I did a food and culture tour of the Greenwich Village with visiting friends recently. It got me thinking of the wonderful food tours I could take people on around Ratan Nagar. I know you are wondering, so first off Ratan Nagar is the lane I grew up on and is the whole universe and *the centre of it as far as I am concerned. One end of this wonderful lane opens up in the Four Bungalows Market, while on the other end is Seven Bungalows. I could do two tours really, one on either side.
Both tours could start with Bhaiyyaji’s Bhel/Sevpuri. I remember him from the time I was not more than 5 or 6 years old. Back then, he was a travelling bhelwala and would come with his basket on his head. Us little ones were not allowed to have geela bhel as it was deemed too spicy for us, we were only allowed sukha bhel or shing. Soon he got a stand and became a permanent fixture outside our apartment complex. Age has slowed him down considerably, but nobody in all of Bombay can beat his sev puri.
From here on, we split our tastings into two tours – the Four Bungalows Tour and the Seven Bungalows Tour. I warn you, it’s a lot of food and it may not be wise to cover all of it in one tour.
The Four Bungalows Tour –
Our next tasting could be at Anupam. I love so many things here, that it is hard to pick – flavourful kothimbirvadi, those tiny garlicky batata vadas, that yummy (indo) chinese fried roll or just the soy sticks. They sell pani for Panipuri here and it’s the best in the world. Maybe we could just grab a Frankie and move on, next on the list is Vada Pav at Shankar tea stall. This is where you get a chance to share a bite with Mumbai’s notorious autowalas. I would have loved to do a tasting of the very satisfying potato stuffed toast at our sandwichwala but the last time I was there he had graduated to grilled sandwiches, speaking of which we could go to Pearl or there is a grill sandwich shop tight behind our sandwichwala, but we won’t do either. Pearl used to be a staple when we were in engineering college, but the grill has changed hands and it is just not the same anymore. From here we walk up the market to the dabeliwala and dosawala and conclude our tour with either the best strawberry milkshake ever at Pishu Juice Centre or lassi at Punjab Dairy Farm, a full glass of both of which could easily be a light meal in itself. Pishu has grown and has branches now, but my fondest memories are from the days they operated out of a tiny box like shop. They were regularly frequented by aspiring models and starlets, who would ask for their juice “with fiber and not strained”. Pretending to be equally health conscious, but secretly just trying to look cool we would do the same.
I’ve missed out our family favourite – Sweet corn soup from Peter Cook, but let that be our secret. Growing up, Sunday dinners were never complete without soup from Peter Cook and a VCR movie.
The Seven Bungalows Tour –
The best start to this tour would be panipuri at Chandru’s. Panipuri is much like an gustatory explosion of opposites in your mouth- sweet and spicy water ; crunchy puri and mushy filling; hot chana and chilled water. After this we could allow ourselves to be enticed by the mouthwatering smell of pav bhaji wafting from Appointment, a few doors down. From here we walk a bit to Jewel Shopping Centre and be introduced to a mindboggling variety of dosa by dosawala outside. When I say mindboggling, I mean it.
We are now faced with two options, (Indo)Chinese at Stomach, the restaurant so beloved to us in our high school and junior college days, the place we honed our chopstick skills, or their competitor down the road and our engineering college days choice, Discovery. I think I’ll go with Discovery because the last time we ate at Stomach the quality was just not up to the mark. Discovery also beats Stomach and most other places hands down on quantity. Legacy of China is very good too.
For desserts, we could walk up to Sancha’s for their ambrosial icecream. Lore has it that the founder was a brother of the man who owns the Natural Icecreams chain and a partner in the business, who then split to start his own shop. Another option would be to head back and have dulcet kulfi from the thela(hand cart) outside BonBon, however this thela seems to have been pushed out by a veritable mini khau galli under the Versova Metro Station.
* To be more precise, the centre of the universe is Sahayog co-operative housing society, the apartment complex I grew up in. The stories I could tell you would convince you that it takes all kinds to make up the universe, and they all can be found here. A vast majority atleast.
- wala -man/seller/service provider, e.g – Icecreamwala – Icecream seller or Autowala- Autorickshaw driver. Not to be used without a goods or service prefix.
- Indo-Chinese – the Indian equivalent of American-Chinese, simply called Chinese in India.
- khau galli – row of food stalls
- I have tried to find wiki-links that explain what these foods are but it has not been possible for all items listed. Google them if you want to find out more.