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Sample what’s on their plate


The expression “to break bread” encapsulates a sense of brotherhood. Anyone who has ever shared a table with strangers will tell you that sharing a meal with someone is the most effective way to bring down barriers.

As it happens, Mumbai’s culinary landscape is a true celebration of the city’s diversity. But many argue that a community’s culinary secrets are barely refl ected in restaurant menus. And with recipes being tweaked to please a universal palate, the term ‘authentic’ becomes a subjective one. Chefs pick restaurants that do their favourite dishes justice, while nearly replicating their homecooked goodness.



Location: Kalina, Price: Rs 100

When Arab traders landed in the southern coast of India in the 7th century, their cuisine came to be infl uenced by the regional staple. North Kerala’s Moplah food was, similarly, infl uenced by the food habits of Arab traders who, centuries ago, visited the Malabar region in search of spices. The cuisine of the region was also infl uenced by the food preferences of other trading groups such as the Portuguese and the Dutch, who arrived later.

Age-old recipes, handed down from one generation to the next, were so treasured that each tharavad (ancestral family) was known for a particular dish they had mastered over decades. The biryani uses mild malabar spices and kaima, a fragrant rice that grows in the region, distinguished by its small grains. The masala is lighter as it is devoid of chili powder, and the rice acquires its tint from the ground spices, green chillies, coriander leaves and mint leaves.

“Unlike most other biryanis, Malabar biryani is light on the stomach as it is prepared with less oil and spices,” says Sandeep Sreedharan of Curry Tales who fondly remembers his family cook Mammooty rustling up the dish that still holds a place of prominence in weddings. “This is the star dish served at all weddings. Now, there are only a couple of caterers who get this right. The dish is very popular, not just in the region but all around Kerala. The biryani at Theeram is closest to the one that you’d find at a wedding buffet,” adds Sreedharan, also recommending the Varatharacha Chicken Curry at the same restaurant.



Location: Prabhadevi, Price: as per the catch

One thing that sets this malvani joint apart from others in the city is its owner, Sureka Walke’s belief that the fi sh loses its character when it is deep-fried. Walke started Chaitanya in Malvan, a small coastal tourist town in Maharashtra, encouraged by her husband Nitin, who offered to act as waiter at the establishment. The success of her soul cooking inspired her to subsequently set up shop in Dadar and Thane. “The fi sh comes from Malvan. It’s super fresh, and all their food offers a genuine taste of home,” says food writer Smita Hegde Deo.

“The coconut, the garam masalas and tirphal (teppal), a cousin of the Sichuan pepper also comes directly from her home in Malvan,” Deo adds, stressing that, in her view, Chaitanya scores over all the other establishments that serve the same cuisine. The eatery’s hottest sellers are the Taleli Kalva — oysters fried to a perfect crisp, Mandeli Fish Curry and Bangda Tikhale, as well as vegetarian dishes such as Kala Katana Usal (black pea curry) and Batatyache Kappa (fried potatoes). “The trick to make your malvani food taste as authentic as theirs,” says Deo, “is to prepare spices such as the malvani garam masala just before cooking — this retains their freshness.”



Location: Khar West, Price: Rs 360

Every chef has his or her own version of butter chicken, and a favourite one too. While some prefer to add a pinch of kasuri methi to the recipe, others improvise with a tomato-cashew paste, a far cry from the original butter chicken by Kundan Lal Gujral, who, it’s widely acknowledged created this dish in the 1940s. Gujral wanted to put his leftover chicken kebabs to good use and came up with gravy of butter, cream and tomatoes.

Today, the humble dish has evolved, and every city restaurant interprets it differently in order to appeal to their customers’ palate, and in the hope of outdoing all other versions of Butter Chicken available. Chef Saransh Goila, who also has his own take on the recipe, remembers gorging on it regularly in New Delhi, when he was a child. “What sets the one at Sheetal Bukhara apart is that the food tastes very similar to what I have grown up on in Delhi. Unlike most restaurants, the butter chicken here is not really sweet but has a slightly spicy tang to its gravy,” says Goila who has been a regular at the place for the last fi ve years.

The dish’s adaptability, he however concedes, is also what makes it such a hit. “Every person who makes butter chicken adds his or her own twist to it. When I prepare the recipe, for example, not only do I smoke the meat, I also smoke the gravy in order to ensure the fl avours of the pre-cooked kasuri methi and the freshly crushed kashmiri chilli powder blend well together,” he says.



Location: Chowpatty, Price: Rs 270

The great thing about Gujarati food is that it uplifts the humblest of vegetables, and results in a delicate interplay of tastes and fl avours. Food writer Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal remembers looking forward to dining on Turiya Patra Nu Shaak as a girl. This is a fragrant dish where ridge gourd is cooked with patra and green peas into a stew-like preparation.

“I remember our maharaj making it and I can still smell the freshly-made Turiya Patra Nu Shaak which was a must at special occasions. Sadly, it is one of those dishes which don’t feature on menus regularly due to the tedious preparation process it involves,” says Munshaw Ghildiyal who was delighted to discover the dish on the menu at Soam, a restaurant well-known for its authentic Gujarati fare.

The recipe here is both, spicy and savoury and has just a subtle hint of sweetness. “Since the cooking process is slightly long — you have to make the patras fi rst, then cook them, and then combine it with the vegetables — I prefer getting my fi x at the restaurant, which is doing a great job of keeping the food traditions alive. Apart from this delicacy, the Srikhandpuri and Mohaanthaal here are among the best I’ve ever tasted,” she says.

Source: Mumbai Mirror

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