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Suvir Saran

Indian Cities One Must Visit For

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If a novice were to visit India with the intent to discover the wealth of Indian regional cuisines and there sub-regional variations, what cities do you feel are a must for such a person?

What restaurants, food stalls, Dhabas should one go to?

What dishes are local to these areas, rendered well at these establishments you mention, and are their folk lores that go with any of this?

Are there cities or towns or regions where the food is sensational but one must get invited to a local home?

What major cities have restaurants that could give the novice a brief overview of Indian regional cuisines? What restaurants in these cities would you suggest for this goal?

Any other stuff a traveler must know about India before making such an expedition?

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If the person is truely a novice, and a non-FF/FT the four premier cities - Mumbai,Kolkatta,Chennai and Dilli would cover a lot of ground {sorry If I omitted your favourite city :raz: }.


Edited by anil (log)

anil

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When I go to India I have a very bad time of it because of hygiene problems. Anyway, all that has stopped since HaldiRam opened up their chat stores. Now, I eat amazing chat without being on bed rest for the next 2 days!

So, HaldiRam has my vote for sensitive tummies and adveturous palates!

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When I visit India, I eat everything from day one, fall sick for the next three days with 'Delhi Belly' . Once that is over I am conditioned and enjoy whatever and wherever I please for the rest of my visit. I lose a couple of days but its worth it. Eat Rajkachori at Haldirams or Nathurams you have allready paid your dues.


Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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To quote someone much better than I

If you do not go to calcutta, you do not go to India

S

I agree Simon, I do not know how far back you go But I was in Calcutta twice, Once when my father was transfered there and I was in school, then again when I worked at the Airport.

I have never come accross anywhere, the gayiety and christmas spirit that one saw on Park street. Decked out superbly with lights and ornaments, dotted with fine restaurants like Trincas, Blue Fox, Fluries, Moulin Rouge. So many people on the streets it was fantastic!

Durga Puja time was another favourite, though in Calcutta, every day was a festival and you never really needed any excuse to hit the sweet shops. What really amazed me was that everyone, rich or poor could indulge.

Did you walk the strand with some muri (bhel) or chinabadam ( roasted peanuts) or did you watch the river go by from that little restaurant they had on the waterside?

Did you eat your Kathi Kabab at Nizams, inside the dirty restaurant or did you wait outside to be served in your car.

were you there when Sub Zero, the ice cream parlor opened next to the Hobby center? That was a crazy scene, on a hot summer night we used to ride over on our scooters, the whole world seemed to gather there and the girls.....they were beautiful!

Where did you go for chinese? My family loved Jimmy's Kitchen and just could not get enough of their food. Now if you wanted Indian Chinese, the best place was the restaurant at the Airport!

Then if you wanted Northern Indian Mughlai food you went to Amber, remember its various floors? some where you could only dine if you were with a lady. It was said at that time that Amber sold more beer than any other restaurant in India, that they paid the salary of their entire staff with the resale of the empty beer bottles.

I used to go to this place which was very famous for its Rizalla( a muslim meat curry in yogurt and milk) and firni. And you had to try and make it when the Big pot of curry would become ready. 15 minutes late, and it was all gone and you waited for the next one. Do you remember

the name? I cannot think of it.

Thank you simon, for reminding me.


Edited by BBhasin (log)

Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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To quote someone much better than I

If you do not go to calcutta, you do not go to India

S

And you have not experienced Kolkatta unless you had spent a day at the University Coffeehouse and sharing a charu :smile:


anil

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Hoping these old threads are still being read. I have a theory that in each region of India there is one totally food obsessed city. This doesn't quite mean the same as the type of city detailed by Suvir where you can get to eat a very wide range of good Indian cooking.

That city exists and, even if you make allowance for the fact thjat I'm not entirely objective on this, its Bombay. Nowhere else are you going to get such a wide range of styles of eating simply because no other city in India has been created like Bombay, the city to which immigrants from all other parts of the country have come to find their fortunes.

Other cities are dominated by a local culture. Since Partition Delhi has been Punjabi dominated (except for the Muslim gullies of Chandni Chowk). Madras is overwhelmingly Tamil, Calcutta is Bengali, Hyderabad was Muslim, but is now mostly Telugu and so on. Bangalore perhaps comes closest to Bombay in being formed by immigrants rather than locals, but its still too new and unsure of its self to have a clear identity.

Only in Bombay do you find a strong city-identity not linked to the local culture - despite everything that the zealots in the Shiv Sena want to claim (the Mahrashtrian centre is Pune). So Bombay is your best bet for a wide range of eating styles, especially if you're willing to get out of the five star hotel traps. For those who might be interested, I'll paste a list after this that I'd made for a WSJ journalist friend who was coming to do a piece on eating out in Bombay.

(I should also add that Bombay is not perfect. Some styles of cooking you don't really get here, or don't get very well. The one formal Malayali restaurant, which I've listed, is actually quite crap and its a mystery why so close to Goa, Martin's continues to be the only really good Goan restaurant - the [NYT praised] tourist trap of Goa Portuguesa notwithstanding).

But coming back to my original point, I don't think Bombay is really that food obsessed - who has the time? Bombay is really only obsessed with one thing: making money. The real food obsessed city in Western India is Ahmedabad where a huge and happy to spend Gujarati middle class is quite happy to go totally nuts in their pursuit of particular (usually vegetarian) foodstuffs.

Its the really local, offbeat ones they go most nuts for, like ponkh, roasted green jowar (millet, I think) which you only get in winter, or another winter specialty, oondhiyoo, a mix of vegetables slathered in green garlic chutney and roasted in a sealed pot (ideally out in the fields where its buried in a pile of hay that's set on fire). Oh and Amdavadis, as they are called, go nuts about ice cream of any kind.

The food obsessed city in North India isn't Delhi - as I said, too Punjabi and politics focused, though you are at least getting some variety in the food (but unfortunately not the politics) - but Lucknow. This is where you get dum pukhed cooking, also cooked in a sealed pot and all the best kebabs. Lucknowis will go on to almost tedious effect about Tunde mian's supersoft kebabs.

The food obsessed city in Eastern India is obviously Calcutta (what other city is there in Eastern India anyway...) I think Simon is a bit overstating it to say don't go to India if you don't go to Cal, but you will certainly eat very well there. BBhasin has mentioned most of the good places and I'd only add that Tangra is the best area for Chinese food, K.C.Das on Esplanade for Bengali sweets (personal choice, devotees of Bhim Nag or Nobin Chandra please excuse me), Nahoum's bakery in New Market was supposed to close down, but luckily still seems around to dish out macaroons and vanilla fudge. And best of all, the last few years have finally seen someone rectifying the weirdest absence of a good Bengali restaurant. I haven't eaten at Kewpie's, but everyone says its totally outstanding.

In the South the most food obsessed city is certainly not Madras, in fact its probably the least food interested city in India. The Tamil Brahmins who dominate the city aren't particularly interested in food and for years it was hard to get anything other than the standard iddli-dosa-'meals' (excuse the slight bitterness, but I spent many adolescent years in Madras). That has changed recently, with a greater variety both international (rather strangely Madras is a very good place to eat Korean food, because of the big local Hyundai plant) and local, with the sudden explosion in 'Chettinad' restaurants, about which I have lots of opinions, but this is probably not the right place.

The real food obsessed place in South India is Hyderabad. This dates back to the Nizam's days where, as in Lucknow, a Muslim (and Hindu to some extent) aristocracy could support the quest for an ultra refined court cuisine. I don't much like biriani, but the Hyderabad version is the one style I find palatable. Their haleem, a meat and wheat stew is one reason to go there during Ramzaan. I have never had a more delicate ice cream than the fresh melon one at the Moazam Jha Market and there is not better stewed fruit dish than qubbani-ka-meetha, stewed spiced dried apricots served with cream.

Its true that the Telugu culture that has taken over Hyderabad has less interest in this sort of food, but go to the gullis near Charminar and you'll still find it. And the hearty, basically peasant Telugu cooking is not bad at all if you have the stomach for SERIOUS spiciness (and can get your hands on their dynamite chillies). Also they have two of the best Indian pickles with gongura (the saour tasting leaves of a local shrub) and their ginger pickle, which is wonderfully fresh and gingery tasting and deserves to be much better known.

Hope all this is of interest to someone. Also the list of Bombay restaurants I'm pasting below,

Vikram

Bombay eating, in no particular order

- Mangalorean (seafood, all downtown)

· Trishna

· Mahesh

· Apoorva

· Excellensea

- Konkani/Malvani

· Anantashram

· Saayba (Bandra)

· Gajalee (Vile Parle East)

· Sindhudurg (Dadar)

· Konkan Cafe - five star hotel style (President)

- Gujarati

· Rajdhani

· Friends Union Joshi Club

· Panchavati Gaur

- Bengali

· Oh Calcutta

- Tamil (Mysore)

· Udipi Shree Ramanayaka (Matunga East)

· couple of more places, some possibly more typically Tamil in that area

· Dakshin - five star hotel style (Grand Maratha), all South Indian regions, far out near airport

- Parsi/Irani

· Britannia

· Jimmy Boys

- Muslim (Chillia)

· Olympia

- Muslim (Mughlai)

· Shalimar

· all the small places near Minara Masjid

· Dum Pukht - five star hotel style (Grand Maratha), for the Lucknowi dum pukt (closed cooking) style, far out near airport

- Punjabi/Frontier (tandoori)

· Crystal (home style vegetarian Punjabi)

· Peshawari - five star hotel style (Grand Maratha), far out near airport

- Goan/East Indian

· Martin’s

· Goa Portueguesa (Mahim)

- Sindhi

· Kailash Parbat

- Malayali

· Rice Boats

- General

· Swati Snacks

· Indigo

· Tea Centre

· Prithvi Cafe (Juhu)

· Samovar

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Checkout The Penguin Food Lover's Guide to India & Nepal by Karen & Gul Anand

Don't. Its completely outdated (Gul Anand died about three years back and it was outdated even then). But there's no dearth of guides for most of the bigger cities at least. In Bombay the local newspapers, Mid-Day and The Times of India (I work for a sister publication), have come out with fairly extensive guides. Rashmi Uday Singh who's done the Mid-Day one and now writes for the Times, is pretty much the doyenne of this in Bombay. In Delhi The Times and The Hindustan Times have recently come out with guides, and there's another, very nice and more discrusive one called Flavours of Delhi produced, I think, by Penguin.

Vikram

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Carry on Vikram! It interests me and a lot lot of others I am sure. We have been away from India too long and most of my memories are pretty old. Its great to have you on and learn from your experiences even though you are not particularly fond of Punjabi fare!

take care.

bbhasin


Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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Thanks Vikram!

Rashmi Uday Singh was a IRS employee when I was a little kid in Nagpur. She has gone from being a tax person to a foodie. And she was always charming. Do you like her reviews?

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Rashmi Uday Singh was a IRS employee when I was a little kid in Nagpur. She has gone from being a tax person to a foodie. And she was always charming. Do you like her reviews?

She's not bad. She did one very good thing by combining her own reviews with a Zagat style approach of throwing her column open to readers and starting a phone line for them to call in too with their opinions, suggestions and requests. These really did throw up some gems, particularly from the more distant suburbs. She tends to be a bit gushy for my taste, but doesn't mind handing out the brickbats when needed.

Karen was also good, but has largely stopped restaurant reviewing and has moved to Pune where she runs a successful food business and cooking school. Maryam Reshi is the other good reviewer for Delhi and has just come out with a book for the Hindustan Times,

Vikram

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Vikram, you're so right about Hyderabad. I think I became a foodie in Hyderabad.

If you ever compile a list about places to eat in Hyderabad, the Raan at the Kakatiya hotel would be a good addition. Marinated and slow cooked for days, it even enticed a recovering vegetarian like me.

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I thought I would add Amritsar to the list. It's not a large city by Indian standards, yet I think it's one of the most unique foods cities in Northern India.

The kulcha chole is absolutely to die for. I have yet to taste a freshly baked kulcha that compares.

The lassi in from one particular vendor in the old city is a must taste if your stomach can handle it. Not once have I escaped without a stomach ache, but the satisfaction well outweighs the consequences.

I would also add the jalebis.

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To call North Indian cooking and Punjabi food names after sampling the restaurant fare available in India and outside of India, is a gross and sad generalization. There are a plethora and amazingly huge number of dishes in this region that never find their way into cookbooks or restaurants. I must say even in my own cookbook, I have had to stop myself from adding some of the very rare dishes that I grew up eating. A little fear on my part to share a recipe that was so very tedious in preparation and also some fear that the recipe would really not be practical in an American kitchen and also is hardly commonly found even in many homes in India today.

India is wonderful only because unlike almost any other country or region, the sheer diversity that you find in its lap, is mind boggling and larger than anything one could imagine. It is this sheer wealth of so many different things, that makes India a dream for anyone really wanting to go on a discovering journey.

I have been lucky to have traveled extensively around India. And I have enjoyed the very many different faces I have seen of this land, its peoples, customs and culinary traditions. Where they are similar, they are still largely unique and of the place. It is this belonging in a region and area that makes even recipes that could be broken down into a similar structure, get very different tastes and overall character.

Amritsar is one of India's grandest cities. It has in its fabric celebration, tragedy and strength that can only come from being the ground where most horrific of battles, most lavish of banquets and most hardy of people have found a home. It is thus not out of place to find in Amritsar, food, that speak of a time and place in history that cannot be easily found in many other parts of India.

The prasad (offering of food) at Golden Temple (karha prasad, made of semolina) alone is something every mortal of at least Indian heritage must taste once in their life. Halwa will never taste the same if you have tasted this sublime rendering of what is usually so simple and humble. The Jalebis are better than any you can find anywhere in India. And if you can find your way into the shop of an old fashioned Halwai early in the morning, you can have them with garam jhaag waala doodh (dipped into hot frothy milk). No cereal I have found in wonderful boxes in grocery stores across the US has made me forget that taste.

When I think of Amritsar, I also must think of Ambarsari Bariyaan (made with lentils and an abundance of black pepper), and how few foods can lend to a sauce the kind of flavor these bariyaas can. It is a dish only found in Punjabi homes today, and it is something uniquely wonderful and compelling. Bariyaan can be made in so many ways, and Punjabis have a way of adding them into vegetables, meats and sauces in ways one from another part of India, could hardly think of.

Ambarsari Papad (yes the papadom you find it restaurants) are not for the meek of palate. Again, the sheer amount of black peppercorn, added into these, makes papad become something more than just a crunchy treat. They become savory and very addictive necessities of a well rounded table.

Lassi cannot be understood if you have not tasted it in Amritsar. The rest of the versions are only wannabees and can never stand up to what one finds in Amritsar. Why so? I have no idea. But my grandmother (who like many other non-Punjabis, was no fan of Punjab, and mostly very crtical of it) who passed away last week, always said that the milk of Punjab is far richer than the milk found in Gujarat. The cream is more flavorful she said and the Punjabis have a magical way with food. Maybe all of these subtleties that this Punjab basher recognised even as she bashed the people and culture of Punjab, must really have something to do with how the simples of rendering of Lassi in this area, becomes a glass of heavenly and deeply addictive nectar.

RKS, tell us more about your experiences in Amritsar, I detect you may have some connection to this great city. I have only visited, and my parents have traveled Amristar extensively, but what a native could share, would be so very different and real. Please share any and all memories you may have of this great city. I cannot wait to learn more about it.

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I do not know if this is typically Allahabadi or simply a UP thing. I was visiting some friends in Allahabad, uttar Pradesh in the cooler winter months. When I said good night to my hosts they told me to get up early as we will have some oos (Dew).

At night a utensil containing milk was left ouside covered with a piece of muslin cloth with a hole in the center, the cloth kind of left to slope down in the middle towards the hole. Dew drops would fall onto the cloth at night and roll down into the milk. Early morning before the sun came up the milk would be collected, I think a little sugar was added and it was churned up. I dont know why but the milk would become all frothy and it was this froth that you were served and ate. It was considered very aristrocratic to enjoy this delicacy, perhaps I was too young or did not have the sophistication, to me it just tasted like milk froth.

Does anyone know about this?? I hope I narrated this correctly.


Edited by BBhasin (log)

Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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But my grandmother (who like many other non-Punjabis, was no fan of Punjab, and mostly very crtical of it) who passed away last week, always said that the milk of Punjab is far richer than the milk found in Gujarat. The cream is more flavorful she said and the Punjabis have a magical way with food.

This is so true. The neighbourhood in Bombay where I live, Khar, was one of the areas where refugees from Partition settled so there is a substantial Punjabi presence. And in consequence, the quality of what's on offer in the local dairies is amazing. In particular there's one place, generally acknowledged to be the best, where the paneer is simply incredible. Instead of the tasteless mass of white protein one gets in most places, this is creamy and very slightly salty - its as good or better than any feta cheese I've ever eaten.

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At night a utensil containing milk was left ouside covered with a piece of muslin cloth with a hole in the center, the cloth kind of left to slope down in the middle towards the hole. Dew drops would fall onto the cloth at night and roll down into the milk. Early morning before the sun came up the milk would be collected, I think a little sugar was added and it was churned up. I dont know why but the milk would become all frothy and it was this froth that you were served and ate. It was considered very aristrocratic to enjoy this delicacy, perhaps I was too young or did not have the sophistication, to me it just tasted like milk froth.

This is nimmish which you're right is usually associated with UP, but you get similar products in other parts of India too. It could have spread from UP though, given the way that 'bhaiyas' from UP work as milkmen in many other parts of India. The door to door milk trade in Bombay is still run by UP bhaiyas, who also sell other milk porducts like kulfi (though as my earlier post noted, they aren't a patch on the Punjabis when it comes to paneer).

Whatever its origins, its still claimed as a specialty by different communities. I've heard of it in Hyderabad while here in Bombay, the Parsis claim it as 'dudh na puff'. Its one of those big nostalgia things for Parsis who as kids used to spend winter holidays with relatives in the villages in Gujarat where the oldest Parsi communities are located. You can get it in Bombay, on early winter mornings in certain localities, but I've never been motivated enough to get up in time. (A Parsi friend I just checked with says that despite Parsi claims, in Bombay at least its mostly made by Khoja Muslims who sell it to Parsis).

The aristocratic link I guess is that you probably needed to be aristocratic to be able to have the sort of servants who'd devote early mornings to whipping up milk froth. I think the base is slightly thickened sweet milk (though maybe not as much as rabri). I wonder if with todays refrigerators and electric whisks it would be possible to duplicate it in the kitchen?

Vikram

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RKS, tell us more about your experiences in Amritsar, I detect you may have some connection to this great city. I have only visited, and my parents have traveled Amristar extensively, but what a native could share, would be so very different and real. Please share any and all memories you may have of this great city. I cannot wait to learn more about it.

A lot of fond memories come from staying at my paternal grandparents koti in the heart of the old city section of Amritsar. To give an idea of how old the area is, the Golden Temple (a 500+ yr old temple) is only a stone throw away. Each early morning we wake up to the sikh holy scriptures sung over the loud speakers.

The streets in the area are narrow and the houses tower at least four stories above the streets or "gullees" as they call them. All the tiny food stores in that area continue to use traditional methods in place well before the partition. The faces behind the huge karahi and are even the same, at least for the past 25 yrs I've been going back. It's almost as if everything is frozen in time.

At least once a week for breakfast, my grandfather would take my cousins and me to eat poori aloo a couple of gullees over from our house. Before we walked to the picinc style tables in the back, I made my grandfather stand with me and watch the cook make the pooris at the edge of the open store. Every few seconds you would hear the chef's hands clapping as he flattens the atta (dough). Then he would drop the atta in the karahi and instruct his assistant to scoop oil on top of the atta to perfectly create the hollow cavity in the middle. Eating the pooris fresh out of the oil gave them an added crunchiness that's rare to eat anywhere else.

My grandfather would also bring back gajar (carrot) ka halwa made with raisins and topped with sliced almonds. The halwa was a perfect hue of deep orange and was wet from the excess ghee. I think the best part for us kids was eating out of perfectly shapes bowls made from leaves. The bowls soaked up all the excess ghee wonderfully! It's almost as euphoric as the prasad one receives at the Golden Temple as Suvir mentioned.

Besides tasting the wonderful food found in the old city walking around the old city is a treat in itself. All the food establishments are open areas on the first floor as in most old sections of Indian cities. Usually, the big karahi or the freshly baked goods sit on the steet side of the store allowing the aromas to waft out in the open. So when you breath, you inhale the aromas of everything at once. It's a smell very hard to forget.

In the winter time my uncle would bring another one of my favorite Amritsari dishes, bhuja kulcha. This is a kulcha that has a little more yeast than normal making it thicker and spongier. It's then soaked in the chana for a few minutes. Once the kulcha absorbs some of the liquid, it's put on a plate and smothered in chana, green and red chutneys, ginger, hari mirch (green pepper) and onions. The combination is a great juxtaposition of textures from the soft kulcha to the crispy toppings. After one of these early afternoon snacks we would be stuffed.

I think it's interesting to point out how big each meal is for an typical Amritsari family. Traditionally, everyone eats a heavy breakfast around 9am that would consist of a stuffed paratha (my choice is cauliflower or daikon radish) followed by a few mangoes or mango milk, if in season. Lunch, just as heavy, around 4, followed by fruits and dinner around 10.

Eating sweets is a whole other story...

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my additions are Mumbai's Chowpatty beach for pani puri and bhel puri and Anywhere in Madras (the top notch hotels in particular for masala dosa.

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my additions are Mumbai's Chowpatty beach for pani puri and bhel puri and Anywhere in Madras (the top notch hotels in particular for masala dosa.

Welcome to eGullet and its Indian forum. Look forward to reading your posts and learning from them. :smile:

Chowpatty beach is something else. I was somewhat shocked to see how different it was this last year from when I lived their in the early 90s.

When were you there last? Did you find some of your favorite vendors?

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How is it now? - my info is sort of dated because I haven't been since the late '80s, and still because my mother took us there on memories from the 60s and 70s. I would presume Chopatty and Juhu are still Chowpatty and Juhu tho.

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How is it now? - my info is sort of dated because I haven't been since the late '80s, and still because my mother took us there on memories from the 60s and 70s.  I would presume Chopatty and Juhu are still Chowpatty and Juhu tho.

Well the vendors are new, many are gone... and the area has been cleansed.

Maybe Vikram, can share more with us about the changes that happened.

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How is it now? - my info is sort of dated because I haven't been since the late '80s, and still because my mother took us there on memories from the 60s and 70s. I would presume Chopatty and Juhu are still Chowpatty and Juhu tho. 

Well the vendors are new, many are gone... and the area has been cleansed.

Maybe Vikram, can share more with us about the changes that happened.

Don't know what further could have happened. As you note, Chowpatty (pedantic paranthesis: by which I guess you mean Girgaum Chowpatty at the foot of Malabar Hill. 'Chowpatty' is also used for other beaches like the strip at Dadar) has been cleaned up a bit. There's a park for senior citizens, the hawkers have been herded together in one corner and the massage boys chased away, all of which may or may not be an improvement depending on your viewpoint.

Its fun enough, as is Juhu beach, though I don't think the street food is anything special. I mean, I love street food, but I'm opposed to fetishising it just because its street food. You'll get all the usual Bombay snacks there - bhel puri, pani puri, pav bhaji, vada pau, khaman dhokla, ragda pattice, stuffed dosas, kulfi, etc. Nothing outstanding, but all tasty. You can eat here if you want the atmosphere, but personally I'd say that since you're not that far from Swati Snacks, which is hands down one of Bombay's most outstanding restaurants. You can go there and eat all this street food stuff, made very well and hygienically and for a bonus get to try all the unusual veggie dishes that Asha Jhaveri, the owner, is reviving.

Back on Chowpatty, on the opposite side of the road there's a whole bunch of 'interesting' restaurants, where 'interesting' must not be taken to equate with 'good'. I call this area, between the two overbridges Gujju Gulch because that's where Gujju's all come out in the evening to eat (I'm half Gujju, I'm allowed to be rude about them). So the restaurants all (a) are vegetarian and (b) have very rich food, and © are mainly focussed at the GTM, or Gujju Turned Mod crowd, which means that they also do examples of world cuisine tweaked for Gujju tastes, which means extra chillies and everything drowned in melted processed cheese. There is a restaurant in that bunch called Revival where I have never seen ANY dish not drowned in melted processed cheese. Others in the line are called Cream Centre, America and New York New York and that probably gives you an idea of what they're like more than anything else.

As it happens if you walk a little further, at the end of the line just before Wilson College, there's a genuinely good restaurant. Its a very simple looking place called Crystal that, despite its super humble appearance is a minor legend for a certain type of Bombayite. Its renowned for serving absolutely home-style North Indian cooking - all those basic dhal-roti dishes you get at homes, but almost never in restaurants. Like its one of the few restaurants in Bombay that I know which has rajma on the menu - and a very simple tasty rajma too, not loaded with cream and tomato puree. Generations of students and young men and women staying as paying guests in the city have gone there to have homesick meals.

And one last bit of info on the Chowpatty eating experience. The one time, of course, when one has to be at Chowpatty and nowhere else in the city is on Anant Chaturdashi, the last day of the Ganesh festival which is when all the really big Ganesh idols are brought to the sea for immersing. People put them in the sea everywhere, but all the really big and famous idols are brought to Girgaum Chowpatty and the sight is simply INCREDIBLE. The crowds, the huge idols floating over the waves, the trucks bringing more idols - and all really well organised thanks to the Bombay Police who, on this day at least, fulfill their function. Its a total blast and best of all, you can get to eat quite well and free at the stalls set up by service groups at the back of the beach. Last year I had wonderful hot vada-pau and jalebis dripping warm syrup at the Haryana Mitra Mandal stall - just what I needed after all the exhilaration of the crowds!

Vikram

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    • By gsquared
      Post your questions here -->> Q&A
      A Sampling of North Indian Breads
      Authors: Monica Bhide and Chef Sudhir Seth
      Introduction
      These breads are the taste of home for me -- wholesome breads prepared with simple ingredients and simple cooking methods. There are many different types of breads in North India. They can be prepared in the tandoor (clay oven, as is done in many restaurants), dry roasted, cooked on a griddle, or deep-fried. They can be prepared plain, or stuffed with savory or sweet filling, or just topped with mouthwatering garnishes.
      In the recipes below we are merely attempting to scratch the surface, presenting you with a glimpse of these magnificent breads.
      North Indian breads are prepared with various kinds of flours. The ones listed here use a whole-wheat flour known as atta and all-purpose flour. The dough is prepared in most cases without the use of yeast. (We have shown a special sweet bread here, called Sheermal, that is prepared using yeast.) Also, the tandoori breads are generally rolled out by hand not with a rolling pin. But in the recipes below, for ease of use for the home cook, we have used a rolling pin. As you will also see then, no special equipment is needed. We have prepared the breads in a traditional oven and in a non-stick skillet. (We have included some pictures towards the end of the lesson of a roti being prepared in a commercial tandoor.)
      A few tips:
      • Knead the dough well, adding only enough water or other specified liquid to make the dough the right consistency.
      • A must for preparing these breads is to let the dough rest as indicated. This will ensure that the dough softens and moistens, making it more pliable and easier to stretch
      • To prepare simple ghee (clarified butter) see below but for a in-depth discussion check out this wonderful thread in the India forum. (See the last few suggestions on preparing it by melting butter.)
      • You can also purchase ghee or clarified butter at your local Indian grocer or from www. Namaste.com.
      Clarified Butter (Ghee)
      Yields: About ½ cup
      ½ lb unsalted butter
      Heat a heavy pan over low heat. Add the butter, allowing it to melt. Once the butter has melted, increase the heat, bringing the butter to a simmer. The butter will start to foam.
      Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Watch carefully as it may burn. The milk solids will start to settle at the bottom, and the liquid butter will float to the surface. When the liquid butter becomes amber in color, remove it from from the heat. Cool to room temperature.
      Strain the amber liquid into a jar and discard the milk solids.
      Cover and store, refrigerated, for up to 6 months.
      Plain Naan Dough
      Naans are traditional Indian breads prepared in clay ovens or tandoors. They are commonplace on most Indian menus. We have tried here to present a simple dough for Naans and then two of the more unusual preparations for it: the Peshawari Naan and the Onion Kulcha. .
      • ½ cup milk
      • 1 teaspoon sugar
      • 1 cup warm water
      • 1 tablespoon yogurt
      • 1 egg
      • 4 cups of all-purpose flour (labelled "maida" in Indian grocery store)
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 1 teaspoon baking powder
      • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for baking tray)
      • 2 tablespoons clarified butter or ghee
      In a bowl whisk together the milk, sugar, water, yogurt and egg.
      Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a large shallow bowl. Mix well.
      Pour the liquid onto the flour and begin to knead. Continue kneading until you have a soft dough. If you need more liquid, add a few tablespoons of warm water. Knead for at least 10 minutes, or until you have a soft dough that is not sticky.
      Oil the dough.
      Cover the dough with a damp cloth and place in a warm place for 1½ - 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in volume.
      Directions for plain naan:
      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly dust the rolling surface and rolling pin with flour.
      Knead the dough again on the floured surface for about 5 minutes. Divide it into 8 equal pieces and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap.
      Roll each piece into a ball and flatten it with your hands. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into an oval shape (about 8 inches). Using your hands, pull at both ends of the oval to stretch it a little. Continue until you have made 8 naans.
      Brush each oval with clarified butter.

      Place the naans on the baking sheet bake for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until golden brown.
      Peshawari Naan
      In this delightfully sinful recipe, the naan dough is stuffed with dried nuts and raisins and baked. Serve this warm right out of the oven for the best taste.
      1 recipe prepared plain naan dough
      For the stuffing:
      • 1 tablespoon cashews (crushed)
      • 1 tablespoon almonds (crushed)
      • 1+1 tablespoons pistachios (crushed)
      • 1 tablespoon raisins
      • 1 teaspoon cilantro leaves, minced
      • 1 teaspoon sugar
      • 1 tablespoon Milk Mawa Powder (Dried whole milk powder)

      • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
      • 3 tablespoons melted butter or clarified butter
      Prepare the Naan dough.

      While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.
      Set aside 1 tablespoon of pistachios and the raisins. In a mixing bowl combine all the other filling ingredients. Add a few tablespoons of water to bind them together to form a lumpy consistency.
      Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.
      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly oil or flour your hands.
      Take one portion of the dough and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.
      Add a tablespoon of the filling to the center. Bring the sides together and pinch them to seal and form a ball. Flatten lightly. Dust very lightly with flour.

      Roll the flattened ball again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.
      Garnish with the reserved pistachios and raisins.

      Continue until you have made 8 naans.
      Brush each naan with clarified butter. Place the naans on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until golden brown.
      Serve hot.

      Onion Kulcha
      We present this recipe by popular demand. Here the naan is stuffed with a spiced onion mix and baked to perfection.
      1 recipe prepared plain naan dough
      For the stuffing:
      • 2 small red onions, finely chopped
      • 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
      • 1 tablespoon Chaat Masala (www.namaste.com)
      • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
      • Salt to taste
      • 3 tablespoons melted butter or clarified butter
      • 2 teaspoons cilantro, minced for garnish
      • small boiled potato, grated (optional)
      Prepare the naan dough.

      While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.

      First, using the palms of your hands, squeeze out all the water from the chopped onions. If the onions still appear to be watery, add a small boiled grated potato to your filling. This will prevent the filling from spilling out of the kulcha.
      In a mixing bowl combine all the filling to form a lumpy consistency.

      Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.
      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly oil or flour your hands.
      Take one portion of the dough and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

      Add a tablespoon of the filling to the center. Bring the sides together and pinch them to seal and form a ball. Flatten lightly. Dust very lightly with flour.

      Roll the flattened ball again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

      Dip your fingers in water and moisten the surface of the kulcha very lightly. Sprinkle with a few minced cilantro leaves. Continue until you have made 8 kulchas.

      Place the kulchas on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until golden brown.
      Serve hot.


      Ande Ka Paratha
      This is a unique addition to your recipe collection. A mild and flaky bread, it is a small kid’s favorite at our home.
      Makes 8 parathas
      • 2 cups Indian atta flour (whole-wheat flour)
      • 1½ teaspoons table salt
      • 2+2 tablespoons melted butter or clarified butter
      • Water as needed
      • 8 eggs
      In a bowl combine the flour, salt and two tablespoons of clarified butter. Slowly begin to add the water, kneading the flour as you go. Make a dough, kneading for at least 10 minutes. The final dough should be soft and pliable. It should not be sticky or else it will not roll out well.


      Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.

      Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.
      Lightly oil or flour your hands. Take one portion and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the prepared floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.
      Now fold the dough over itself.

      Take the folded dough and roll it around itself into a spiral.

      Tuck the end under.

      Do this for all eight dough balls. (This folding and rolling will make the paratha very flaky.)

      Now flatten the spiral and roll again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.


      Heat a griddle on medium heat. Brush it lightly with butter and add the paratha. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the paratha begins to blister. Brush the top lightly with butter and remove from heat. Put the paratha aside on a warm plate.

      Grease the same griddle a bit and break an egg on it. Cook the egg sunny side up. Place the cooked side of the paratha on the egg. Press down gently to break the yolk. Let it cook for a minute. Brush the top of the paratha with butter, flip carefully and cook for another minute or two until the paratha is no longer raw.


      Remove the paratha from the griddle and place on a serving platter. Cover with a paper towel. Continue until all the parathas are cooked.
      Serve hot.

      Indian Bread Stuffed With Spicy Potatoes (Aloo Ka Paratha)
      This filled paratha is a very popular North Indian bread, served traditionally with homemade white butter and Indian pickles of your choice.
      • 2 cups Indian atta flour (whole-wheat flour)
      • 4 tablespoons semolina
      • 1½ teaspoons table salt
      • 2 tablespoons melted clarified butter or butter
      • Water as needed
      • 3 medium potatoes, peeled
      • 2 Serrano green chilies, seeded and finely minced
      • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
      • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, grated
      • 1 teaspoon Chaat Masala
      • 4 tablespoons melted clarified butter or butter
      • A few tablespoons flour for dusting
      In a bowl combine the wheat flour, semolina flour, salt and two tablespoons of clarified butter. Slowly begin to add the water, kneading the flour as you go. Make a dough, kneading for at least 10 minutes. The final dough should be soft and pliable. It should not be sticky, or else it will not roll out well.
      Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.
      While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.
      Boil the potatoes in enough water to cover for about 15 minutes. Drain.



      Put the potatoes in a bowl and mash them well with a fork. Add the green chilies, cilantro, ginger root, and chaat masala and mix well. Set this filling aside to cool.
      Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.
      Lightly oil or flour your hands. Take one portion and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the prepared floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.
      Lightly brush the surface with the clarified butter. Add a tablespoon of the potato filling to the center. Bring the sides together and pinch them to seal and form a ball. Flatten lightly. Dust very lightly with flour.



      Roll the flattened ball again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.


      Heat a griddle on medium heat. Brush it lightly with butter and add the paratha. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the paratha begins to blister. Brush the top lightly with butter and flip over. Cook for 2 minutes.

      Remove the paratha from the griddle and place on a serving platter. Cover with a paper towel. Continue until all the parathas are cooked.

      Sheermal
      A sweet bread, it is one of the few Indian breads that uses yeast. Keep the dough in a warm place to ensure that it rises. You can increase the amount of sugar if you like a sweeter taste.

      • 1 packet dry yeast
      • 1 teaspoon sugar
      • ¼ cup water
      • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
      • ¼ teaspoon salt
      • 2 tablespoons sugar
      • 2 eggs (separate 1 egg and set the yolk aside) beat the whole egg and the white together
      • 2 tablespoons melted clarified butter or butter
      • Extra flour for dusting
      • Pitted cherries/raisins for garnish
      Mix yeast with the sugar and 1/4 cup water. Set aside until frothy, about 5 - 10 minutes.
      Combine the flour, salt and sugar. Add the clarified butter, egg and yeast mixture. Knead until a smooth dough is formed. (You may need more warm water.) Set aside to rise until the dough doubles in size.
      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly dust the rolling surface and rolling pin with flour.
      Knead the dough again on the floured surface for about 5 minutes. Divide it into 6 equal pieces and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap.
      Roll each piece into a ball and flatten it with your hands. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into a disc. Continue until you have made 6 discs.
      Beat the reserved egg yolk and brush a little on each sheermal. Place a few cherries on the sheermal for garnish. Place the discs on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.

      Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes, or until golden brown.

      Tandoori Roti
      We wanted to show how the tandoor is used to prepare breads. These pictures are of a special roti or bread, called Tandoori Roti, being prepared in the hot tandoor or clay oven.
      The basic recipe entails preparing a dough of whole-wheat flour. (See the paratha dough prepared earlier.) The flattened rolled out discs are then cooked in the tandoor until the dark spots begin appearing on the surface of the bread.




      Post your questions here -->> Q&A
    • By rajsuman
      Inspired by a similar thread under 'General Food Topics', I wanted to know how many Indian cookbooks we collectively own on this forum. I have 43 right now, but I'm sure more will turn up from under the bed etc. I'm particularly curious about your collection Vikram, because you seem to own every Indian cookbook under the sun. Here's a picture of my very modest collection (a few on the left haven't come in the shot)

      This is in the kitchen, although there are not that many Indian books here ('Indian Everyday' is from the library) except the small booklets at the end.

    • By Suvir Saran
      What role do they play in your Indian kitchen?
      Do you use it in other dishes you prepare? Maybe even outside of the Indian food realm.
      Do you find it easy to find Cilantro?
      What parts of cilantro do you use?
      How do you keep it fresh?
    • By bague25
      Which are the pickles you have in your pantry right now?
      Which are the ones you dream of?
      Any recipes? Any secrets? Any reading material?
      Please share - as Monica says Inquiring minds want to know...
    • By Bhukhhad
      Breakfast in India vs Breakfast in our homes outside India
      My breakfasts have varied from the time I started to cook for myself instead of just enjoying my Mother’s cooking. At first they were a mix-match of meal fixings, or just dinner leftovers. Or the good old breakfast cereal and milk. But as the years passed and I was more organized, the meals I enjoyed in my Mother’s home began to swim in my memories. And I began to prepare those for my family. However, I am no amazonian chef, so depending on  the hectic nature of the days plans, I switched back and forth from convenience with taste, to elaborate and of course tasty breakfasts. We do have both vegetarian and non vegetarian foods but Indian breakfasts will mostly be vegetarian. 
      So here are some of the things I might make: 
       
      1. Poha as in mostly ‘kande pohe’.
      2. Cheela/ Pudla
      3. Masala toast
      4. Indian Omelette
      5. Handwo piece
      6. Thepla
      7. Vaghareli rotli
      8. Dhokla chutney
      9. Idli sambhar
      10. Leftover sabji
      11. Muthiya
      12. Khakhra
      13. Upma
      14. Paratha
       
      1. Kande Pohe: 
      The dish derives its name from Maharashtra where the Kande Pohe are celebrated as breakfast. They can of course like any breakfast, be eaten at any time. 
      Pohe/ Poha are steamed rice grains that have been beaten flat and then again redried. So they are like Rice flakes. Except they are hand pounded, so have a knobbly texture. 
      You get several varieties in the market. I prefer the thick white variety. 
       
      1 cup dry poha per person
      1 medium onion sliced
      1/2 jalapeno deseeded
      1 sprig curry leaves
      2 small garlic cloves
      1/4 t cumin seeds
      1/2 lemon 
      1/8 t asafoetida
      1/4 t turmeric
      small handful of cilantro leaves
      1T fresh grated coconut
      2 T Peanut oil 
      salt to taste
      sugar to taste
       
      In a pan heat some oil and add cumin seeds. When the seeds sputter, add sliced onions and stir. Saute on medium heat till they turn slightly browned here and there. Do not burn the onions. 
      Meanwhile wash the Poha in a colander and drain. Do this two or three times to get rid of any dirt and also to allow them to rehydrate. They do not need soaking. Fluff the poha with a fork. Add salt sugar turmeric asafoetida and chopped cilantro. Mix and set aside. 
      Once the onions are ready add minced garlic and chopped jalapeno along with the curry leaf sprig. 
      Turn the heat to low and add the poha mixture. Stir to coat and to allow the turmeric and asafoetida to cook. The poha will turn mildly yellow and start giving a wonderful fragrance. 
      Turn off the heat. Fluff gently and plate. Garnish with fresh grated coconut and a squeeze of lemon juice. 
      Finger licking good!! 
      Now when I make this next I will post a picture. 
      Update: Ok I felt the urge to have Kande Pohe for tonight’s dinner. So here is a picture. I am certain to enjoy it for breakfast as well. The measurement of 1 cup poha per person is too much for one meal. But carried over to another meal thats super good! I will also have some stir fried bok choy greens made in the same kadhai after the poha was done, and some cooked and sliced beetroot for salad. My family will add some haldiram sev on the poha for extra crunch! And we will all have some chaas to round off this meal. 
      *************
       
      2. Cheela/ Pudla
       
      These are essentially crepes but in the Indian style. 
      1/2 cup sieved garbanzo bean (Besan) flour. 
      Water to form a thin batter
      1T plain yogurt 
      1/2 t ginger garlic paste 
      1/4 or less green chili crushed
      2 t heated oil *
      pinch asafoetida
      pinch turmeric 
      salt to taste
      chopped cilantro (two sprigs)
      some ‘masala’ from a readymade pickle
       
       
      Method:
       
      mix the ingredients together except oil. Heat oil in a separate pan and add about 1 to 2 t of the hot oil onto the batter. It will sizzle. Use a whisk to stir thoroughly. The batter should be pouring consistency. 
      Let the batter soak for about half an hour if possible. 
      On a hot griddle, pour a ladle full of the batter. Turn the griddle with your wrist to spread the batter around. Cook on moderate to high flame. Flip the crepe when all the sides look like they are ready. You can add a little oil to the sides of the frying pan to make the edges crispy. 
       
      In my home we usually have a Besan cheela with some yogurt its a quick and filling breakfast. You can have a small salad or fruit with it to make it more complete. Or fill the center of the cheela with some cottage cheese and fold for added creaminess! 
      ****************
      3. Masala Toast : 
       
      1 slice of bread (your choice) toasted
      1/2 small red onion minced
      1 medium roma tomato diced (or whatever you have)
      cilantro (few leaves)
      1/8 t cumin (optional)
      1/4 t chaat masala ( available in stores)
      1 inch cube paneer
      1 T peanut oil
      pinch turmeric (optional)
       
      Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onions. Add the tomato and cook down to mush. Crumble the paneer and add the dry spices. Stir for a few seconds to warm the paneer. Add the cilantro and though I have not written it as an ingredient, I like a few drops of lemon juice. Do not overcook paneer.
      I started this topic because someone asked for Indian recipes on the new forum. I don’t think they have seen any yet. I hope they find this useful. I am enjoying it. 
      **************************
       
      I will add recipes to the list slowly. I have to however add that after a certain ‘age’ I have now resorted to having to make sure I have three things for breakfast besides coffee: a glass of water, a small portion of fruit and a small portion of some protein not necessarily meat. 
      Bhukkhad
       

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