Growing up in Bandra, Christmas always felt magical. Not being a Christian did not stop me from getting into that Christmas spirit. Every December as the temperature would drop I would look forward to the quaint little streets of Bandra being lit up with festival lights. The sound of Christmas parties happening all over the area would excite me. Listening to the sound of Carols and church bells made it impossible to stay away from all the celebrations.
It’s the food that is available in the area during Christmas that I most look forward to. The Goans and East Indian communities in Bandra have made food the star of the holiday season. A week before Christmas the aunties in the area, put out stalls selling an array of sweet meats. From Guava cheese to marzipansweets shaped in the most creative ways, they satisfy every sweet craving.
Wanting to know more about the food, the process and style of preparation, I visited the home of an East Indian family that are bandraites. The second I entered an aroma of spices hit my senses. Odette DaSilva had just prepared her famous duck Moile. Duck Moile is an East Indian specialty that most east Indians make during the holiday season and especially during the day of Christmas. Made with the special bottle masala, she refuses to share the recipe as it is a family secret. The ducks are raised on her family’s farm in Palghar. Another Christmas classic, is Sorpetel. A Goan favorite, this dish is a complete crowd pleaser.
Apart from these delicious recipes, each family depending on whether they are East Indian, Anglo Indian or Catholic have a classic meat recipe that is the main feature of a Christmas day spread. From the juicy lamb curries to perfectly cooked ham, every dish has a unique preparation. But I must admit I am partial to the roast chicken which has the crispiest buttery crust and the most succulent flesh inside. This balance of soft and crispy is what I prefer over a slow cooked lamb.
Now, I am not a fan of sweet. But the sheer range and variety of sweets available during Christmas makes a person like me, have a sweet tooth.
A few Indian classics are Kulkuls and Neureos. These are similar in taste and texture to shakarpalis and karanjis (respectively), which are staple during any Indian festival. My favorite however are the Rose Cookiesor kokkisans they are known in Mangalore.
I tasted these cookies for the first time when I visited Dsouza family that live in Bandra. A family of 6 they each have a Christmas food recipe that they make right before the holidays. But making the Rose cookies requires more than one person. The preparation requires a specific mastery, as the runny rice batter is dipped into hot oil using a cast iron mold. But the result is absolutely beautiful. These cookies look as pretty as the Christmas ornaments on the trees.
Another family favorite are the rum balls that Melissa makes. She soaks the ingredients in rum for over 2 months. The rums balls are absolutely delicious but potent enough to intoxicate.
No Christmas is complete without the mention of the Christmas cake. Even the simplest plum cakegets a makeover during Christmas. Filled with candied sugary treats and dry fruits and nuts the plum cake is packed with sweet goodness.
I have been fortunate to have had access to these homemade treats. And if you want to get your hands on the above mentioned sweets, you must visit any local Bandra Bakery.
The Streets leading to the Mount Mary Church have stalls of food items right before the season.
The Rum balls are available at any confectionary store in Bandra or you can try making them at home. They are really easy to make. Here is a link to the recipe.
The Annual Pre-Christmas Bandra Market Sale also has some really good rum and snow balls (similar to rum balls but coated with sugar and coconut shavings). This Flea market- like gathering is a good place to try out some new food and pack home some amazing treats.
Another highlight in the area is the Ranwar Festival. Every year a week before Christmas the residents of Ranwar put together a small fair. There are cupcakes and cookies and some local delicacies along with music and dance.
If you are in Bandra during Christmas, do walk around the neighborhood. Soak in the festivities and displays the lanes have to offer. If not for the beautiful sights the dolled-up streets have to offer, come for the ambiance and stay for sweets.