Spicy Juicy Balls

about MJ Chowk, Khar West, Mumbai 1 comment:

Is the panipuri getting better in Mumbai, or have I just lived here too long?

Photo May 22, 2 18 15 PM

This Sunday’s random cycling took me to to the sylvan surroundings of Khar Station West where, right across the road from the station, a largish cart piled high with sev and other sundries caught my attention. Hungry and hot, I stopped by the bhel stall, met Rakesh from UP and had a round of pani puri

And then I had another round.

After a third flaming spicy round signalled the end of my endurance, I finally looked up teary eyed – not from the spice, but from the incredible good fortune to have discovered golgappa in this sea of panipuri they call Mumbai. Delhi-style puris (large wheat ones, not the small suji ones) and – wonder of wonders – spice tamarind water.

Now any purist knows that the reason Mumbai suffers in the panipuri scale is that coriander and mango makes for insipid, tasteless water. Tamarind, with its ability to grab the spices, attack the palate, steam vengeance out of the nostril is what makes panipuri worth having. And here Rakesh was, serving this holy grail of holy waters. It was still green in colour (lets not get too far ahead here and award the world’s best or any such thing yet) but it was nevertheless distinctly tangy and tamarind. Rakesh is also infected by that other Mumbai ill – filling the puri up with ragda – but he does have boiled potato on hand if you want it.

Puchka is still some distance away, but let us celebrate the first small step for pani puri. Rakesh has an indentical-looking neighbour – maybe I’ll try him next Sunday and see if he’s any good.

Aamchi Donut


Mango mania is in Mumbai in many forms, but one of the more unusual ones came from Mad Over Donuts – a savoury donut called Mango Mazaa, that’s one of the seven mango-themed donuts on offer in their (what else) mango special.

Though I’ve never written about it, I think very highly of MOD. Its India’s first donut chain, and the donuts are some of the softest I have ever encountered, the fillings incredibly sinful and no shortage of choice. I really think they’re some of the best donuts in the world; much better certainly than Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts and easily comparable to the best anywhere in America’s donut heartlands (though MOD does lack the classic cake donut). Filled, unfilled, topped, sugared, and MOD does some of the best chocolate I have seen smeared on a donut.

Photo May 22, 1 23 10 PM

But back to the aam. MOD does a small line of savoury donuts also – and I had just walked in feeling all savoury when Mango Mazaa caught my attention. Five minutes later, I was in love – a soft donut sprinkled with a little cheese and with some oooooh mango pickle made into a creamy paste in the middle – its making me shiver in my shoes all over again.

There are MODs all over the city (especially the malls). Two in Bandra – the food cluster at Carter Road and just of Linking Road. Go and try it. The mango & white chocolate donut is no slouch either. Leave the Bavarian chocolate for next time.

Band Baaja Baraat

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I went to a wedding recently that did not serve khao suey.

Wedding catering in Mumbai tends (unless you’ve lucked out with Parsi connections) to be vegetarian. Worse still, the current trend is live counters serving all kinds of “international” flavours (they all taste as authentic as my maid’s ‘Guccie’ watch). Two perfectly respectable Maharashtrians or Gujaratis or Punjabis trying to live happily ever after insist on plying you with paneer in scehzwan sauce or pasta in amul cheese sauce or - with dreadful inevitability - khao suey.

However, as I said before, I recently went to a wedding that managed to survive a complete absence of khao suey. More remarkably, it served with few exceptions traditional marathi food – still vegetarian but quite nice, and distinctly local. A small menu with dishes like valachi usal and palakachi patal bhaji were accompanied by some inspired amras. Even the pickles tray was interesting  - Ambyache lonche, mango and gur pickle, an unusual dal chutney and a very nice peanut chutney with toothsome coconut shavings.

Most communities tend to be quite traditional about their wedding feasts (certainly the average Bengali aunty will break out in shocked tones of agitated gossip if sorshe mach or kosha mangsho is not visible). However, Mumbai weddings tend to veer quite strongly to the confused, inflicting every vegetable between Punjab and Lebanon on all and sundry. It was nice to see someone sticking closer to tradition.


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