Monthly Archives: March 2012

Breads & More

Am I old fashioned or are the tastes of the Mumbaikars changing rapidly? I miss the easily available bun maska, hot pav from my local bakery. The mava cakes have been replaced by fancy cup cakes.

 No visit to Andheri station was complete without a Bun maska and chai at the Irani bakery at the corner, outside the station. Alas! But it is gone. This was a hot-spot for many Mumbaikars, until some months ago. But times have changed. Widely travelled, the customer has developed a discerning palate too. Bakeries in the city have thus given themselves a facelift. 

This change can be attributed to the evolving demographics and lifestyle. The affluence in urban cities like Mumbai have opened doors of opportunities for the bakery sector.  The present day consumer looks for new products, better appeal, taste and convenience. Andheri West has a plethora of bakeries. Bakers & More is perpetually packed with  a demand for fancy breads, exotic cakes. Sheila’s cakes and bites is no different. People clamour for whole wheat breads and garlic loaves.

 The gap is narrowing and with a lot of international companies coming intoIndia, customers know what they want and are aware of the real taste. The customer today is well-informed and is both quality as well as health-conscious. So naturally, shops have to cater to the changing needs of customers. They don’t mind paying a price for the real thing.

 Varieties of breads ranging from whole wheat to multi grain, as per international trends, cakes, stores have it all. I too have become adventurous and experimented. Foccacia and Ciabatta breads are my personal favourites. I also enjoy the breads from Café Moshe’s. They are so fresh and of great quality. Godrej Nature’s Basket closer home, at Lokhandwala too offers a great variety of breads.

Emil Carvalho of American Express Bakery, once told me, “We too have evolved and  have had to change with the times. We have moved to self-service, as customers prefer that. That is the trend abroad and clearly the Indian customer wants that. People demand what they have tried abroad and we have to provide that. ”

 Tirandaz Irani of Mumbai’s oldest Irani Bakery, Yazdani, too agrees. However, he is emphatic about the fact that no one makes bun-maska or khari biscuits like they do and if you want the real experience of an old-fashioned Irani bakery, you can “still come to us.”

 I know what he means, because I still miss the soft milk bread available at Kalimpong Home Products on Middleton Row in Calcutta, which I grew up on as a child. That is why I still love our village in Goa. Every morning the bread man comes honking and sells some delicious fresh breads like kankon, pavs, poi. No, he refuses to reinvent himself. 



Swadisht food at Sveda

Sveda, is easily one of the highlights of Saki Naka, Andheri East. The Restaurant has a minimalistic yet elegant décor which spells sophistication. This 140 cover eatery is one of the biggest in this part of the town and promises to be the Great North Indian culinary experience. An entry into the restaurant and you are transported to another world. The white chairs, teak coloured tables are eye-catching. The beige brown flooring looks sleek and further adds to the ambience. The outer section with black flooring can take up to 75 guests in one go and offers stunning view of the lawns. The restaurant also has a private dining area, Flames, which seats ten people.

Chef Sumedh Kale has put together a great menu adhering to high standards of quality and variety. The menu is an exercise in choices and offers unique preparations from Peshawari, Punjabi, Mughlai & Lucknowi cuisines. It has something for vegetarians as well as non -vegetarian food lovers.

Gajar Adrak shorba sounded very interesting but the murg badami shorba which I sampled, was the highlight of this section. Vegetarians can relish Amritsari Seekh and Dahi ke kebab as starters before settling for sabzi mazedar and rajma saagwala. Full marks to the chef for his dahi wale aloo. The non-vegetarians have great options as well. From tawa fried to grilled to tandoori, a wide selection of meats and sea-food are on offer. Signature dishes in the menu are Ajwani Rawas Tikka, Kasoori Basa Tikka. The latter, was a real surprise, as Basa is normally a bland tasteless fish, but blended cleverly with the marinade and grilled, it was lip-smacking. Murg Lahori tikka in the main course was a treat. The gravy was well made and the tikkas simply melt in the mouth. Dal makhani was a bit sweetish, not the usual fare in most places. The whole wheat laccha parathas were soft and tasted like home made ones unlike the normal chewy naans and parathas served in many restaurants. For hard core meat lovers, Tawa Kheema, Bheja Masala, Nalli Nihari are good options.

The desserts were a tad disappointing. Ras malai was not at all sweet, the phirni was no where close to the authentic one but tasted like a mushy rice kheer. The gulab jamuns however were delicious. The highlight of the meal was the paan shot served in glasses at the end of the meal. It left a fresh aftertaste in the mouth. Overall a great dining experience. The staff is warm, attentive and well qualified to answer all your queries. Vishal, who served us was well spoken and prompt and gave us great suggestions.

 Have to go back soon to check out their corporate lunch @ Rs 299 per head which includes a five course meal. Sounds tempting.

Go Organic

On visits abroad one tends to pick up organic food, as certified organic products are easily available in the supermarkets. Thankfully it is beginning to happen inIndia too, albeit slowly. Only a few shelves in supermarkets are devoted to organic products. Organic food needs certification and sadly that is a slow and expensive process in India and perhaps that’s why farmers are treading a bit cautiously and some are still reluctant.

 But the good news is several stores acrossIndiaand in Mumbai are now offering organic food. Navdanya in Andheri West is popular, Sattvic in Kandivli and ofcourse Fab India, but the range is limited.

Was really glad yesterday when OrganicHaus,India’s first premium all-organic products brand,opened its first store in Mumbai at Kemps Corner. The company, founded by Dilip R. Doshi, former Indian cricketer, retails a wide range of EU certified organic products from vegetarian packaged foods, natural cosmetics to home detergents and food supplements that provide vital nutrition.  18 different brands and 80 different product lines are on offer under one roof including breakfast items, cereals, pizza and pasta sauces, breads, oils, teas, chocolates, and juices and a lot more.

I was mesmerized by the vast array of products, as I walked into the store. Personally speaking, I am a great fan of organic stuff as processed food, food with artificial colours and flavours does not work for me. Also, blessed with a sensitive skin, I often develop rashes and allergies.

Reputed brands like Allos, Beutelsbacher, Bionade, Byodo, Rapunzel, Salus, Schnitzer, Schoenenberger, Sonnentor, Sonett, and Vivani brands, as well as natural cosmetics from Logona und Sante adorn the shelves in this store.

The aubergine pate was delicious and a huge compliment to them as I do not eat anything made of aubergines normally. The breakfast bars in unusual flavours were exciting too as were the beetroot and vegetable juice. Sipping those made me feel so good and healthy. The dark chocolate from Vivani was creamy and left a great after taste in my mouth.

I really hope they open one in the western suburbs soon. So it can be a permanent goodbye to synthetic food, food grown using pesticides and artificial stuff. Let’s bring on healthy stuff  in India.

Amazing almonds

Almonds are heartily consumed during winter as a roasted, salted, in-shell snack. Earlier, these were considered a delicacy, which is why they were eaten at Diwali or Christmas. But no longer so. Almonds are eaten all year through as these are exremely healthy. The best thing about all of this is that due to their unique health benefits almonds are guilt-free. 28 grams, 160-calorie handful of almonds is high in vitamin E, magnesium calcium and potassium. Almonds are also a natural source of protein, naturally high in fibre. Recent research shows they also contain flavonoid antioxidants in levels comparable to broccoli and tea.

We Indians love to use almonds in our cooking too. Especially in biryanis, pulaos, gajar halwa, phirnee as garnish. Additionally almonds are often used as paste for gravies, giving them the much needed thickness. Chicken shahiwala, is a dish where I often use ground almonds along with poppy seeds and a green masala made of ground mint, corrriander and green chillies. Yummy but yes, rich too. Another way of using almonds is in marzipan during Christmas, instead of cashewnuts.

Ofcourse the healthiest way to consume almonds is to soak a few overnight in water. Drain them in the morning, peel them and enjoy.Research shows that eating about a handful of almonds a day may actually help lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels.

Can never have enough of it : Goan cuisine

I am married to a Goan, enjoy Goan food at home, can cook loads of Goan dishes myself, yet, can’t have enough of it. Simply love the cuisine. So, I happily trooped off to sample the Goan food festival at Lake View Café at Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel last week for dinner. A pity the festival ended last Sunday.

 Have never seen such an interesting use of ingredients like Coconut Milk, Tamarind, Spices, Kokam, as in the festival.  I personally relish sea food, chicken in Goan cuisine, but,  was pleasantly surprised to find that the Mergolho (pumpkin and papaya curry) and the breadfruit curry could be so delicious. Am hooked onto it now.

The soul kadi was a tad too milky. Too much of coconut juice and less kokum. The ambotik with plain steamed rice was a treat, as was the sannas with sorpotel. The chicken cafreal was well made and the succulent pieces of chicken simply melt in  the mouth. The clam chops with mango chilli sauce weere to die for, something which I have never tasted before. Truly unique. Prawn balchao was yummy though I tend to have it as a pickle rather than a starter.

Bebinca (layered caked made with flour and coconut milk), the ultimate Goan favourite dessert, without which any celebration is incomplete, was there. But I am not a great fan of it. Dodol (toffee like sweet made up of rice flour) and Doce (fudge made up of gram flour)  too were on offer but I loved the cashew doce. It was unusual and well made.

A special Feni Muddle bar had been set up at the hotel which was serving exotic Feni cocktails, but I decided to give it a miss. Had a busy working day the next morning.

Chef Danish was there, ever-smiling and ready to serve us with warmth. The highlight of the festival was Jacinta aunty, from Goa who was flown in especially to give authenticity to the masalas, used in Goan food. She did a great job. Her son Michael was assisting her. Apparently aunty goes regularly to the Goa Marriott and Spa too, to grind masalas. She has the midas touch.