Upside Down

about Bhuleshwar, Mumbai

Mumbai is full of ghasphoos, especially the kind espoused by our northern neighbour. Even in this sea of veggie wonders, however, some dishes stand out and one of them is the near–mythical undhiyu.

Undhiu

I say near-mythical with reason; there are so many stories around its origins, ingredients and preparation, starting with the name itself – upside down. Apparently the authentic version is prepared on the farms of Surat by burying pots of exotic winter vegetables underground, and then lighting fires above it. Moonlight and morning dew are also rumoured to be involved. Here’s a short list of the ingredients that really go into the dish:

  • Surti papdi (a kind of flat winter bean)
  • Ariya kakdi (a kind of zucchini)
  • Old potatoes
  • Ravaya (small purple brinjal)
  • Kand (purple yam)
  • Sakhariya (sweet potatoes)
  • Unpeeled ripe Rajagiri bananas
  • Methi muthia (fenugreek leaf and besan dumplings)
  • Lilva (green tuvar dal)
  • Green garlic (garlic chives)
  • Lots of oil

Undhiyu is not hard to get in Mumbai (every wedding seems to have it); most of it isn’t very good. The very characteristic taste of undhiyu comes from three things – the green spice mixture , the vegetables in the dish and the slow, slow method of braising in oil. The green spice mixture is easily replicated but the ingredients are much harder to acquire – most grow only in winter and only around Surat. Finally, there’s no way an average restaurant is burying anything underground for hours. What comes to the plate is usually undhiyu-flavoured mix-veg.

Consensus put an obscure 75-yr old shop in CP Tank as the top undhiyu in the city, and for a long time I was unable to get my hands on a sample and decide for myself. This place does not make very much undhiyu daily so it runs out fast; my last four visits had ended in disappointment. This Sunday’s cycle ride, I had already loaded up on a small plate of disappointing undhiyu in the much more prominently advertised Surti Restaurant (where Chinese, Punjabi and Tandoori are also on the menu). Right around the corner was Hiralal Kashidas, and Mr. Shah at the counter finally said yes to my entreaties this time. And so I walked into the dimly lit interior and questionably hygenic interior (this place is no Oberoi) full of mythical expectations.

The Sign

I’m not going to fill this with verbiage – the undhiyu is outstanding. Having never been to Surat, I have no idea about any authenticity claims but this is easily the most droolworthy undhiyu I have ever had, and one of the best dishes of any kind anywhere. There’s a reason why the dish is famous, and why those exact ingredients matter – they combine to provide a taste and texture sensation that is – well – sensational. Squishy brinjals, chewy muthias, yielding bites of kand, starchy old potatoes, the grainy feel of the beans and lilva, its a wonderful explosion of tastes and textures when perfectly done.

Microwaveable Photo Feb 28, 9 55 44 AM

As it turns out, there’s more where the undhiyu came from. Hiralal Kashidas is also makes some fantastic snack foods – including an unusual batatawada (tiny, soft-centred potato balls), some very nice patti samosas, methi bhajiya, kand bhajiya and lots of other stuff. Then there was something I’d never seen before - the very tasty lilva ghugda. Ghugda’s are usually sweet, but this one’s stuffed to great effect with a spicy-sweet lilva (green tuvar dal) filling.

Batata Vada Methi Bhajiya Patti Samosa

Hiralal Kashidas is a real find. It helps that it is also hard to find (you could follow the map) but the final test isn’t about 1936 pedigree or a lack of hygiene that always seems to accompany the best street food. What really matters is - the stuff that Hiralal feeds you (in conveniently microwaveable containers) is great food – some of the best in the city.

8 comments:

  1. Hey the undhiyu looks very tempting.... You have a great blog. Keep the creative juices flowing :)

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi.. we read the review on HKB & we are grateful for the great review you've given us.. we would love to invite over to have the pav bhaji. & we assure you.. that you would love that as much as you loved the undhiyu.

    THanks & Regards
    Gaurang Shah
    Hiralal Kashidas BHajiawala
    contact: 91 9821191477

    ReplyDelete
  4. those lilva na ghughra ... or a s the plebians call them 'ghungroo' are absolutely outstanding.
    most people make them year round with peas!! but the original ones have lilva-green tuvar beans and HK makes them absolutely authentically!!
    I have been using farsan products of theirs for the last 20 yrs and can vouch for the taste and consistency as well as the largeheartedness of the owners.
    Real Undhuiyu is not for the 'health concious' as one of the critical ingerdients is sesame(til) oil which traditionally should be all over the dish, the vessel and your fingers!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. HKB Undhiyu has been famous for decades. About 2 years ago Janmabhumi had taken a poll of the best Undhiyu in Mumbai and as expected HKB came out ahead by a huge margin as expected.

    Wish it was exported to USA - huge market!

    Jay Shah

    ReplyDelete
  6. Does HKB deliver undhiyus home???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes we do home deliveries upto Dadar but at a nominal charge

      Delete

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