I’m not sure if I’ve admitted this on here yet, but Indian food isn’t really my thing. If i have admitted it before, let’s pretend that this is a totally new admission and you’re both shocked and intrigued. “But why?” you think, “how can a food writer who thinks all day–almost entirely–about eating reject the culinary stylings of her ancestors?” Firstly, don’t put me in a box, but secondly, it’s complicated. (I’m aware that sounded like a breakup.)
In moderation, I enjoy Indian food–I love smoky-charred chicken tikkas, and silky puréed spinach resplendent with chunks of springy paneer. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that “Indian food” is a ridiculous term which doesn’t begin to explore the regional delicacies; from Caribbean flavors and Seafood in Kerala to entirely vegetarian dishes in other parts of South India, to the myriad other food eaten in this massive country. But, my reasons for holding the cuisine of my people at arms length are twofold:
- I’m not a fan of cumin, cardamom, fennel seed, or fenugreek. Sorry, but it’s true. These pungent spices are essential in the preparation of Indian food throughout the country.
- Visiting India, you can, and most likely will, OD on the cuisine. I’m extremely lucky to visit my family in Bombay (Mumbai) every year, but after days of the intense local flavors, you can experience some mouth and stomach fatigue (not to mention a latent threat of gastrointestinal challenges…)
With that said, each trip I make to India, my father is determined to stoke my love of food and introduce me to new dishes and restaurants. Bombay has a terrific food scene, not just limited to Indian cuisine, and we frequently try new places and some of our old favorites.
A few weeks back, after some light shopping, my father insisted steered my mother and me towards an unfamiliar South Bombay eatery: Tewari Brothers. In addition to selling many sweetmeats, mithai, Tewari specializes in chaat, Indian snacks. I peered around, and spotted (in no particular order), an ever-praying man on a prayer podium, sparkly good luck treats, crispy bhel being fried right outside. As usual, in India, a kaleidoscope of sights and smells.
We ordered a few different treats because, well, it was snacktime.
The first, Raj Kachori consisted of a large crisp puri which is a fried orb of wheat dough. Inside the shell was a spiced lentil mixture, a kachori (a fluffy pancake of gram flour), yogurt sauce, tamarind chutney and crunchy sev, a crunchy fried noodle-shaped topping.
A mouthful it was, but the mix of slightly chewy lentils, crispy sev and puri, and the ambrosial kachori made for an explosion of textures that my teeth scarcely knew what to do with. The flavors were also explosive, particularly the tangy tamarind chutney (one of my favorites) and the nutty sev and puri, all coated with cooling yogurt.
A deep fried spinach leaf coated with tamarind chutney, yogurt, and sev was perfectly crisp yet not oily at all and a green chutney-filled puri (below) came with an earthy sauce and melted jaggery (cane sugar) which turned into a deep, dark molasses. Incredible:
Never will a trip to Bombay omit Tewari again.
3, Purshottam Building, MP Marg, Opera House,Charni Road