Fantastic food: My recent faves

Back to Mumbai means back to noisy streets, crowded trains and endless traffic jams. But it also means dozens, nay, hundreds of amazing places to eat. And so, the last few weeks I’ve been heading to old haunts and new places, relishing my favourite dishes and exploring new ones.

So here are the best food experiences in the last one month.

Best breakfast: The Pantry, Kala Ghoda

We spent a gorgeous Sunday morning surrounded by peace and quiet, and great food, of course. “The kheema is brilliant”, declared S after a few bites. And so was the mushroom, chilli and cheese omelette. Oh yum!

Pantry Kala Ghoda breakfast kheema

Pantry Kala Ghoda breakfast omelette

Best main course: The Sassy Spoon, Bandra

Packed on a Tuesday afternoon, The Sassy Spoon at Bandra had a great vibe and even better food. The star of the show was my main course- zucchini and sweet potato roesti with ratatouille. With refined plating, the right balance of flavours and the goodness of vegetables, this was a truly memorable dish.

Sassy Spoon zucchini roesti

Best dessert: Bombay Vintage, Colaba

Now I’m not a desserts gal at all, but when friends order an weird-sounding dish called jaggery pudding, you know you got to try it. And so I did, and I did NOT regret the calories at all. Topped with ice cream, this dessert was a refreshing departure from cheesecakes and mousses.

Bombay Vintage jaggery pudding dessert

Old time favourite: Café Royal, Colaba

S and I are HUGE sizzler fans and so Café Royal is my all-time favourite. I visit the restaurant on an empty stomach and I polish off my sizzler. Always. Check out my sizzler. ‘Nuff said.

Cafe Royal Mumbai vegetarian sizzler

Sunday Street Stories: Mumbai’s Big Ben

On a hazy winter-like day in Mumbai, as busy officegoers crossed the maidan (grounds) at Churchgate, the Rajabai  clock tower rises conspicuously high above the crowds, the coconut trees and 20th century buildings.

image

Inspired by London’s Big Ben, the clock tower was built in the Venetian-Gothic style in the 1870s. Financed by stock broker Premchand Roychand and designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, Rajabai Clock Tower in the Mumbai University campus has been one of my favourite buildings in the city. With its quiet Gothic elegance, the tower is a reminder that the city’s heritage are treasures that can last centuries, if only we care for them.

Location: Churchgate, Mumbai
Date: January 29, 2016
Device: Nexus 5

A sweet corn soup story

Sweet corn soup was my favourite dish at Chinese restaurants when I visited with my family two decades ago. There was something about the soup that appealed to my cousins and me- it wasn’t spicy but it wasn’t bland either, it didn’t look intimidating like some other Indian Chinese(?) dishes, it was served at most restaurants we went to, it tasted perfect, and most importantly, our parents approved of it.

But alas, the yummy sweet corn soup run ended a few years ago. Almost everywhere I went, a well-made vegetable sweet corn soup became elusive. Our favourite restaurants shut down, chefs changed, or perhaps nobody cared about the humble sweet corn soup anymore. I had to switch to manchow soup with the fried noodles, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t as comforting as my favourite sweet corn soup. And, hot and sour soup is too strong on flavour for me.

Sweet corn soup chicken and veg

Anyways, when I began to cook early 2014, I realized the world was my oyster (heh!), and I could cook (almost) everything I wanted at home. When the Mumbai monsoon arrived few months later, I began seeking out soups again (no fried pakoras for me, please!). And when I stumbled across a can of cream-style corn in the supermarket one day, I knew it was time to cook myself sweet corn soup just the way I liked it.

So one rainy Saturday S and I set out to cook sweet corn soup for the first time. The ingredients were all gathered, the preps were done (chopped veggies for me, chicken pieces for him), and the kitchen set-up all ready (separate dishes for cooking my vegetarian and his chicken version). Time to begin. S was tasked with opening the can of cream-style corn. We didn’t have a can opener at the time, so he used a knife to prise it open. BIG MISTAKE. A tiny slip led to a nasty cut, and soon S’s hand turned red, and his gushing blood was making tiny puddles on the kitchen counter.

First, I tried not to throw up (luckily I didn’t), then I panicked. Finally I called S’s dad (he’s a doctor) and we were on our way to his clinic, both in our chappals and wrinkled shorts, my uncombed hair tied up in an ugly knot, and just enough money in hand for the rickshaw ride. Meanwhile, it continued to rain, and the cut continued to ooze, and I continued to feel sick, but managed to hold on to my breakfast.

After a thorough cleaning, a roll of bandage and a tetanus shot, we were finally done. We got hold of a can opener on the way home. With so much loss of time (and S’s blood), neither of us were in the mood for sweet corn soup anymore. And neither of us wanted to cook. But lunch had to be had, even if it was terribly late. And so we used the can opener, poured out the cream-style corn, and began to cook. While I insisted S not bother with the cooking, he hovered around, and our first attempt at homemade sweet corn soup was delicious.

Sweet corn soup chicken and veg

The first sip transported me back to Chinese Room, an Indian Chinese restaurant we loved. The only things missing were a light brown tablecloth, fading upholstery and kindly waiters. Ah, sheer nostalgia!

Sweet Corn Soup (Vegetarian and chicken versions)

Ingredients:

1 tin sweet corn (cream style)

Vegetable or chicken stock (400 ml)

A large handful of chopped veggies of your choice (I used carrots, french beans, spring onions)

OR 200 grams boneless chicken, chopped into pieces

1 egg (optional)

1 tablespoon white vinegar*

1 teaspoon light soy sauce*

3 tablespoon corn flour

1 tablespoon of cooking oil (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4-6

Method:

Pour out the contents of the sweet corn tin, add two glasses of water and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 5 minutes, then add your vegetable or chicken stock with chopped chicken or vegetables (except spring onions) and let it cook.

Chicken will take at least 15-20 minutes to cook, while the vegetables will be done quicker (they should still have a bite and not be completely soft).

Ten minutes after adding the chicken, break an egg over the pot and quickly stir it through the soup.

Add vinegar and soy sauce, and add oil gradually.

Meanwhile, mix cornflour with a small bowl of water. When the chicken and vegetables are almost cooked (put a fork through them to determine), add the cornflour-water mixture and let the soup cook for another five minutes. The soup will then thicken. (You can add water or the cornflour mixture to thin or thicken the soup to your liking.)

Add salt and pepper to taste, along with spring onions. Serve hot.

Notes and Tips:

  1. Add vinegar and soy sauce according to your taste- some folks like it sour, some like it more umami.
  2. Be careful with the amount of salt you use, since soy sauce already has a salty flavour (umami).
  3. Those who like it spicy can add a dash of Chinese chilli or schezuan sauce.
  4. You can make this without cream-style corn, if it’s not available or you prefer using fresh ingredients. Replace the cream-style corn with 1.5 cups of fresh corn kernels (aka American corn).

Sweet corn soup chicken recipe

How to be a fit foodie

You’ve posted those food pictures on Instagram with cool filters, you’ve tweeted your 160-character restaurant review, and you’ve written a longer opinion on Facebook, tagging the friends you dined with, and all those you missed. And oh, you’ve used a dozen hashtags with all your updates.

Lettuce salad with dressing

Congrats, you’re a foodie! (And yes, I’m guilty of all of the above).

But alas, being a foodie comes with a great burden. What to eat, what not to eat. Watching the waistline expand is not anyone’s favourite activity but with dozens of amazing restaurants to visit, hundreds of appetizing dishes to try and so many big fat weddings to attend, what is a foodie to do to never gain weight? Or avoid clogged arteries and spiked sugar levels?

Simple. First, you get fit: jog, run, dance, swim, do pilates or yoga or whatever you fancy. Next, you continue being fit while enjoying your food. Here’s how.

Stop counting calories.

Think in terms of nutrition instead. Is this deep-fried gobi pakora nutritious, or is it too heavily loaded with transfats to cancel out the nutrients of the humble cauliflower? Will this lamb burger help me get my daily dose of much-needed protein?

Figure out what doesn’t work for you. And avoid it.

I’m not lactose intolerant but I know my body doesn’t like too much of it- it makes me bloat and builds up congestion. So I skip cheese-laden dishes. While I do enjoy a good pizza once in a while, it’s not high up on my list of preferred foods.

Pizza L'Opera

Skip sugar.

No excuses on this one. S and I have been following this mantra for a few months now, and it’s working wonders for us. It’s not just the crazy amount of calories that sugar adds, but the spike in glucose levels and the addiction that comes with it (you can never have just one bite of cake no matter how much you try to resist). So yep, skip it completely. And if you can, skip the hidden sugars too (ketchup, mayo, processed and packaged foods… you get the drift).

Desserts at Masala Library

Order less.

When you’re in a restaurant where you’re not sure about portion sizes or how much you can eat, order just a dish or two to start with. If you’re still hungry, you can always order more food.

Don’t fall for tempting promotions.

Happy meals don’t make happy waistlines, but bulging bellies. Unlimited platters may give you bountiful joy today, bad stomach tomorrow. And free flow of booze may give you a nasty hangover the next day. So all those crazy food offers are just going to mess with your digestion, your focus at work and your arm fat.

Food promotions - high tea

Cook cool stuff at home. Even if you don’t cook.

If you or your cook (read: mom, spouse, sibling, roomie) already prepare delicious food at home, great. If you don’t, learn. Once you realize how much fun it is to make your own scrumptious kebab or burger or lasagna, you won’t want to eat them outside. And you can control the amount of refined flour, bread, and other ingredients that go into your food. And oh, your own food makes an excellent photo op for Instagram too. The compliments will soon come trickling in.

Baked Spaghetti in tomato pesto

Go seasonal.

If someone offers you mango-based dessert in December, you know the fruit’s been frozen or preserved, right? You’ll skip the mango dessert and opt for the strawberry instead. Anywhere in the world, choose the dish that uses seasonal or fresh or easily available local ingredients.

Desserts at Sassy Spoon

It’s okay to waste.

When you just can’t eat anymore, STOP. It’s your body telling you that enough is enough. Eat anymore and you’re at risk of adding unnecessary pounds, getting a stomach ache, getting sick right there at the party, unable to drive comfortably back home, or having a terrible bathroom emergency. My rule is: Better waste than to the waist.

Sunday Street Stories: Chocolate sandwich, anyone?

Mumbai’s food vendors are an innovative lot. Their street-side inventions and adaptations of local dishes would perhaps put MasterChef contestants to shame. The latest surprise they’ve sprung is the chocolate sandwich.

image

This vendor at Nariman Point tried hard to sell me a chocolate sandwich. Besides putting the chocolate-y condiments on display, he tried to entice me by rattling off the ingredients in the sandwich- Nutella spread, chocolate flakes and Hershey’s syrup. Very, very tempting but I had to give this one a skip. Too sinful for me!

Location: Nariman Point, Mumbai
Date: November 16, 2015
Device: Nexus 5

Sunday Street Stories: Mumbai’s old and new

Mumbai, like most Asian cities is a contrasting picture of heritage structures and modern high-rises. Very often, these lie adjacent to each other and people pass by hurriedly without marvelling at the interesting juxtaposition.

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While waiting at a traffic light in south Mumbai, these two buildings struck my eye. A three-storeyed stone tires building barely conceals the tall giant behind. The latter may be tucked away in a tiny lane, but it sure catches the attention of people passing by.

Location: Kemp’s Corner, Mumbai, India
Date: November 14, 2015
Device: Nexus 5 phone camera

Parsi Dairy Farm: Still fresh or no future?

Earlier this week, The Times of India reported that Mumbai’s iconic Parsi Dairy Farm may shut shop. A day later, the claims are being (unofficially) refuted. Shoddy journalism or the truth, we don’t know yet. But what I do know is that Parsi Dairy Farm needs to keep up with the times. Having been a Parsi Dairy customer for years, here’s my take.

First taste

My cousins’ maid plonked down four mugs of hot milk before us at 4 pm sharp. I cringed. The milk at my cousins’ place had a certain smell and tasted a bit funny too. Milk was absolutely compulsory twice a day, so I had no choice but to hold my nose awkwardly and hope it would go down my throat.

It was buffalo’s milk from the iconic Parsi Dairy Farm and nothing like the cow’s milk I had at home. As a kid, taste mattered to me, not how “iconic” the supplier was (this rule continues to hold true today for me). Despite having had hundreds of mugs of PD milk shoved down my throat, I never developed a taste for it.

parsi dairy farm mumbaii

The water problem

With a fan following and catchment area limited mostly to South Mumbai, Parsi Dairy needed to maintain its topnotch quality to hold on to their customers. Unfortunately for them, when my mom also began with Parsi Dairy milk at home (sad, sad days), the milk seemed to be more watery than cow’s milk.

I don’t know when or how the milk was watered-down, but this universal-in-India vice affected PD milk too. I’m not sure if the PD management ever corrected that, because we soon switched back to cow’s milk. The “packet-wala” doodh was good enough for me. My extended family took several more years to make the switch.

When Parsi Dairy came home

This is how it went every morning: The doodhwala in his blue shirt and khaki shorts rang the doorbell at an unearthly hour (you had a choice between 5 am and 1 pm). You opened the door all groggy, carrying a pateela and pink coupon. The doodhwala poured from his large metal container into your pateela, then you handed him the coupon which he took back to HQ. Those coupons had to be purchased from Parsi Dairy at Marine Lines. My mom often sent me there to buy those booklets and I had to cover my nose and mouth before I entered, so strong was the dairy smell.

It was all a big inconvenience.

Which working woman wants to wake up at 5 am for the milkman? She’d rather head to the supermarket or general store after office and buy her milk and curd in tetra packs. And now that you can order online, why run to buy coupons? I mean, we don’t even queue up for movie tickets anymore.

All businesses, whether dairy farms or social farming games, need to keep up with evolving technology and customer preferences if they want to succeed. Stick to old patterns, and sooner or later your bottomline will take a hit. Parsi Dairy may be a victim of its own old school charm, though they have tried to expand by supplying to a couple of supermarket chains locally.

Not so sweet anymore

Fresh grass-fed cow’s milk was introduced in Mumbai a few years ago and a lot of quality-conscious customers opted for it. Parsi Dairy lost quite a few customers to these new brands which were convenient, delicious and hygienic.

Parsi Dairy’s milk-based desserts were popular too. But good mithai shops are ubiquitous in Mumbai and western desserts are giving strong competition to traditional Indian sweets. For instance, I’d rather have frozen yoghurt than kulfi.

Yes, we all get nostalgic about Parsi Dairy Farms when we pass Princess Street at Marine Lines. Will we miss it if it shuts down? I’m not so sure. I know I won’t.

I prefer soy milk with my muesli and almond chocolate for all muh-meetha festive occasions.

(Image source: TheQuint.com)

MONDAY MEAL: Gourmet biryani that’s fit for a king

It’s hard to believe that a biryani delivery service uses the very expensive and exotic saffron as a standard ingredient in their dishes. But I believe it, because I saw plenty of saffron at Biryani360’s kitchen in Bandra last week. A dozen glass bowls of soaked saffron strands lined the counter and aroma of the fragrant spice wafting through the office was quite a royal welcome!

A glimpse of their clean kitchen:

Biryani360 Bandra Mumbai kitchen

About Biryani360

Biryani360 is a newly-launched gourmet biryani delivery service in Mumbai. The owners claim the dish is made without preservatives, and is cooked and delivered the same day. So you get fresh biryani delivered to your doorstep, prepared with premium ingredients and whole spices (rather than the powdered form):

Biryani360 kitchen spices

First impressions

Biyani360 Mumbai pack

Biryani360 single pack

The biryani comes neatly packed in a cardboard box with machine-sealed packaging. A lot of effort has been put in to make your biryani meal a gourmet experience, from the quality of the cardboard box to the soft yet thick tissue that comes with the biryani. And of course, the biryani looks great too!

The True Taste Test (and Mom knows best!)

So does Biryani360 pass the Taste Test?

YES, with flying colours.

Biryani360 biryani dish

In just the first bite, I could feel the freshness of the biryani with the zing of the whole spices and the pleasantly thick yoghurt (brownie points for that right!). The uneven yellow-ness of the rice comes from the saffron and not artificial colours, so that’s comforting! And you may get a saffron strand or two in your biryani pack, like I did. Raisins were a surprise ingredient in my veg biryani, but they quickly turned out to be a pleasant one. That little burst of sweetness balances out the other spices that you experience.

While the flavours, textures and colours are a delicious mix, the almost-zero oil makes Biryani360 a hands-down winner. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been appalled by the sight of the shiny oil in the biryani delivered by “biryani centres” and local restaurants.

Biryani360 veg rice biryani

The best North Indian home cook in the world (my mom) also gave a thumbs-up to the veg biryani and yoghurt. She was already curious about when the Biryani360 guys would open kiosks in multiplexes and malls, or deliver to her place in town.

 

Why Biryani360 is cool

You only need to visit the Biryani360 website to know why the service is so cool. The website is a fun place, so read the FAQs and watch the video. Also, when you get your biryani pack, there’s lots to keep you interested and entertained and smiling! Take a look:

Biryani360 box pack

 

Biryani360 only offers veg and “unveg” biryani, with a serving of yoghurt. A single pack of veg or unveg biryani (serves one) is priced at Rs 360. Delivery is across Mumbai or you can order takeaway (they’re located very close to Bandra station). Visit https://www.biryani360.com/ to order.

The fabric you need to wear this summer- Liva

I have a whole list of summer clothing pet peeves- no denim, no clingy clothing, no itchy fabrics for me please. Of course, this doesn’t leave me with too many fashionable choices for summer.

Hopefully, this summer will be better because I’ve discovered a new age fabric that will make my summer (and other seasons) easier. This new age fabric is called Liva, made with natural fibres and developed by Birla Cellulose.

Fit for ‘Queen’

Liva’s ambassador is the talented actor Kangana Ranaut who wore this statement-making outfit at a Liva fashion show last week.

Kangana Ranaut for LIVA

Oh, Liva!

The fabric has got sheen, feels cool and soft against my skin, and is super comfy. Thanks to Liva’s fluidity, clothes won’t stick or cling to my body, nor make me feel warmer than it is. Luckily, several brands are already using Liva, and I got a closer look at the clothes.

Liva clothes

No more boxy looks! No more discomfort!

So what’s common among these dresses, kurtas and tees? For starters, they fall well, so no more weird fits or square shapes. And they’ve got a nice sheen that adds a luxe touch to any look.

Liva is being used by several fashion brands such as Van Heusen, Global Desi and 109 F (among others) and all Liva garments would be specially tagged so you can identify them while shopping.

Printed tops with Liva

Van Heusen dresses with Liva

New designs

Moving from high street to high fashion, fashion designers are already using Liva in their collections. Last week designers Anita Dongre, James Ferreira, Puja Nayyar, Sohum Dave and Narendra Kumar presented capsule collections made entirely of Liva. Their looks varied from easy flow to complex drapes, bold colours to vibrant prints. And the clothes? Tops, tees, tunics, kurtas, saris, pants… you name it, and it can be made with Liva.

Liva fashion show collage

If LIVA has you intrigued then please do get in touch with Media Moments for further details!

Just Jewellery: Indian accessories you need for the festive season

Diwali! The festival of lights heralds good fortune and the upcoming Great Indian Wedding Season. So when you shop this week, make it worthwhile and shop for those weddings as well.

I headed to the Just Jewellery store expecting for a one-stop shop to all jewellery needs for the season, and I wasn’t disappointed. This ethnic-inspired store has the answer to all your needs for Indian accessories to take you through the season and beyond. Located close to Mumbai’s famous Mahalakshmi temple, the store is a little haven for the ladies who love semi-precious Indian jewellery. It’s especially a hot favourite for brides-to-be and guests headed to destination weddings.

As I walked into the store, I spotted vibrant colours, quintessential Indian styles with contemporary design elements. The Just Jewellery store houses gorgeous pieces of jewellery such as necklaces, earrings, bracelets, kadas, and hair accessories.

Just Jewellery store Mumbai

While entrepreneur Jasmine Shah introduced me to the collection, I took in the statement necklaces, ornate earrings and super-cute rings. Keeping in line with current trends, there was plenty of play with colour and contrasting elements. For instance, bright orange with royal blue on a ring, or a Buddha motif with a wooden panel on earrings. Each piece has been made in Jaipur, using elements conceptualized or sourced by Jasmine and Sandhya Shah from across the globe (they are a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law duo). Jasmine was delighted to share that they don’t really visit Mumbai’s famous Zaveri Bazaar for their jewellery. I guess that’s what makes them stand apart in terms of design.

Jasmine also mentioned that they have private consultations for brides or anyone else who wants jewellery tailored to their specific needs.

While most of the jewellery is completely wearable and WOW, I’ve picked some pieces and styles from Just Jewellery that you could wear for Diwali and rest of the festive season.

An eye-catching necklace

The statement necklace could be multi-tiered, beaded or studded… all you need is the pizzazz to wear it. My favourites:

Just Jewellery necklaces

Just Jewellery statement necklaces

Traditional earrings

Kundan-style earrings are really popular right now and Just Jewellery has plenty of those. What I also also loved were traditional-looking earrings (with Indian-style beads or finishing) with a modern twist, such as a print or marble-textured pieces. Check out the ones I liked:

Just Jewellery kundan earrings

Just Jewellery cool earrings

Hair accessories

Clips, maang tikkas and even hair bands add a dash of luxury to any ensemble. If you don’t believe me, try one of them and you will feel like a royal. These are the choices of hair accessories… cool, huh?

Just Jewellery hair clips

Just Jewellery hair accessory

Hand ornaments

Bracelets, kadas and rings are easy to pair with any ethnic outfit, since they don’t need to be too matchy-matchy. I’d pick at least two of each for the festive season.

Just Jewellery bangles hand ornaments

Just Jewellery ethnic Indian rings

Some of the rings and bracelets from Just Jewellery could easily double up as accessories for Indo-western and boho-Indian looks. I’d easily wear this ring with a white shirt and skinny blue jeans!

Just Jewellery Ring

What jewellery are you looking to wear this festive season?