Recently I wrote about the Meat Ban in Maharashtra during the main Jain festival ‘Paryushan’ and voiced some Jain concerns about the sudden outburst of widespread protests in the media, in the political and legal arenas and on the streets, about a brief prescription, that’s 41 year old!
Some people started wondering, am I a strict vegetarian!
Certainly I’m not.
But never ever as adamant as some people. I can survive on vegetarian food, for umpteen numbers of days without whining.
I’d grown up since my childhood days, with my Grandmother who was a widow, and loved her fruitarian meals. A strict vegetarian who never took food after sunset, my granny taught me some of the best yet simplest vegetarian recipes.
And one of them is Shukto.
On a personal note. While passing through a Bazaar area in the neighbourhood, my 5 year old kid saw flocks of clucking chickens were slaughtered, skinned and cut into pieces on a busy road. Since then she never took non veg food. I also never shared it with her.
I myself try not to impose my food habit to anyone. But I know it’s just a habit, and you get accustomed to it. This is not a big issue anytime, If you go to Hong Kong, you can have your choicest Snakes killed, skinned and barbequed in front of you. Some over enthusiasts also drink the snake blood right on the spot, assuming to gain virility.
In Vietnam, where Dog Meat is a delicacy, the hapless dogs are openly displayed in cages and slaughtered openly. You can see their beseeching eyes, crammed inside the cages. In Hanoi’s Cau Giay district, the chic restaurants serve Dog Meat at a premium price!
Veganism is not a religious issue. It’s an emotional issue too. Some people were cannibals, even a hundred years ago, in parts of Borneo or in the Amazons or elsewhere. People love turtles, Venison or deer meat, love to kill rabbits for food. What not! But the way they are butchered and processed, leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
If you go to Pakistan and announce that you are a strict vegetarian, you’re considered a queer or just having a fad! But they religiously proscribe pork, which is an essential delicacy for many.
Now here come the explanations. There are so many big articles to prove that Hindus were Beef eater actually. ‘Vedas’ written 2500 to 3000 years back are having ’ample’ proof of that, etc.
But in entire Arab peninsula there were many Christians and Christian kingdoms. How you can be sure that Pigs were not a popular delicacy over there say 1500 years back, before the advent of Islam.
Before Muslims it was the Jews and their books which proscribed Pork. It is ‘Kosher’ the special way of slaughter that pre dates ‘Halaal’. So don’t be without reason, and reciprocal respect to other beliefs.
In my experience with Tribals in India, I’ve seen, they eat many animals and reptiles which we won’t. But nowadays, forget about eating, there are strict laws for using animal for livelihood. So, scores of poor Kalandars, Madaris and Saperas just lost their livelihood, overnight.
And there are so many vegan varieties available in a country like India! Not experiencing the tastes would be injustice to our national diversity.
With my Maharashtrian friends and my extended families, I’m very comfortable with Sabu Dana Khichdi, Misal Pav and Zunka Bhakri.
But while in Kolhapur I never miss Chicken Kohlapuri or Kolhapur Biryani, and the most delectable Tambda Rassa! You go and check it at ‘Rasika’, ‘Shetkari Dhaba’ or at ‘Opal’!
Sabu Dana Khichdi
From my in laws’ side, who are the Audichya Brahmins from Gujarat, thepla, khandvi,mung daal bhajiya, or surti daal and gujarati kadi are regular features at my home.
Khandvi for breakfasts
But while at Ahmadabad, the non veg joint at Kalupur, ‘Moti Mahal’ and ‘Awadhpuri’ at Prahlad Nagar, are my two hot favourites.
Awadhpuri at Ahmadabad
For authentic local taste, great places at pocket friendly Bhatiyar Gali in Teen Darwaja in the old city area are also in my itinerary for hot and spicy Rogan Josh , Keema Samosa and Tawa Chicken specialities. They are open to tickle the taste buds till midnight.
In Surat too, it’s not just Surti Daal, and I shall vouch for it. The ‘Nanwadi Chicken’, ‘Patel Chicken’ and roadside eateries of Zampa bazaar or Salia Market can gratify any die hard Kukkad lover!
Roadside Zampa Bazaar eatery
I’m not a Jain food aficionado, no garlic, no onion, no potato, no card variety. But sometimes I feel very comfortable with Jain food, specially at ‘Bhagat Tarachand’, that also at its Zaveri Bazaar outlet. The more than a century old Sindhi vegetarian food chain is always happy to accept Jain Food order. Here you get the cool and refreshing Kuttchi Beer, which is basically a nice glassful of Chaas.
Bhagat Tarachand, Zaveri Bazaar
In Delhi, ‘Suruchi ‘at Karol Bagh or ‘Rajdhani’ at Connaught Place offer good Rajasthani food, but my favourite is ‘Marwari Tadka’ at Netaji Subhas Place, just opposite the Max Hospital. Real Rajasthani delicacies: Tikar (Bejaar ki roti: made of five ingredients), Dal Bati, Gattey Ki Sabji, Aloo Pyaaz ki Sabji, Mirchi ke Tiporey, and Panjiri…Really! Padharo Maro Taste Re!
And whenever I’ve to catch a bus from Sindhi Camp Bus Depot in Jaipur, I never miss that non descript ‘Santosh Bhojanalya’, for their tempting Ghee soaked Dal Bati, simply mouth watering.
Santosh Bhojanalya, Jaipur
Have been to ‘Chokhi Dhani’ and its Tonk Road counterparts often…but they always seemed artificial just to attract tourists…but this place is authentic Rajasthani, with pure local flavour and crowded but dedicated clientele.
Coming to Mughlai aroma. Delhi’s Jama Masjid by-lanes are always my favourite since my hungry post college days. Dashing there on a vintage two wheeler nearing midnight for crisp Kadai fried chicken, in the open…those halcyon days! Spice stuffed Chicken pieces fried under open sky in boiling oil on deep Kadais and served with an assortment of delectable spicy sauces and finely sliced onion!
Urdu Bazaar behind Jama Masjid has several Kebab joints. And Mohammed Ershad Qureshi is a long time acquaintance. Lalu Kababee is damn cheap and locally too popular. But again, Chicken is always in big demand, and Beef here is actually Buffalo meat.
Kababees at Urdu Bazaar
Today open air midnight Kadais are fast disappearing, giving space to dingy shop types. But still ‘Mota Pehalwan Ki Biriyani’ or ‘Babu Bhai Ke Kebab’, have somehow been institutionalised.
Coming back to traditional vegetable platters, Gujarat Thalis in Mumbai are not the hard one to find. At every corner, there is one. The ‘Purohits’ at Churchgate have now shut down. They introduced Silver Plates for their customers in the yesteryears.
But sill, there are the good old ‘Thackers’ at Chowpatty, ‘Thakkar Bhojanalaya’ at Kalbadevi and ‘Panchavati Gaurav’ near Bombay Hospital.
And never to miss ‘Friends Union Joshi Club’ at Kalbadevi. it’s on the first floor in an old building in Narrotam Wadi. Like many other Gujarati ‘Khanavals‘, ‘Friends Union Joshi Club’, was started more than 100 years ago to serve the Gujarati bachelors working in Mumbai.
Friends Union Joshi Club, Kalbadevi
The taste perhaps remained almost the same. High ceiling, big windows overlooking the streets of Kalbadevi, wooden benches, no air-conditioning: Four vegetables, one farsan, daal (mitho or regular), chaas, rice or khichdi, chopped salad, chutneys and fried chopped chillies all within 100 bucks.
Those friends, who vouch that they can’t live without Beef, are basically eating buffalo meat, almost all over India. India also exports Buffalo Meat abroad. Best Beef is consumed in the USA, apart from home-grown varieties, these mostly come from Argentina and Australia. In my opinion, Argentine beef is most scrumptious and rich in nutritious value.
‘Woodside Inn’, opposite Regal cinema in Mumbai traditionally served both beef steaks and pork items. The place is unexpectedly owned by Pankil Shah, who feels that Beef Ban in some way or other there in Maharastrian since last four decades with, Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act of 1976. The recent Amendment only added discarded Bulls in it. Most of Mumbai’s eateries have always used water buffalo at their outlets. Only a few five star hotels used to import Brazilian Beef.
Asado in Mumbai
Only a few upmarket restaurants in Mumbai depended mainly on Beef preparations served at a premium. ‘Asado Latin Grill’ of Bandra West , is one such restaurant is Latin American specialty restaurant. The owner of this place is one Sardar named Trimaan Singh Chandock, who incidentally have export business with Latin America and the Chief Chef is a Bengali named Sanjay Mukherjee.
Prices are obviously upmarket: Lamb Chops (Rs.850), Pork Ribs (Rs.900) and a Brazilian Beef Steak (Rs.2,400). Now, you won’t get the last item there.
One of my favourites, ‘Bade Miya’ at Colaba now specialises on Chicken. Mutton and Sea Food varieties. There Beef varieties and Kebabs were luscious with rumaali rotis, but now however discontinued.
Bade Miya, Colaba
‘Bagdadi’, also at Colaba, behind Taj Mahal Hotel, had some popular Beef items, like Bhuna Beef, Palak Beef and Beef Masala Fry. But I always suspected that they were Buffalo Meat. In the fish category, their Pomfret preparations are really good here.
It’s pure common sense, the Beef lovers in Mumbai are carping and cursing these days. But it was always Buffalo meat except some old bulls or expensive imported varieties.
But have anyone of them explored the rich varieties of Maharastrian food in Mumbai? I’m not just talking about Dadar eateries type. There are two distinct varieties of Maharashtrian non veg cuisines. One comes from Kolhapur and the other one is Nagpuri Saoji cuisine. ‘Minks’ at Andheri East, near Marol Fire Service Station is a real discovery. Though these days its run by a non Maharashtrian couple and the place is small, but it is one of my favourite Maharashtrian foods joint.
Nagpuri Saoji food at Minks
Mutton Saoji, Chicken Sukkha, Gurda Fry, Saoji Biryani, Nagpuri Spl. Patodi, Dal Kanda, Khas Khas fry…The place is a real gem of eateries. ‘Saoji Tadka’ at Worli Naka was bigger but it was a misnomer. Not exclusive Saoji. It used to serve all kinds of non-veg, north Indian style. Somebody told me that it has been closed down.
And never miss, “Uttam Da Dhaba’ nearby, run by a Punjabi puttar Gursharan Singh. Earlier he used to run a Liquor Shop in the area, but got in trouble with police, and had to shut it down. since then…the Dhaba business is flourishing.
Butter Chicken, Lassi , Sarson da Saag…you can even discover some Khatias here, in the line of highway Dhabas from Patiala to Jalandhar.
Foods are aplenty and life is short!
So the story never ends.
P.S.: The Heading of the article is from a Fat Boys Album of the same name: All You Can Eat.
By Deep Basu
Images were supplied by the author.