FOOD AND DRINK FOR A MUMBAI SUMMER
Across the city, the rising mercury has people turning to their kitchens to fire up dishes that help combat the high heat and humidity. The focus is on food that is healthy, tasty, and helps cool you down. Mangoes find mention in many recipes, enjoyed both raw and ripe and added to curries or drinks. Some drinks cool down the system and provide comfort on a hot day.
We speak to people from different communities for their favourite seasonal summer treats.
In author Tara Deshpande Tennebaum’s childhood home in Belgaum, kokum sherbet was an important summer tradition. “In Saraswat cooking,” she says, “kokum is used in a lot of dishes – fish curries, amti, solachi kadhi – and it is a staple in the Konkani kitchen.” The kokum sherbet is made by boiling dried kokum with water and adding sugar till the liquid gains a syrupy texture. Powdered cumin and black rock salt can be added for variety.
“My grandmother made bottles of this,” says Tara, “and my sister and I, accompanied by our dog, would hop from house to house in Belgaum gifting them to her friends. In return, they gave us their homemade summer specialities like Coorgi bitter orange (kaipuli) squash, sour mango pickle, or Goan dried seafood pickle.”
Try kokum sherbet: Aaswad, 61, Sadanand, Opp. Amar Hind Mandal, Gokhale Road, Opposite Chandrika Automobiles, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028, or Prakash Shakahari Uphar Kendra, 9/10, Horizon Building, Gokhale Road North, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028
Where to buy kokum: Parlekar Masalas Supermarket, Shop 15/16, Vanmalidas Compound, 53-a, Tejpal Road, Vile Parle (e), Mumbai 400 057 or from Delight Foods.
“This typical Bengali dish is a sweet and tangy thin masoor dal made with green mango,” says home chef Madhumita Pyne. This dal is eaten with rice and fried vegetables like alu bhaja during the summer because it cools down the body.
The dal can be made with yellow split peas too. The key to making it is choosing the right mango – raw, not super sweet, and green in colour. “You want the tanginess of the mango to shine,” says Madhumita, “and it needs to hold its shape after cooking. I’ve always liked the taste of green mango. If there was no tok dal on the table, I would mix green mango chutney with plan dal to get that tangy flavour.”
Where to eat/buy: Bijoli Grill, Hakone Bumpers & Rides, Opp Nirvana Park, Hirandandani Powai, Mumbai 400 076 and Just Bengal, Divyam Heights, Gilbert Hill Road, Gaondevi Dongri, Andheri (w), Mumbai 400 047
The Pathare Prabhu community uses bilimbi (or bilimba) in many dishes including sheer, chutney, jam, or juice. Bilimbi, also called cucumber tree or tree sorrel, is a pickle-shaped fruit known for its astringency and short shelf-life.
“The Pathare Prabhus were early settlers and used to live in bungalows across Bombay,” says Sunetra Sil Vijaykar, a culinary expert who runs a pop-up kitchen called Dine With Vijaykars in Jogeshwari. “They would grow fruit like amla, nimbu, bilimba, mango and make sherbets out of them. In time, these juices became part of the tradition.”
Bilimbi juice is tangy and refreshing. To make the juice, Vijaykar suggests boiling the bilimbi in water with jaggery and a little salt. Transfer this to a mixer and blend until it becomes a pulp; sieve and the concentrate is ready. “It is rare to find a bilimbi tree in Mumbai,” she says, “but for bulk orders, we go to a veggie market on Mira Road.”
Where to buy: Mira Road vegetable market
Where to find bilimbi juice: Dine With Vijaykars pop-up meals at their Jogeshwari home sometimes offer bilimbi sherbet or chutney.
The lunch table at a Sindhi home in summer is usually laden with bhugha chaanwran (rice cooked with caramelised onions), taryal patata (shallow fried potatoes spiced with chilli powder, coriander and turmeric), and mango. In food blogger Alka Keswani’s home, another much-loved summer dish is patri khichdeen (diluted/loose khichdi).
“Sindhi khichdi is simple,” says Alka. “You add green cardamom and black peppercorns to ghee, then soaked rice, salt, turmeric, and water and cook this till soft. It is then mashed with a wooden whisker and consistency is adjusted to semi-solid.”
Khichdi is chosen because it is easy to digest and not heavy on spices. This is eaten with a simple turi (smooth gourd) subzi, karela basar (bitter gourds with onions), singhi tamate mein (drumsticks in tomato gravy), and kaat (salted sundried karela peels that are flash fried).
Kuhireen khichdi is easy to make. Keswani’s blog has more details.
“[Ambe poli] is very popular in my family,” says Nandita Godbole, a cookbook and fiction author from Mumbai now living in Atlanta. “I can trace it back to a mention made by my great-grandfather in his book, about travelling with it from Konkan to Alibaug at the turn of the century. We [the Konkanasth Brahmin community] make a version of it each year.”
Ambe Poli is a sweet and tart sun-dried mango leather made with mango pulp and spices. It is made in the summer to take advantage of the summer heat, since it is dried outdoors or in the sun. Nandita’s family makes it a few different ways – some with a pinch of soonth, others with red chilli powder, one with cardamom, another with kesar and another, more recent version with dried fruits. The ones with added flavours, especially with dried fruits, are more decadent. The kesar one is Nandita’s favourite.
“These are eaten during summer and often just as the monsoons start,” she says, “made using the ripe mangoes. This is the time when body defences are weak. Dried ginger and saffron are warming; a pinch of dried ginger is good for digestion and makes the fruit leather spicy. It is good for an after-meal snack.”
Where to eat/buy: Ladoo Samrat, Shop No.: 1-2, Habib Terrace, Lalbaug, Dr Ambedkar Road, Parel, Mumbai 400 012 or Ramanlal Vithaldas & Co outlets
“My chachi’s summer treat was panna pakodi,” says columnist and curator Anoothi Vishal. “We would eat this with arhar ki dal cooked with raw mango, parwal alu, and aamchur. It was a comforting summer dish.” Panna pakodi is essentially a side dish consisting of moong dal pakodas served in an aam panna (yes, the drink).
“You make the panna the same way as you would otherwise,” she says, “except it isn’t diluted as much, and then add in crispy pakodi. You get a thin soup-like dish, which can be mixed with rice and eaten.”
In Kayasth homes, the aam panna is made by using very raw and tender mangoes and flavoured with cumin, black salt, and mint.
Where to eat: You can dive into aam panna at Revival Restaurant, 39-B, Chowpatty Seaface, Chowpatty, Girgaum, Mumbai 400 007; Punjab Grill outlets, or 29 – Twenty Nine Address: 11, Padma Nagar, Main Link Road, Near Vijaya Bank, Link Road, Malad (w), Mumbai 400 064. It isn’t panna pakodi but a close cousin – and one you won’t regret eating.