One hardly ever comes across anything worth talking about that has not already been talked about. Mumbai's bloggers are quite an active lot, usually out-writing me with ease. It was with some satisfaction, therefore, that I discovered hidden gold in the heart of Girgaum.
Of course, being entirely undiscovered was too much to ask. A MumbaiBoss column by Roshni Bajaj Singhvi first made me aware of Golden, but what really intrigued me was that no one else seemed to have even so much as mentioned it anywhere else. Stalwarts like Zomato and Burrp were silent, and every other mention on the great big cloud were rehashings of the same aforementioned column. All other search results spent their time insisting that Sharma Bhelpuri or some such other was better. This Golden, it seemed, was hidden even from Google.
Back on my bicycle last week, I headed straight to Girgaum. The directions in the article were a bit sketchy so a bit of asking around led me to Sicka Nagar (yes, that is indeed the name), a red art-deco landmark that must at some point have been quite a talking point. Enquiries (as Wodehouse might have put it) yielded more than I hoped – two golden bhel sellers (apparently a spinoff from the original was operating in the area too). Spinoff turned out to be steps away, and he did indeed have golden bhel – a thick yellow mustardy sauce coupled with flattened (rather than the usual puffed) rice. It was unusual and blazingly spicy but disappointingly pedestrian.
I nearly wrote off the adventure at this stage. You can’t make a tale out of pedestrian, even if it is hidden away from google’s eyes but fortified by a nice-ish roadside kesar milk, enthusiasm renewed, I set off again - in search, this time, of only the original. Roshni Bajaj Singhvi had warned me that the original managed to survive over seventy years – surely something more than pedestrian must be going on.
Vegetable guy told me that GBH was inside the gates of Sicka Nagar, but all I could see inside was an elaborately decorated building that turned out to be Modern School. After a few minutes of architectural admiration, I refocused my energies and found a kindly security guard to lead me to GBH – and discovered why it was so hard to find. It is, quite literally, tucked inside the awning behind the Sicka Nagar gate – there’s no way to come by it unless you know where to go. I approached a rather unrushed (and empty stall) run by a boy more interested in a DVD player than pushing any bhel my way; the ‘golden’ liquid in plain sight looking far more watery than spinoff’s version did. This looked a very unlikely bearer of any kind of bloggable legacy but at least it was cheap and hard to find so I ordered.
And the verdict – GBH is much better than spinoff. It is distinctive, flavourful and quite interesting indeed. The crispy flattened rice makes for a nice change from regular puffedrice bhel, and the chutney is quite different from the sweetish tomato punch of normal bhel. Spicy, complex, unusually textured – its certainly worth a 73-year legacy.