Discover India In 2016
My stay in Mumbai has introduced a lot of variety to my gourmet life. Take last Sunday for instance.
I went to Aaswad at Shivaji Park for breakfast where I enjoyed a Maharashtrian vegetarian repast of missal, thali peeth, pohe and puri bhaji. Later for lunch, I had a Parsi masala ni daar (the dhansak dal without meat) and dhansak rice with mutton cocktail kebabs. Finally, my dinner was pork vindaloo sent by my East Indian friend, June. She uses bottle masala like all East Indians do, and buys her stock from a shop called Joseph in Bandra.
This is what I love about my life in Mumbai. The diversity it has brought to my palette is a far cry from my growing up days in Kolkata where I had the same machher jhol-bhaat every day. There is a lot of diversity in Indian food, and I am sure that most of us have explored barely a fraction of it.
2016 would be a good year to make a resolution, to try and explore the array of Indian food that exists. I know that there is a lot of excitement with ‘modern Indian food’ these days. It is important for a cuisine to evolve with time after all. However, do make an effort to explore the myriad existing schools of Indian food as centuries of cooking have gone into perfecting these. There is a lot of magic in them as they have stood the test of time, and that's what makes regional Indian food worth exploring.
When I was in school in Kolkata, I had the fortune of having classmates from other communities. To name a few, Gujarati, Sindhi, Malayali, Maharashtrian, north Indian Muslims and Chinese who settled in the city several years ago. I would often raid their lunch boxes or get myself invited to their houses to try out their food. Perhaps you could also look for acquaintances from other communities and try out their meals. In my experience, people love it when you show interest in what they eat and would be happy to cook for you.
Or simply visit the old parts of your city and scout for restaurants where you can get regional Indian food. In Mumbai, places like Fort, Colaba, Churchgate, Grant Road, Dadar, Girgaum, Mazgaon and Bhendi Bazar offer a lot of diversity. Some of the most iconic restaurants are Ideal Corner, Jimmy Boy or Military Corner for Parsi, Apoorva or Modern Lunch Home for Mangalorean, Ideal Corner or Merwan for Irani cafes, Aaswad, Prakash or Vinay Health Home for vegetarian Maharashtrian, Deluxe for Malayali, Martin or Snow Flake for Goan, and Olympia or Noor Mohammadi for Muslim Mughlai food.
I am sure there are other cities that offer such options too. For example, Kolkata offers Tibetan food in Bhowanipore, and traditional South Indian in places like Komala Vilas. Delhi has its regional food stalls at Dilli Haat, state Bhavans and their canteens, while Bangalore has quite a few options in Koramangala.
However, if you prefer restaurants that are air-conditioned, modern and spacious, serve cocktails and have valet parking, then you can try places like Farzi Café, Social, The Bombay Canteen and SodaBottleOpenerWala as they offer regional Indian food in a more contemporary setting.
And, if you don’t have friends from other communities (I strongly recommend you make some) or access to restaurants serving regional food, then perhaps you can check out the array of regional Indian food recipes on India Food Network and cook some at home.
Here’s wishing you a great 2016 and looking forward to your support through the year.
Kalyan is a Mumbai-based food blogger and columnist who loves to travel in search of local tastes. He is at his happiest when eating at small, family-run places. His blog Finely Chopped won the Best Food Blog Award in 2013 and 2014 at the Food Bloggers Association of India awards. He is the lead critic for Mumbai at EazyDiner and is a columnist for Femina. He is also the Chief Chowzter for Mumbai, and conducts food walks in the city.
Follow Kalyan on Twitter @finelychopped