Fish being fried at the Mahalaxmi Saras Mela. Photo: Facebook
January seems to be the season for food festivals in Mumbai, and one of the grandest of them is on at Bandra Reclamation in the grounds opposite Lilavati hospital – the Mahalaxmi Saras Mela. On for approximately 10 days every January, this exhibition showcases the foods and cuisines of Maharashtra along with a smattering of stalls from across the country. The Mela starts at around 11 am daily and if you have the day free today, or even a few hours to spare, go see it! Make sure you take a shopping bag and a decent amount of cash with you. There’s a huge food court serving delicacies from all over Maharashtra, so carry containers if you want to parcel food to enjoy later at home.
I visited the Mela thrice this year and saw new things on every visit. As you enter the marquee and stroll through the lanes of stalls, you will see a veritable smorgasbord of produce, spice mixes and other food items on sale alongside vendors selling fabric, garments, handicrafts, décor items, kitchen utensils, jewellery, and lots more.
My top pick at the exhibition are the stalls selling traditional spice blends from across the state – kaala masala, laaltikhat, goda masala, Malvani masala and more, varieties of chutneys and thechas, pickles, and papads and kurdai, puffed grains, chiwdas, chaklis, laddus and other snacks. There are numerous stalls selling varieties of organic rice, hand-milled rice, and regular milled rice including the fragrant Indrayani,Ambe Mohor, Chainur and other local varieties. You can also buy other grains like nachni and bajra, pulses like masoor, whole moong, rajma daal (split rajma), jaggery, fresh kokum, fresh tamarind, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, dried fish, and a whole lot of other interesting local ingredients.
Don't miss the Nagpuri ‘mande’ and Saoji mutton. Photos: Rhea Dalal
Some vendors also offer fresh vegetables like baby brinjals (used in vangyachi bharit), tender methi greens, baby potatoes, and even kohlrabi. Look out for the Nagaland stall that has wooden mortar and pestles, and beautiful spatulas, spoons, etc.; buy teppal and Goan chillies from the Goa stall; also pick up cast iron cooking vessels, earthen cooking pots, roti tavas, ceramic jars, and other such traditional paraphernalia.
Trot across to the massive food court and browse the stalls. From huge surmai steaks to crisp fried prawns, spicy rustic mutton and chicken ‘fry’ to sophisticated pandhra and tambda rassa,jhunka-bhakri, misal,sol kadhi, puranpoli, modak, you will find limitless choices. Don’t miss the ladies making Nagpuri ‘mande’ cooked on top of a hot upturned earthen pot served with Saoji mutton – this is one thing you should not miss!
The Mahalaxmi Saras Mela is on till January 28, Thursday upto 10 pm.