Classic pani puri!
Close your ears and pop your shells! Put a desert spoons worth of spiced vatana and mashed potatoes, top it with chutneys, fresh herbs and red onions, then with sev and fried mong dal! Eat it — man, oh man, what a delight!
I mentioned I was doing a catering gig for Christmas. This is the opening course. Ragda patties with raita, green chutney, and persimmon and pomegranate chutney..
The patties were made with potatoes, homemade paneer and spices (Kashmiri chili powder, whole cumin, fresh herbs, and others). My raita had pickled red onions, cucumbers and lemon zest. The green chutney was mainly Indian green chilies, cilantro, and lime juice. The persimmon chutney had persimmons, pomegranates, and lime juice!
The first thing I ate in Mumbai was a vada pav, and it shall be the last thing I eat until I return! Packed with flavor, puffy and slightly crispy on the outside… Doused with chutneys and stuffed into a soft bun. Oh, vada pav, my favorite Indian street food. You will be missed…
I’ve negotiated a stop at the Juhu Beach chaat stands before heading to the airport tomorrow night!
Photo near Crawford Market, Mumbai
Tawa pulao — Indian vegetable fried rice. That cast iron griddle is a tawa. Tawa pulao is not very common in Mumbai but it’s fun to indulge when you do run into it. This is essentially a stir fried rice. Pulaos come from the Middle East… and they go right in your tummy!
Near Crawford Market, Mumbai, India
That’s how masala dosa is made. You spread a thin layer of the urad dal / rice batter. You top it with some seasoning. Then comes the masala with potatoes, herbs and spices. It is topped with raw cabbage for extra texture. And in two-three minutes it is folded into crispy perfection.
Near Crawford Market, Mumbai
Olympia is an iconic joint for Mumbaikar. At breakfast they serve the famous keema, a minced mutton fry with vatana or green peas and masala that is spiked with green chilis and whole spices. It’s served with white bread usually.
I like mine on a two egg omellete with chapati. It was my favorite breakfast during my tandoor days in Mumbai. Also, if you get lucky, you’ll coincide with buffalo milk chai. They don’t have this all the time but when they do, it’s a delight.
Olympia, Colaba, Mumbai
Rumali roti papad masala — what a fun appetizer to eat! About 30 cm in diamater, this roti was rolled, stretched over someones skilled forarms, and toasted on slow heat over the inverted rumali griddle.
We had this at Zaffran in Mumbai — this is a chain with about a dozen locations in India. Most good restaurants become chains here apparently.
We had prawns marinated with saffron — I thought the prawns were good but the marinate was too overpowering for the saffron to come forward. The main dish was excellent though — it was two deep gravies separated by two layers of eggwhite “crepe” sandwiching chicken pieces. The bottom gravy was a deep red tomato gravy and the gravy on top was a sweet cashew onion gravy. The dish was luscious and rich — a good preparation for the long overnight train ride.
There wasn’t much textural contrast in the dish — it was smooth and comforting. With the kick of the tomato gravy rounded by the sweetness of the onion gravy.
In India, there are large slicing knives and small slicing knives. That was probably the biggest challenge for me in the banquet kitchen where I worked. I took these photos in Daghravi, where about a third of Shantaram plays out.
Here is the knife set / tool kit to be used during my tenure at the Culinary Institute of America:
- 6” Boning Knife
- 9” Serrated Bread Knife
- 8” Chef’s Knife
- 7” Flexible Fillet Knife
- 3 1/2” Paring Knife
- 10” Slicing Knife
- Sharpening Steel
- 4” Off Set Metal Spatula
- 12” Balloon Whisk
- Kitchen Shears
- Waiters’ Corkscrew
- Melon Baller
- Measuring Spoon Set
- Large Head Spatula
- 14” Wood Spoon
- 12” Tongs
- BiMetal Instant Read Thermometer
- 10” Straight Spatula
Warming up for my trip to South India! Dal vadas in Daghravi, Mumbai.
In this vada lentil replaces the ubiquitous potato vadas.
These are balls of lentil dough stuffed with onions, green chilis, mustard seeds, and curry leaves — and deep fried! They’re served with a mildly acidic coconut chutney. Like in most chaat (savory street food), the textural contrast grabs the attention right away. Fluffy and soft inside vs. the crunch of the shell.
Crisp and crispy, almost floral! These pears are less grainy than most pears I’ve had. It has glossy skin and a tiny seed in the center. The freshness very similar to that of an Asian pear that is ubiquitous in the American market. They are just referred to as pears. Does anyone recognize this varietal?
Yea, my hand looks weird in the photo but these sapote / chiko are delicious. The texture is similar to that off a ripe pear with some custardy feel similar to that of the tropical cherimoya or the custard apple. The taste is familiarly tropical (banana, pineapple, mango) but with a forward maltiness.
Crawford Market, Mumbai, MH, India
Tastings in Kolhapur, MH, India! What a great, small city. The ease with which you can navigate the city is refreshing after Mumbai! Hah!
I survived without my knife. And it was ok. It’s quite fine actually. But I know that I will not travel without it again.
When crossing the Canadian border to go to my highschool friend’s wedding, I went through thorough questioning regarding the purpose of my visit because I had my knife bag in the trunk of the car. Then about six months later on my way to India, at the last minute I left my knives out.
I’ve been cooking in a large Indian kitchen in Mumbai serving both banquets and a la carte. The kitchen serves four restaurants inside a hotel and is subdivided into five distinct kitchens: Tandoor, South Indian, Indian and Desserts, Oriental, and Continental. I started in tandoor and worked there for ten days until I burned most of the hair on my forearm. No significant burns so far unfortunately — it would have been nice to have some battle scars from the tandoor.
Yes, there is only one type of knife in the kitchen and that is an 8 inch slicing knife that is made of aluminum aluminum alloy — they’re sold on the street by street vendors. It is horrendously imprecise to chop anything with and is extremely dull. We sharpen the knives on the back of each other. Yup.
Otherwise, the kitchen is a lot more western than I anticipated. Stainless steel counters, gas burners, griddles, easy to clean flooring, coolers, walkins, etc. The division of labor is pretty hierarchical. The chef in each kitchen rarerly cooks but oversees the operation. Perhaps the most outlandish thing is that we throw garlic in oil before onions to lend most of the dishes a predominant burnt garlic taste.
My relatively western palate is looking for harmony and balance in food in general, though based on the way flavors are built in my kitchen here in Mumbai, Indian food is a crescendo of flavors, each and every ingredient competing strongly for predominance on your tongue. And they all come out — you can taste a lot of the individual flavor components and you don’t have to focus to find them. They’re usually screaming in your mouth, which is an excellent sensation.
But yes, after honing my knife skills very effectively in the last year, I have been very much humbled here. What I can do with a paring knife, a slicing knife and my 8 inch chef’s knife, the staff here attempts with dull slicing knife. The thing I do most effetively is throw it with frustration. Yes — that happened a handful of times and we all laugh each time. Everyone else does it too!
Despite the knife issue, my three hour daily commute and the scarcity of soap in the kitchen, I cannot wait to go back to the kitchen each and every day. I learned to work with techniques, tools and ingredients that I didn’t know existed. What a blast!
I finally started cooking in a restaurant again! It feels like home. I made naans and seekh kebabs in a tandoori oven. You get in and you get out. And no matter how fast you are, you will lose all your arm hair. Yummy!
Chapati made fresh in Mumbai, India