Of Farchas, Nan khatais and Bombay
I have not been an avid blogger even though I have had an account for the simple reason of lack of time but recently something made me feel it would be truly sinful not to share that which is as good as what I had experienced.
Calcutta's offer of culinary varieties can make one feel extremely happy. Staying in the heart of Calcutta I have never realized how much lady luck had favoured me until I moved to Mumbai. My second impression of the city was initially a disastrous one. The plane lands in the midst of dirt and slums. The ride to Mulund was unimpressive. It was dirty and honestly I was sad. For the first few months I dared not move out of the house. I had done my research and found that to go to the market equivalent to New market of Calcutta I would have to travel some 30km and for someone who has hardly had to travel 2km to reach most destinations for all her 23 years it seemed impossible at first . I abhorred the local trains but then staying away from the hub of the city drove me to the verge of insanity and I finally decided to take matters in my own hand and explore the city.
I believe a city's heritage is upheld by three things, the architecture , the people and most importantly its culinary offerings and for anyone who has read a bit about Mumbai or (Bombay as I still like to call it ) Bombay and Parsi cuisine is inseparable.
So one day I finally gathered the courage to board the local train at around 11 in the morning and was pleasantly surprised to find it quite empty. Here I must mention that having that streak of culinary enthusiasm , I had already tried to visit Colaba Causeway within the first week of moving to the city and had made the massive mistake of buying first class tickets. Needless to say it didn't quite fit the budget. Being unemployed and paying Rs220 for the train fare alone seemed impossible but I was tired of having cookies from packets and terribly prepared food from restaurants near the place where we had rented an apartment. To make matters worse my husband is a strict vegetarian and being unable to cook delicacies in the kitchen was another reason for my depression. In Calcutta I wouldn't frequent restaurants because our Kitchen itself would become one.
Of course things are very easy these days with GPS and blogs. I had done my research, noted down my directions and I was ready to devour the delicacies which Bombay has to offer.
I had gone out that day to indulge in some Parsi food and my initial destination was Kyani and Co, the legendary bakery and restaurant. Housed at Jer Mahal estate right on JSS road the place embodies the history of Bombay. The moment you enter the place you are transported back to a time when Mumbai was Bombay and to a time of gentility. The beautiful bentwood chairs and marble top tables have a charisma of their own.
The prices of the food is a complete delight. For Rs35 the famous Fried chicken called 'Farcha' is a deal which cannot be missed. When you sink your teeth in its juicy goodness you are in for a delicious surprise. You see , this is not your westernized fried chicken. Beautiful spicy flavour bursts out with every bite . While your taste buds are treated to the beautiful blend of what I felt was garlic, onions and a bit of coriander powder and cumin powder the aroma is exhilarating. Having ventured out on a hot day I cooled off with some watermelon juice and then I went on to order some of the famous akuri. I have had eggs prepared in different styles but never have I tasted something as unique and delicious as this. It was kheema akuri where the minced meat was of a melt in the mouth texture. The flavour of ginger garlic paste , onions , tomato and spices makes it a superb treat with buns as soft as cotton balls to accompany this Parsi scrambled egg preparation. I finished off with some cherry custard. I have had custards before, made custards from scratch but I was in for the treat of my life. The custard comes in a small rectangular foil dish and it is wobbly in texture. With the exact amount of sweetness and the beautiful blend of eggs and milk it was one that had been baked to perfection. I had my hearty lunch and packed some baked goodies for home and decided to explore the place. You see the walk from the erstwhile Victoria Terminus currently known as CST had fascinated me. The architecture made me want to explore every building.
I was walking around the place admiring the beauty, feeling happy, taking unknown roads to unknown destinations when I suddenly took a turn and found myself in a narrow lane. I was searching for Our Lady of Dolor's church and suddenly I found a signboard with the words 'Paris bakery' written across it. I went to the counter and was quite confused. There were numerous cookies in different shapes and sizes. The aromatic scent of bakery wafting through the air can intoxicate just about anyone.
This is not your new age money making bakery. This is the place of genteelness. A place where customers are first treated to biscuits before they can decide on their purchase. I was initially shy but the constant offering from the bakery made me pick up a biscuit and to me this is what a biscuit should be made of. Buttery with a melt in the mouth texture, it leaves no reside inside your mouth. Its flaky goodness was wonderful. The prices are wonderfully affordable. I picked up 3 varieties of biscuits, shortbread biscuits, almond squares and cheese bites. Grandpa Paris suggested I take the cheese nibbles which he said would be 'more cheesy'. His insistence on my tasting a greater variety of biscuits won my heart over.
I picked up a loaf of mawa cake and headed home knowing fully well my tea time treats for the next 2 weeks was what I was carrying back . Here I must mention that drinking tea is an elaborate affair for most Bengali families. I firmly decided that Paris Bakery would be a must visit for me on a bi monthly basis for their delectable biscuits priced between Rs60 to Rs90 for 200gm biscuits. Over the course of three months I had discovered their different flavours and loved all of them be it the Jam nankhatais which are crisp or the Shrewsbury which are big and round . The real treat was when I picked up the buns one day. Soft and plump these buns are made of whole milk and if you are a bread lover such as myself you would be won over.
They have recently upgraded their menu and I was very sad to see that the garlic Melba toast is no more produced but instead there is a garlic onion stick in its place. They have a new cheesy flaky twist with cheddar powder as informed by the owner which is bad news because you will gain weight and you will not be able to resist it.
I am in Love with Bombay even though the rents of Mumbai and the dirt and sea of faces baffle me. To be fair in my recent visits to Calcutta I actually missed my Bombay and by that I mean the Parsi food.
One cannot have experienced Bombay without a visit to these gems of the city. When the food is as good as it is in these heritage restaurants one cannot but share one's experience .