Thursday, 24 July 2014

"Ice cream solves everything!!!"

How many of you believe that??? Well, just as there are chocolate fanatics, there are ice-cream fanatics too and i am one of them ! An ice-cream i believe can lift your mood any day and it's not just a hot-summer day treat now ! India is booming with ice-cream parlours and the culture of having a chit-chat over ice cream with friends is increasing. In earlier days, we used to be treated ice-creams or kulfi ( Indian version of ice-cream ) only at special occasions. But with so many take-home products coming up, the perception is changing and an ice-cream has become an everyday treat!

Have you ever wondered how ice-cream was invented? I did some R n D and thought would share this with you all. Though there are many versions and many people/regions claim to have invented it first, this widely told tale ( maybe a myth ) is what everyone believes in. In A.D 54-68 Roman emperor Nero sent his slaves to the mountains to bring ice to combine it with nectar, fruit toppings and honey. And look at technology... today we have 3 genius students from MIT who together hacked a soft-serve ice cream maker, a freezer and a 3-d printer - a machine that extrudes soft serve ice cream into any given shape, then quickly freezes it with a blast of liquid nitrogen !!! Gosh!!! Molecular Gastronomy is at it's peak these days ! Check the video !

At home, we all are ice-cream lovers ! In fact, so much so that my father took my mother for a date ( during their courtship days in 1970's ) the first time at K. Rustom Ice-cream parlour in Churchgate, Mumbai. As the tradition goes, love means food and so i definitely wanted to go here with my foodie hubby, and on a Sunday afternoon we visited Rustomjee with our Mom reliving her old-times! You wouldn't like this place if you are that uptown person who is used to eating at Baskin Robbins or Naturals. This place is a little gloomy, has plastic chairs, can't-be-easily-seen board, humid as the fans really don't seem to throw cool air, and non - AC. But the place has it's own charm, and you will always see people crowding outside it. There is no spoon, no cone, no cup... you get ice cream slab in wafer-thin biscuits!!! Yes, the ice cream might drip down from the biscuit slivers but 1-2 ice-creams here and you will be a master at eating it !

In all we had 5 ice-creams amongst 3 people and we loved it ! There are some unusual flavours like candied cream, mint, toffee crunch, coffee crunch, rum and raisin and so on...The pista, kesar pista and rum n raisin remain our favourites :) And you wouldn't believe the prices... One ice-cream slab costs you between INR 50-70. So, this place is not-to-miss and the old Parsi lady sitting at the cashier desk who seemed unbothered by all the business chaos happening around truly seemed relaxed and chilled. Guess that's what happens to you when you believe in your product and your staff !

Another ice-cream which i am a big fan of, is near our home in Thane called Creamchills. The mother company being Cool Camp started in 1998, Cream chills has over 5 ice-cream parlours running successfully in Thane, kalwa and Mulund. They offer almost 31 flavours and combine them to create some terrific Milkshakes, Ice cream shakes, sundaes and kulfis. My favourite with them remains the Gulkand ice cream and hubby's is the Anjeer ( Fig ). The best part about both of them is the ice cream is soft, rich and creamy, and every bite has immense amounts of real fruits and nut bits. Aren't they tempting?? I can dig in a whole family pack right now!!! :)

Kulfi is a type of Indian ice-cream, traditionally served in the shape of cones but now-a-days served also in the form of cubes or various other shapes and sizes. This frozen dairy dessert is famous at Mumbai Chowpati and the one i tasted was the Mawa-Malai Rabdi Kulfi. "Ooh-la-la"...It just melts in your mouth! 

Another famous joint for Kulfi is the "Devang Kulfi Nasikwale" on Gokhale Road, Thane. Priced just at Rs. 20 for the Malai kulfi candy and Rs. 25 for the Kesar Pista candy, you will know it is made of pure milk when you take in just one bite! I never miss going to this place when i go home! Having run for over 8 years in Nasik ( Maharashtra ), they have 4 outlets all over Mumbai. Their Rabdi-bowl is also outstanding if you don't want to have something cold.

And last, but the best is Vijay Ice-cream and Kulfi. Located right in the heart of thane near Talao-pali ( Lake-side ), this one is as old as 25 years ! I have had kulfi here ( specially malai - yes, by now you must have guessed that my favourite kulfi flavour is malai :)) in childhood days and when i had it now, the flavour and texture was just the same. I think what has brought him so long and successful is the consistency and purity that he has maintained and stuck to his original traditional flavours and recipes than trying to change with the growing competition. His only publicity is the walk-in customers who come there for a stroll at talao-pali and word-by-mouth publicity.

A very small shop, people usually take-away kulfi from him which he gives on per-kilo basis and packs them in round slabs. We parceled the Special Rose and Kesar Pista and both the flavours were outstanding. I actually licked my plate till the last drop of the melted ice cream and wished i had got in some more... It is so irresistible !!

So, which is your favourite ice-cream flavour? And Where do you normally buy your ice-cream from?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Tasting the street flavours of Mumbai...

I have always felt, that to know a particular place and it's cuisine, it is very important to eat street food there! As much as we believe in hygiene, street food has the true colours, essence, flavours and taste of the local food available in any particular city or country. Do you all agree?

A typical street food "Tapri"

I am a die-hard fan of street food and gorging on all of it, was definitely on the top list on our Mumbai - Pune food trip . So, as soon as we reached home, we kept our bags, said hellos and hugs to parents and went to buy the ever-famous and tasty vada paav from " Vijay Snacks ". Owned by Vijay Salgaonkar, this place exists from the time i was a kid, and have always seen it over crowded. Having an open kitchen, this place serves vadas, dosas, samosas and have also started with their in-house drinks of Amla and kokum sharbat. Me and hubby are big fan of their vada-pav, especially the dry and wet chutney they serve along with and shamelessly ask for extra packets when we pack stuff home. The staff is courteous enough and they know me and my family by now, as we have been regulars since years!!

Located just 5 minutes from the Thane east railway station, this food-joint opposite Mangala High school is a must-visit for Vada pav, masala dosa and patti samosa. The Patti samosa they serve is stuffed with cooked poha. Crispy from outside and soft from inside, this makes a delicious snack and wholesome too.

Vijay Snacks is a great place to have breakfast on the way to office or if you want to have a take-away lunch. School/college students usually hang around the place making it their "Katta" ( a place where they can sit and chill around ), and sipping on some hot piping chai ( Hubby's favourite - udipi style ).

Being a true thane-kar, ( Thanaiite as you can say ), one would surely know about Mamledar Misal in Thane west! This is by far, the best Misal in Maharashtra ( Or i would even go to the extent of saying, best in the country ). This food joint was started (about 60 odd years back by Laxmi Seth) to serve the Thane Police Chowki and the staff of Mamledar's office ( hence the name!!! ) located just next to it and slowly became so famous that it is ever buzzing with people! Misal is one of our favourite road-side food and this oily, spicy yet delicious Mamledar Misal really gets you in that finger-licking mode ! We usually prefer "take-away", as sitting there and eating the "highly-spicy" misal gets you in sweats! They also serve chaas (buttermilk) which feels like a "drink from the heaven" after eating their misal. Ask for the spicy tari( gravy )among the three varieties served, if your tongue can bear eating hot food. I could never finish even a bite of the spicy tari, so i always opt for the medium one. And if you don't like spicy at all, go for the mild one served. Misal served with boiled potatoes ( like a sabzi ) is their trademark, and guess it makes it less spicy. At home, i also add a bit of curd to the misal, as at times, the medium tari also blows me out ! If you are having the misal there, ask for extra tari and keep relishing it with some extra paav, as they serve only 2 paav with the misal. 

Pav or Pao or Paav is a Portuguese word for bread and is distinctively found all over Maharashtra and Gujarat. I have always loved the Mumbai-Paav and since the time i have shifted to Delhi, i have missed eating it. Delhi Paav are like sweet buns as compared to Mumbai paav. So i definitely wanted to eat as much paav as possible when there! Pav bhaji is another yummyliscious, tasti-licious, drool-icious street food of Mumbai and i can eat it almost every alternate day! Juhu Beach in Mumbai is known to serve the best Khada Pav-Bhaji ( Whole vegetables sauteed in masala rather than mashing them ), but i love the mashed version better and one such "Pav-bhaji-wala" in our area is "Jay-ambe" who runs it on a thela ( Cart ). Running almost for over 20 years, this guy Pappu surely knows how to keep customers happy by adding dollops of butter and loads on onions ( yeah, even in those days of recession, and those  of onions burning a hole in the pocket). 

He also makes delicious tava pulao , but the pav bhaji is to die-for. Am sure you will come back for more ! Wearing a chef's apron, and run by 2 people, you can't help but stop at the thela, when the aromas hit your nose and you are transformed into a different "food-world" altogether.

Pav-Bhaji is surely one wholesome meal and we usually parcel it for dinner from him. The bhaji quantity he gives is good enough, so you will require extra paav's for sure! And all this only for Rs. 30-35! Now ain't that real cheap?

You cannot leave Mumbai without tasting the Panipuri which is another famous street food of Mumbai. A thela of pani puri would usually also serve dahi puri, sev puri, ragda pattice, and bhel. Writing all these names is getting my mouth watery. opularly known as "Chaat", it can be defined as : -

So you will usually see people licking all these tasty dishes to the last morsel, particularly the clientele being females :) I vouch for the tastiest dahi-puri at Hanuman in Gaon-devi area of Thane. A visit to thane west wouldn't be complete without dahi-puri at Hanuman. And they still serve some good chaat. But the place really gets crowded and you have to find your way through and at times, gets claustrophobic inside. So, the whole experience of eating "chaat" waves off. And so i prefer eating chaat at a thela in open. And i found the best pani-puri wala in thane east. The pani ( water ) he serves is so tasty that you would want to drink it as it is... a nice blend of spices tasting tangy and sour... it makes a great combination with the Ragda ( cooked chana ) that he serves inside the puri. I love pani puris with ragda instead of the sprouts or cooked moong or boondi that is served at some places. The ragda is always hot and the water cold, so the mixture really bursts flavours in your mouth. This "Gupta Bhelpuri House" is a must visit for "Bhel" and "Pani puri".

Another Pani-puri stall which is worth a mention is on Gokhale road, next to Devang Nasik Kulfiwale. He serves one of the best sev-puri's in thane.

Sandwiches are a common street food all over world. In my recent television viewing of the famous food program "Eat St" on Nat-Geo People which covers food trucks all over US, i see a lot of variety of sandwiches as a part of the menu and cuisine. Every country/ state has their own distinct sandwich mix. Mumbai sandwich is known for it's green chutney and masala toast. You will find sandwichwala's in every nook and corner of town, and people relishing this as a mid-time snack. A usual routine seen everywhere in Mumbai, especially commercial areas of Churchgate and around, people would usually gather around sandwichwala in the mornings and evenings and grab a bite along with sipping masala chai. Sandwich is one easy-on-pocket wholesome snack and healthy too, hence, difficult to resist...:) 

The Sai-Shraddha sandwichwala who sits just opposite the "Gupta Bhelpuri House" near Kali-Mata Mandir, Thane east is famous for his Masala Toast sandwich. And he gives a free hand when you order cheese on top. The new-addition Burger toast sandwich are worth a try too ( since i am a burger fan, i love any kinds of burger ). So this is more of a local burger bun, and served inside is a potato patty with mayonnaise and chutney. This toasted over the flame ( Loved his burger toaster ), tastes super yummy and i didn't regret trying it at all. 

But the Cheese masala toast takes a crown and if you are still hungry, ask for a chutney sandwich. Just butter and chutney spread on bread, sprinkled with some chaat masala, this is one simple flavourful sandwich! The green chutney made from Pudina ( Mint ), Corriander leaves, lemon, green chillies, black salt and pepper adds to the whole taste of the sandwich. 

As much as you can eat, there should always a be a drink alongside to gulp it all down. Isn't it? So here are some street-drinks found commonly on the roads of Mumbai.

Juice : Ahhh, i need not even say what good it does to you and your body ! Nothing compares to a nice cold glass of juice, and getting a good juice isn't a problem in Mumbai. You will find juice centres all over and some of them serve really good combinations. One such juice centre is "Hari Om Juice centre" in Thane east which has been running for 25 years. 

This guy, i have known, serves really thick juices and shakes as compared to others who add ice and water to save on cost. Hence i always loved having the evening quota of juice at this place. His Sitaphal( Custard apple ) milkshake and Strawberry milkshakes are "Melt-in-the-mouth". Yes, i have gulped them down in one go and even have had 3 at a time ( skipping dinner, of course ) but they are so tasty with the fresh fruits that make way into your mouth, that you can't stop at one! This time we went to him on a summer afternoon. So i had my usual favourite of Muskmelon juice and watermelon juice. And hubby tried a new combo named "Boom" juice which was a combination of lemon, sweet lime and khus. Oh, "Awesome" is the word. Hubby is not so much a fan of khus, but the combo with Mosambi ( sweet lime ) did the trick. This place surely gets a thumbs up from me , for always serving the best juice and trying out new combinations every now and then. And don't forget to check the price list!!! :))

Usaacha ras : Ganne ka juice or sugarcane juice is widely consumed as a beverage across Mumbai. In early days people used to extract the juice using a hand machine, but these days the machine runs on power. Though it is said that sugarcane adds to the heat in the body, a glass of cold sugarcane juice is always preferred in summers. Sugarcane juice is high in calories, but is rich in minerals and vitamins. Our favourite sugarcane juice joint in Thane west near Railway station is Trusha Shanti Gruha. 

I love to drink it plain and without ice, but hubby likes it with the "Masala" ( usually consists of chaat masala and/or salt ). Addition of lime or lemon also adds to the taste. 

Lemon Soda: This seems like a "Drink of relief" whenever you are full on stomach. You know what i mean!!! Hehehe... Soda really lightens you down and this is one of the most consumed summer drink in India. Here in Delhi, this is popularly known as "Banta". This guy who sits near the market of Kopri was in a good mood and refilled our glass with some extra soda after we were half-done. Such experiences can only happen on the streets and we totally loved this drink only for INR 15/-

Hmmm... what else? Yes, Nariyal Pani ! There are immense and innumerable benefits of drinking nariyal pani. And though the prices have gone up from Rs.15-20 for one coconut to Rs 35, drinking coconut water still gives a sense of satisfaction!

I always prefer the "Paani-wala" nariyal, meaning to say, there are two varieties of coconuts available. One that has good amount of water and less amount of the "malai" ( the soft-gel like white cream ), and the other vice-versa. I am not too much a fan of the malai, but my mother is and maybe that's the reason of her ever glowing, young-looking skin that she has at the age of 62!!! Yes, the malai surely has some benefits for the skin, that at some spa and parlours, they are used in a face mask too!!! Here is my mom enjoying scraping out the malai right on the streets on a hot summer humid afternoon :-
( She was a part of our food trip throughout and hats off to her enthusiasm. She is full of energy, wonder where she gets it from! And she showed immense patience whenever the food arrived on the table and we had to click pictures first for the blog and then eat...Love to her ) 

And yes, how can i forget the Mumbai Chinese food? The thelewala- gaadiwala Chinese, or so to say, the street-food Chinese which has tons of ajinomoto and spices in it!!! However it is, it does give a kick to the taste buds! We went to dinner at one such small restaurant in thane east called Shubdum Chinese corner. 

The restaurant is small, but a neat seating area and lots of families around enjoying their favourite Manchow soup ( which is what they are famous for). For us, it was a little too spicy so we asked them to cut down on the spice in our main course. But sadly the salt was a bit too much in the Manchurian gravy ( which is served complimentary along with the rice ). So minus the gravy, the Schezwan rice and Seven jewel rice was really nice and tasty. Nothing extra-ordinary, but we got a taste street-side Chinese food served. 

Anything else that you know of served on the streets of Mumbai? Or Any special street food in your region/town? Any of your favourite joints? I would love to hear about them from you!

Note : I have mostly covered places in Thane, as that's where i live and have been brought up. But i know quite a lot of other famous street-food joints in other parts of Mumbai, which i plan to cover in my next trips ! :)

Happy Eating!!!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Mumbai meri Jaan!!!

Home trip preparations : Mumbai is home, and a trip there gets me excited, much before the travel date ! I had been so looking forward to this vacation for various reasons :
1. It had been long i had taken a break and travelled somewhere.
2. The Delhi heat was really getting on to me, and i very much wanted to experience rains.
3. Home is where the heart is : Visiting parents means getting pampered to the full. In fact, i got so used to getting the ready-made morning coffee and breakfast, that after i came back, it took some time to go back to the kitchen :)
4. Was so looking forward to eat home cooked food and of course, the street food of Mumbai!!! ( I have been having vada pav and pav bhaji cravings since the time we booked tickets for this trip ! )
5. There's something about Mumbai...i feel super energetic there...Have you all visited Mumbai? And is there any specific reason you like or don't like it? Yes, there's a lot to not like in Mumbai too... the traffic jams, the smell of sea/fish, humid climate, slum areas...but for a true Mumbaiite like me, these things doesn't matter. The smell, the sight, everything seems like a part of us...

A Food- trip : Food-oholic as me and hubby are, this time we decided to make our Mumbai- Pune trip a "Food-athon". Since there were no functions or ceremonies to attend this time, we could devote a lot of time at home and exploring some old-new places to eat. They may not be a new-find for a lot of people, but the newness existed for us, as we had never visited them before. We actually had a list planned of "Places to go" to eat !!! A few changes here and there, we followed it to the full. And so were we engrossed in our own trip, that we didn't get time to meet some relatives and friends ( So i want to say sorry to them ), and the next time, we will make it a 'Friends-trip' for sure:)

I actually started preparing for the trip just a day before, as i had my pet sitting bookings till then. I particularly want to mention about this Mango-fanatic cute little angel i pet-sitted for about 31 days!!! He would go crazy seeing mangoes and his jumps were adorable to see :)So he did taste a few of my summer mango recipes- a bit of Mango Kulfi and a spoon of Mango Shrikhand !!! Alvin, as his name is , is one sweetheart and gave us lot of enjoyable moments when he was with us :)

So a hurried visit to the beauty-parlour, removing the bags, packing clothes and goodies, and making chai-masala as ordered by my father ( He loves the chai-masala i make...In case, you haven't seen the recipe, here it is... ) and making sure that everything else is in order - All this happened in almost half a day! We always worry about our fish tanks and plants ( especially since it's summers) when we go out, but some or the other friend always comes to rescue. And this time one of hubby's friend Romi made sure that we have a stress-free vacation by visiting our home every alternate day :) Special thanks to him !

We had time at hand, so we travelled by train. And to be honest, i enjoy travelling by train more than flight...the journey actually gets exciting. There is so much to experience while on a train journey...People haggling with the coolies, the bored expressions while waiting for the train, the food stalls buzzing with customers and especially the kids demanding chips and chocolates, the fight to keep the bags under the berth and so on... Technology at it's best, these days people spend their journey time talking on phone or internet and we see laptops and i pad's being kid's toys. In earlier days, friendships used to happen overnight in trains, and people used to bond over food, sharing tiff-ins and talking about politics. There used to be fun and laughter and sharing jokes over playing cards and singing songs. But nevertheless, i still enjoy the train journey, as it somehow gives a satisfaction of having "travelled".

Rajdhani is one of the fastest express train in India introduced in 1969. Rajdhani means "capital" in Hindi. According to Google, the first Rajdhani Express left New Delhi station for Howrah station to cover a distance of 1,445 km in 17 hours 20 minutes. Fully air-conditioned train, they give the best facility possible. Though of late, i feel their food-quality has dropped down as compared to earlier. But, the comforts are worthwhile and the staff super friendly :)

So, there we left for our food trip from New Delhi railway station... Wait to read more :))