN DAYS OF SWEETNESS IN MUMBAI

WORDS BY ROSHNI VATNANI

I have long since suspected that a sugar rush is significantly better than an adrenaline rush. Admittedly, this epiphany arrived after zero attempts at an adrenaline rush, so the data is possibly skewed. Still, I have eaten dessert every single day of the week while actively avoiding bungee jumping and skydiving. So here is a handy dandy guide to seven Mumbai days of sweetness and no running with the bulls. Banana Leaf, 7 Bungalows, Andheri West for Post-Lunch Sunday Come here for the dosa, stay for the payasam. Served warm in a tiny silver bowl, accompanied with a side order of filter coffee, the texture is dreamy and a little bit nutty. It may be the best way to contemplate Sunday anxiety and whether people who use cutlery to eat their dosas are the real monsters we should be afraid of. Banana Leaf, Ground Floor, Shubham CHS, Juhu Versova Link Road, 7 Bungalows, Andheri (w), Mumbai 400 057. Phone: 022 2628 9090 Sweetish House Mafia, Bandra for Just Before Midnight on Monday Cookies are really the perfect dessert – their size making it acceptable to eat your way through a box with minimal regret. Sweetish House Mafia’s cookies have simple flavours, crusty edges, soft centres and chocolate chips melting into your hands. They’re not overly buttery and barely hold it together when heated (but then, who does, really?). Buy the cookie slab for when you want to eat like no one is watching. Sweetish House Mafia, 14B, Silver Sands Building, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2498 8740.

We have it often and always during teatime, because calories don’t count during tea.

Sangeeta Sweets Peddar Road for Mid-Day Tuesday Snack Sangeeta’s is an institution. Every time I have driven through town, I have come back with more than a few boxes of peda from Sangeeta’s. Their hue, somewhere between soaked saffron and custard, is impossibly warm, fuzzy and irresistible. We have it often and always during teatime, because calories don’t count during tea. Sangeeta Sweets, Shop 26, Vellard View, Peddar Road, Mumbai 400 026. Muffins at Bombay Baking Co, JW Marriott, Juhu for Hump Day Breakfast Meeting Coffee is the only reason to wake up in the morning, but the muffins at Bombay Baking Co are wonderfully old school and make a nice accompaniment to your java. The ratios are just right – enough cake to conceal the fruit and enough fruit to conceal the nutrition. I mean, what is bran and why would it be in my muffin? I love the golden, gleaming crumb that conceals a plum muffin top. I buy the blueberry muffin and a pot of French Press and wonder how I’d do as Gilmore Girl. Bombay Baking Company, JW Marriot, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai 400 049. Chocolate Praline Cake, Ellipsis Bakery, Bandra for Everything Sucks Thursday Sometimes, the week goes on for too long and my distaste must be met with cake. Depending on the day, my tastes range from anything-will-do to must-have-flavour-and-unicorn-tears. This is somewhere in between. Praline and chocolate is a classic pairing that for a reason was suddenly passé. Now, Ellipsis Bakery is making it cool again and at 10 p.m. on a Thursday night, I am grateful. Ellipsis Bakery, Plot 29, 56 Hill Road, Next to Bank of India, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050.

They’re not overly buttery and barely hold it together when heated (but then, who does, really?)

Raspberry Ripple, The Right Place, Warden Road for Casual Friday The Right Place on Warden Road is normally my go-to for sandwiches, but they also do the best soft serves outside of McDonalds (If you are suddenly questioning my tastes in food, it’s a little too late). Their raspberry ripple is creamy with actual raspberry flavouring! The best part is that the guy behind the counter serves up two generous scoops for the price of one. Right Place, Shop No. 7, Building No. 63, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai 400 026. Phone: 022 2367 0885. Pistachio Opera Cake, La Folie Lab, Bandra for Date Night Saturday Pistachios are exotic to some, but to anyone who grew up with kheer loving family (and therefore has spent many days debating the humble pistachio’s place in kheer), it is anything but. At La Folie Lab, the ingredients are all dressed up – fine layers stacked with surgical precision, fresh raspberry cream in the middle, white chocolate vanilla cream on the top, adequate flavour in every bite. Very thrilling to me. La Folie Lab, Shop No.1, Libra Tower, 70, Hill Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 091679 37019.

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The Secrets Of Saher Agiary

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THE SECRETS OF SAHER AGIARY

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SURUCHI MAIRA

Meher Mirza takes us on a walk around the delightful Saher Agiary.

Mumbai has lost so many of its memories under highways and malls that I am loath to share the few pockets that remain, but I shall gird my loins and do it anyway. There is a little lane that wriggles upwards from Breach Candy, a lane that is eschewed by most people. At its entrance sits a security guard who has the laborious task of directing the one or two cars that flash past. Sometimes, a dog, exhausted from its strenuous daily labours, sits beatifically at his feet. Mostly though, he sits alone.

If your interest in this lane has been piqued, you may wish to climb the gentle slope upwards. There are some splendid trees that hem the road, squatting on their skirts of thick, coiling roots. There is also a well, an old, mouldy, forgotten well that pious Parsi ladies and gents press their foreheads to as a sign of respect to the angel of the waters (almost everyone else weaves past it).

Keep climbing until you reach the steps – you will know them when you see them. They will lead you to the courtyard of the Saher Agiary, a wide, spotlessly clean courtyard that is cupped by tall, shady trees. On cloudless, windless summer days, when the sun feels hot enough to melt a hole in the earth, this courtyard always stays a few degrees cooler than the rest of the city. Every evening, a dog (another one) comes by with his walker, gambolling and prancing. An elderly couple sometimes sits on the wall that girdles the compound. It is a place of peace, quiet enough to pry loose a few stubborn thoughts.

Saher Agiary_002

There is another set of steps that leads to the main structure itself. Built for the vast sum of Rs. 13,000 and consecrated in 1846, the Saher Agiary is a charming low building with a deeply overhung tiled roof. Inside is a floor built of cool stone, scalloped with wear. Wide wooden benches. Slow fans stirring the warm, syrupy air. The gentle, corpulent priest ghosts away as you enter.

Clearly, the Saher Agiary is not the most popular fire temple in Mumbai, but there are two times in the year when it judders to life. One is during the Muktad*, when the fire temple is ablaze with coral-coloured flowers tucked into gleaming silver vases and the sandalwood smoke sits heavy in the air. And then the other, later in the year, when November deepens into winter and the somnolent courtyard lights up with colourful fairy lights and music. It is navjote and wedding season for the Parsis and Iranis.

If you have made it this far into my story, I will tell you another secret. Behind the agiari building, you will find a secret garden of sorts – a brambly, tangled undergrowth where nobody ever goes and you are forced to contend with your own company. All around you are tall, grand buildings, but, just for this moment, it is only you, sitting in a remnant world and learning to read the small print of life.

*Muktad: Zoroastrians believe that the souls of their dead return to earth once a year for 10 days; it is said that the souls bless those who remember and pray for them on these days. It falls just before the Parsi New Year in August.

Saher Agiary, Off Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai 400 036.

 
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