The news couldn’t have reached us at a better time. We smiled as our taxi halted at the busy Sena Bhavan signal near the Dadar landmark, Aaswad.
The eatery has always given us reason to smile for their Thalipeeth, Poha, Batata-Puri, and of course, the now-globally famous, Misal Pav. But this time, the wide smile was because, last week, a global food website announced the last mentioned dish as the world’s tastiest vegetarian dish at an awards ceremony in London. Finally, a Maharashtrian dish was being feted on a global platform. It called for a celebration, and a day later, we were tucking into the piping-hot spicy melee at the famous restaurant. That the crowds around me were wolfing down their food, oblivious to the recognition, made it even more worthy of its top-class rating, it being a popular hangout among Mumbai’s junta for decades.
But how often (and in this very same space) have we rued the lack of choice in Mumbai for Maharashtrian cuisine from across its diverse regions, apart from, perhaps, the Konkan? While on the one hand, there is a constant outcry to bring such authentic fare to the forefront, there seems to be very little thought or initiative to work towards this end — and take it to the next level, eventually. The same handful of eateries in the Dadar-Parel and Girgaum-Kalbadevi belt have been standing tall for decades, fighting the odds to sustain the cuisine of the state. Restaurant openings in the city can be counted with the same regularity as new film releases. But how often do we hear of a Maharashtrian cuisine-centred restaurant opening? It’s a miracle these days to find traditional Punjabi or Udipi cuisine, so it’s easy to imagine the plight of our home state’s cuisine that appears to have gotten lost in the pages of handwritten family recipe books and memory.
In fact, most non-Maharashtrians rarely get to savour the delights of this cuisine, unless of course, they are lucky to have friends or family from the community. Imagine stepping into a fine-dine restaurant that serves Mahara-shtrian fare with riotous innovations and region-wise representation to showcase its flavours and techniques? That would be the day.
Mumbai is a city filled with foodies, many of the experimental variety. Surely, our home state deserves better treatment on its menus.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day