Malshej Ghat : Not just a monsoon destination

If all you want is rolling mist , the trill of birds , green pastures with cattle grazing and if you have a high tolerance for volatile weather , then Malshej is perfect . Most websites suggest a trip to Malshej after the initial monsoon spell has washed the rugged Sahyadris clean and the benevolent mountains ( that is what Sahyadris are called ) wear their prettiest greens .

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Driving towards Malshej

July is when tourists throng to Malshej to take a dip in one of the innumerable waterfalls that bring this place to life . Since we were travelling with our 16 month old , we thought it better to travel before the peak monsoon season and landed there in the second week of June .

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Thankfully , when most places have long lists of things to do and things to see , Malshej is an exception. Do what you want , see what is there to see – the broken ranges , the dark clouds looming over them , trees dancing in the breeze ( it can get extremely windy ) , drive down to the dam at Pimpalgaon ( about 5 km away from MTDC , Malshej ) , sit and feel at peace . These are things that I did , am sure you will find your own sights to see and experiences to have once you get there .

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Towards the lake . The narow road to get to the lake .

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The white particles you see , strewn over the rocky shore, are mollusc shells .

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Walking around
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I had my Heidi moment

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The place behind MTDC , the view from my room.

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On the last evening there ,  I saw one of my favourite images – an old couple walking hand in hand to enjoy a few quiet moments with the mountains. It made me feel happy and hopeful 🙂

For me , Malshej was not about the magic of monsoon , but about my little girl watching the majesty of the mountains in awe , her clapping when she saw a bird fly by and  her giggling when the breeze made her curls tickle her cheeks !

 

 

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Misal Pav : Maharashtra’s spicy snack

5032E020-EB46-449A-8161-FC30F974AD8A.jpegBorn and bred in Mumbai , vada pav has always been my snack of preference over misal Pav . Vada pav , or the Indian burger , is an ‘ on the go’ snack , whereas misal Pav needs you to sit , soak in the spicy lentil curry and then proceed. It has been my dad’s favourite and the ones I have seen being served in Mumbai are less elaborate than the one in the picture above .

Misal in Marathi means ‘ mixture’ and the dish is just that. A mixture of lentils ( sprouted mothbeans mostly ) curry , spices( Goda masala is used for the curry , a local blend of spices)  , topped with farsan ( fried salted snack ) or sev and chopped onions . It’s best to squeeze in a little lime juice to bring out all the favours .

What you see in the picture is what I ordered recently at a dhaba on my way to Malshej Ghat.  The man at the counter suggested I try it and I didn’t want to disappoint him , so I agreed . What was suppposed to be breakfast , looked more like lunch !

What you see is the bread ( Pav) , the misal ( spicy curry with lentils ) , some curd ( in this case it plays the fire extinguisher ) , chopped onion and lime , curd , a small bowl of extra curry ( incase you need to dunk your bread in ) and sev ( yellow salty noodle like snack ) .

It was hot but delicious . Nothing like the milder versions I have tasted here in the city ( I haven’t tasted a lot ) . I managed to finish it all and skipped lunch as a result !

I wonder why misal is under rated . It’s healthier than deep fried vadas and packs a punch in terms of proteins . Anyway , am glad I had my first whole meal of misal finally and I know this is the first of many 🙂

Thotrin Cafe – Northeastern food in Mumbai

72C10B4E-F337-4D8E-995F-18DD62658F8C68362F28-8A81-48EA-B0FC-C4FA3B8A5175It’s unbelievable how I had never heard of this place until a week ago . This one is in Kalina , Santacruz East , a place I go to so often , but Thotrin cafe , tucked in the Koleveri village of Kalina ,remained a well kept secret . My sister’s colleague mentioned it to her and she was so intrigued , she went straight to the place to check it out .

I got a few pictures , a few tips on what to order ( dishes that are on the menu and those that aren’t ) and in about three days after the temptation , I gave in .

A hole in the wall , Thotrin cafe , is a simple place , three tables and a seating capacity of twelve at a time . The service is slow , but it’s worth the wait .

The beef salad , pork momos and snail curry in a potato base are dishes that you must try , none of these feature on their menu , so you’ve just got to let them know that you’ve come for those . Am not sure why they don’t have these delicacies mentioned , but word of mouth publicity has got them famous for the right dishes !

We ordered a Thotrin banana juice ( fermented ) which tasted in between vinegar and toddy ! The husband found it absolutely repulsive and one sip was all he had . I had more than half of the quantity , funnily I was enjoying the mild kick ! The term for virgin drinks in their local language is  ‘chirchomri’ .

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It was time for the beef salad . The beef is the dried salted version , similar to what I have had in Darjeeling , it tasted like a rubbery version of dried Bombay duck ( A Goan staple ) and I didn’t quite enjoy the texture , but the beans in the salad were yum !

9EF5BDD2-613E-4B72-82FC-84336AB99AE5Pork momos in Mumbai ! Yummy pork momos in Mumbai ! Super yummy pork momos in Mumbai ! Voices in my head shouting as I devoured them . The best I’ve had till date . They call momos – kothe 🙂 326F5783-531D-4318-B98A-BDEAC7DAECD5

Finally , the light snail curry cooked with potatoes, mint , ginger etc and sticky rice. Two ways to get the meat out of those shells , suck or use a tooth pick . This dish and the rain outside , perfect 🙂 I didn’t think I’d enjoy snails as much as I did . This is a must try . The snail curry is called ‘ korpungla’.

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The pork curry with bamboo shoot is supposed to be a star dish , but we were too full and I was dizzy with that fermented banana juice  , so may be next time .

Thotrin cafe definitely packs a punch and is value for money .

Lesser known Lenten tradition – Mumbai

The Good Friday service is the longest one of the year ( three hours or more ) in many churches across the city . The church I belong to is one of the oldest in the city and follows many traditions of the East – Indians , who are believed to be the original inhabitants of Mumbai . They speak a dialect of Marathi which is quite different from the state language which is also Marathi . When my grandfather decided to leave Goa and settle in Mumbai , he chose an East – Indian gaothan ( village) in Mumbai to call his home . Here , began our initiation into all things East- Indian , especially their food !

One such snack , if I may call it that , which I associate with the East – Indians , is GOTWAL. Ever since I can remember , this has been a Good Friday special treat sold by vendors outside the church lane exclusively on this one day of the year. Gotwal is what the East – Indians call it and that’s what I have called it all my life , until a few days ago when I read that they are called ‘hyacinth beans’ .

Gotwal is rich in protein and is believed to be the perfect way to nourish those who’ve been fasting the entire day . Sold in paper cones , they used to be a rupee each cone when I was a little girl . Now , they are sold at a much higher price but still remain perfect treats for restless toddlers who cannot keep still through three hours of sermons and silence.

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The beans are boiled and salted and that’s about it , but they are always looked forward to . Today , I picked up a few for us at home and my little one had her first taste of Gotwal 🙂 Tradition continues !

 

 

Kashmiri wazwan in Bombay

I still remember how excited I was when I travelled to Kashmir ten years ago . It was my first trip to the valley and I had some great company too . Apart from spending a night on a houseboat , I was also very keen to taste the much talked about wazwan – a multi course feast . Unfortunately, a few hours before we were scheduled to experience this culinary delight, I lost my camera and it left me devastated . I was angry with myself for having been so careless and decided to stayed put in my room . The next day we were travlleing back to Bombay and that’s how I missed my chance of tasting an authentic wazwan.

Two weeks ago , as I entered Poush , a Kashmiri themed restaurant in Bombay , I knew what I was going to be ordering – wazwan 🙂

We opted for the half trammi for two and thank heavens it was a very late lunch cause one has to be super hungry to finish all that food !

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Fancy 

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We were first served a heap of rice with methi maaz ( mutton flavoured with fenugreek) , seekh kebab , nadier palak tikki ( spinach and lotus stem cutlets …super yum ) , kabargah ( lamb ribs cooked in milk with spices and ghee) and fried chicken .

Then came these ….

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Roti with Rogan josh ( how I love this curry !  ) , rista ( it said meat ball curry but there was a seekh kebab in the curry instead ) , nadier palak ( lotus stem  and spinach curry … something about this combination just works for me ..heavenly ) , safed kokur ( white chicken curry ) , and rajma ( kidney beans in a red thick curry ) .  So many meat dishes in one meal , unlike most thalis I’ve enjoyed across the country . Every curry was perfectly balanced .

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Phirni 

Then came the dessert , phirni ( rice pudding ), which was absolutely melt in the mouth 🙂

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The meal ended with  kahwah ( mildly spiced green tea with saffron and almonds ) . Our senses ,that had rock and rolled to the different flavours , now did a slow waltz with each sip and finally it was time to get out of our shikara ( boat setting …yes that’s the bonus ) and head home .

Poush , the name of the restaurant , comes from the  saffron flower that blooms in the Kashmir valley . Am glad this one bloomed in Bombay !

Sunday stroll, solitude and a song

As I enjoyed my walk this evening in the garden and clicked a few flowers ,  a song kept playing in my head . Eric Clapton’s “You look wonderful tonight” just fit the ambience perfectly 🙂 Nature did put on some make up and looked wonderful. She always does .

It’s late in the evening; she’s wondering what clothes to wear
She puts on her make-up and brushes her long blonde hair
And then she asks me, Do I look all right?
And I say, “Yes, you look wonderful tonight

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