Living in and out of reality as I chase my dreams sky high.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Bohri Mohalla: Experiencing culture through food!

Ramadan is a time for cleanse where we Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, without eating or drinking. The idea is not only to fast from food but also evil doings, and thoughts. Its a true cleanse of the mind, body and soul. During this time in Mumbai there are plenty of night markets set up in the mainly Muslim populated areas, selling everything from food, to bangles to clothes. The city is unmistakeably vibrant throughout the year, but the Muslim neighbourhoods look a little extra colourful around this time. What is great is that people from all religions go to Muhammad Ali Road to experience food and culture. Last Saturday I was in for a treat as my aunt got us hooked for a food walk at Bohri Mohalla. The Bohri Mohalla is a much calmer place than Muhammad Ali Road, and is open all throughout the year but is extra dynamic this time around. I was quite excited as I had read up about Kalyan (the guy who conducts the walks), and had immersed myself into his blog. I was quite satisfied, and I felt it was an experience worth sharing with you guys! 

We started of the walk at the Taj Ice-cream place, its been in business for 125 years. If I heard right the family had migrated from Yemen, I got lost in the details as I was just looking forward to eating the ice-cream. The ice-cream is handmade fresh everyday with seasonal fruits, and is made by a traditional method of churning the ingredients which is why its knows as Sancha Ice-cream. Honestly I don't know too much about this method, but this has to be the most delicious ice-cream I have ever eaten! The best thing is to try the flavours which are in season, so I tried the custard apple. Ahh...I can still taste it, I am not kidding it was really that good! 

*All photos were taken by my me, and a few were also taken by my aunt.*
People lined up to get a seat. 
Custard Apple Sancha Ice-cream.
I only wish my family had left me inheritance of an ice-cream parlour, I wouldn't have mind sitting and eating ice-cream all day! Ahh if only!

I was quite satisfied with the ice-cream, and was in no rush to go anywhere, but the walk had just started and there was yet so much more to try. So we bid adieu and headed over to the next stop which was the BBQ Corner.

As a kid I enjoyed meat, but now I the sound of meat puts me off. I can still occasionally eat a kebab,and might even enjoy it, but I strictly don't eat organs. But during this walk I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried cow udders. I tried it, I did not enjoy it! However, everyone else seemed to love it, and asked for seconds. I passed it off and enjoyed Beef Koftas, which were heavenly. I am not someone who enjoys eating beef, but the koftas were truly heavenly. (Is it me or isn't eating beef supposed to e\be illegal in India?).  

The round balls are the koftas, I thought they were the udders so I didn't try them at first but then I realised it was the other way around...hehe

The roti that we eat the kebabs with was decadent, so rich that the healthiness one associates with roti would be a sin. I did not complain and gobbled away, and so did the others!

Just a peek into how these wonderful Koftas were made:

Next up was a place called India Hotel, I felt it was quite a dull name for the kind of attractive food that it offered. We eat the chicken rolls, potatoes fried in beef fat and bheja masala (goat's brain), with nan. I deserve a medal for giving everything a try, and I was quite proud too for not chickening out. Everyone seemed to enjoy the brains, I stayed away from it and the potatoes. But the good old chicken rolls definitely hit the right spot.

Ready to dive into our food! 
 I stepped into the kitchen to take a look at how everything is prepared. It was quite a sight. 

Making the bheja masala...

Luckily after this stop I had to no longer push myself to try organs, as they were finally off the menu! 

 Next we went to eat some Pulao, which to me has always been a milder version of Biryani. It is rice that is cooked in various spices, served with of course MEAT!

The authenticity of this place was that it reminded us that the taste of Indian food is best when eaten by hands. That's right, we did it the good old Indian way by using our hands to eat the food! The satisfaction you get my licking your fingers and enjoying food is something that no fork nor spoon can fulfil.

The real hype was about Vallibhai's Bara Handi, which only opened at 11pm. Can you believe that? Most places close by then, but in a city like Mumbai and a time like Ramadan 11pm is prime time to open up your restaurants. We made it just a few minutes before eleven and managed to secure ourselves seats.

 Just look at that crazy rush!

So the speciality about this is that the curry is made in twelve different pots, and cooked slowly throughout the day. I forget the number of hours Kalyan had mentioned but its quite a lot. We tried three different kinds of the Baara Handi; the trotters, the tallow or simply the butt, and the marrow. Okay so there weren't any more organs...but I was still made to try a goat's butt. I find it comical now, but then I was trying not to think which dish was what, and just tried it. 

By the end of it I still didn't know which dish was what, but I felt it was better that way. It wasn't bad, but its not something I would come looking for again.

But what I would come back for was the naan that they served us, it was so delicious and hot, and tasted great with the curries. The trick is to fold the naans into handkerchiefs as soon as they arrive so that they don't become hard and remain soft. These were by far the largest naans I have ever eaten! 

I ordered a good old ThumbsUp to gulp down the thought that I had just tried a goats butt. Like my aunt says "You need a ThumbsUp to go with our spicy Indian food". Well she said something along those lines...I don't think she will sue me for misquoting her...or at least I hope!

We started on a sweet tooth, and ended on one too, quite poetic don't you think?

We headed to Tawakkal Sweets where we first tried some Kesar Firni, which was a simple yet full of flavors. I love Kheer, and Firni is quite similar to it yet very different; it is much thicker in consistency, and the flavor is very striking, where as in Kheer the taste is much more milky. The small touch of dried fruits on top was like the icing on a cake, it complemented the texture of the Firni giving a perfectly delicious dish.

In the same place we also got the chance to eat Malpuas ever. I actually never liked Malpuas EVER! It was not made at home much, but if my grandmother or mother by chance made it I refused to touch it. I think I was doing my heart a favour all these years as it is  heavily deep fried, but after I tried it at Tawakkals' I refused to leave without taking some home.

I managed to take some shots of the person making them.

Out of the hot fry pan and into out plates served with rabdi. One word DELICIOUS! 

I loved the outer crispy layer of the dish compared to the softer inner version, and I believe that anything dipped in Rabdi tastes Divine which it did!

As an Indian Muslim it was great to see how my culture is celebrated in my birth city. It was nice for once to experience what Ramadan is like in Mumbai since I have always been else where. Also coming from a fairly secular family, and growing up in a cosmopolitan city I have never been able to experience my culture like I was able to today. I am aware that Ramadan is about fasting from food but a large part of it is also to do with food. The culture of keeping the fast at Sehri together, then eating together for iftari when the days fast is over, or the night snacks one comes for after long prayers. Not only that but also to be thankful for our food. I think I was very lucky to see this side of my birth city and will always be thankful to Kalyan for sharing with us his findings.

The cost for per person was Rs. 2,500 which included all the food we got to eat, and also a present which I won't spoil for you! On top of that you will also meet some lovely group of people from different parts of the city who are just as enthusiastic about food as you are! Will link his website below if you wish to find out more about him. Personally I feel that if you like experiencing food, and are adventurous then this is definitely a walk that you should sign up for, along with the many other walks he offers. I am not too adventurous with my food, but I definitely went in with an open mind and gave everything a try. I think my mother will be surprised to read that I tried everything, because as a child I was quite fussy with my food, and still can be sometimes, but I have learnt that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover or else you might just miss out on a good story, or in this case a delicious dish. Well I think I have had enough meat to last me a year, its now time to go on a vegan cleanse!

Kalyan's blog: 
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