Plenty to get our teeth into In Mumbai
We’re still loving Mumbai – it’s busy, by the sea and full of interesting spots; a city of total contrasts. Some of the richest people in India live here and some of the poorest – if not side by side then the lovely, affluent suburb of Bandra West and the slum of Dharavi (you’ll have seen it in Slumdog Millionaire) are pretty close and some of Mumbai’s residents could probably spit the intervening distance.
Yesterday we visited Crawford market and as is our wont, ended up in the meat market. I’ve visited meat and fish markets all over the world from Bangkok to Barcelona, Hong Kong to Muscat. Mumbai’s is certainly the most full-on yet and those of a sensitive disposition should maybe miss the next paragraph.
The butchery section is in its own room and you can smell it before you see it. Meat (beef and goat) is butchered on long-bloodied chopping blocks made from tree trunks and live chickens wait their turn with the butcher’s knife. They are dispatched by the butcher chopping off their head (or cutting their throat if Halal), putting their still jerking carcass into a barrel until it stops moving. Then the feathers and skin are stripped off before jointing; at least you know the meat is fresh. The market was built in the late 1800s and it doesn’t seem to have been washed since, the colour and aroma are so completely ingrained. Unwanted skin, bones, offal and whatever are thrown onto the floor for the jackdaws, cats and rats to wander round and pick up their daily dish. If a British environmental health inspector happened to visit, I can only imagine how pale they would turn. Bizarrely we don’t find this disturbing, just part of the cultural differences and to be fair, there are also Western-style clean abbatoirs who process meat in a more recognisable (to us) fashion. Even in India the practices here are seen by many as primitive and unacceptable. Anyway no photos for obvious reasons.
Dinner last night was a complete contrast. We met up with an old friend who has been working in India for 8 years and headed off for something to eat. As most Indian restaurants seem to be shut on a Sunday we headed to a deeply fashionable spot called Nido in Bandra West. Think French fin-de-siecle decor with modern minimalist Scandinavian lighting, uber-cool and welcoming waiters and you’ll get the picture. European/Mediterranean food is the food of the moment and we chose from a menu offering pizzas, falafels, salads, risottos, fish and steaks. Delicious but again something completely unexpected to add to the growing list.
Today we finally managed to hook up with Kalyan Karmaker of Finely Chopped . Kalyan has been blogging about food life in Mumbai for the past 6 years and taking people on food tours for 12 months. We met up with him for an afternoon of eating, walking and talking and he took us round the Fort area of south Mumbai. We ate the local street food of bao bhaji (stew of tomatoes and chillies with bread rolls and ghee),
jalebi (deep fried sugary dough strands dunked in sugar syrup)
and vada pav (deep fried spiced potato burgers).
Next we stopped at a Maharashtran fish restaurant for sumai (it’s a fish) thali, prawn thali and fried Bombay duck (it’s a fish). This all came with a sol khadi – a refreshing pink drink of coconut, kokam (nope, me neither) and chilli. After that, a short walk over the road to a Parsi restaurant for slow cooked spiced goat (Mutton Sali Boti – very like a tagine with dried fruits) and spiced scrambled eggs with green and dried chillies (Akuri – delicious and creamy). And finally a long walk round the block for chai at the Yazhani bakery, still our favourite find so far.
And finally in a day or 2 of contrasts, we’re heading off to meet Shipra Khanna, a former winner of Indian Masterchef who’s taking us to a party. Monday night in Devon tends to be a quiet affair but we’re not going out til 10.30 as Mumbai parties late….Fortunately tomorrow we just have to get ourselves on to a train for a 27 hour to Kerala so plenty of time to sleep then!