Sneak peek at a week-long East Indian food festival at Mumbai eatery

As a Bandra coastal eatery launches an East Indian food festival, here's a peek into the cuisine of Mumbai's oldest residents, and its mainstay — the variety of masalas

During a recent trip to New Zealand, the scenic nation's culinary innovations left an impression on Meldan D'Cunha, chef-owner of Soul Fry. "Its restaurants offer interesting fare in modern Indian cuisine. Like, the chicken kebabs are presented as a gravy dish and vindaloo is cooked with pulled pork. The restaurant communities also follow monthly themes. For instance, in June, they're dishing out junk-free menus; they also plan to celebrate dry July," reveals the Mahim resident. Taking off from the junk-free menu idea, D'Cunha will host a week-long East Indian festival at his Pali Hill eatery, known for its Goan coastal fare and susegaad vibe. "While many eateries serve Malwani and other coastal cuisines, we don't have a dedicated East Indian restaurant. The cuisine is integral to Mumbai since the East Indians are its original inhabitants," he says.

The East Indian food festival at Soul Fry features (clockwise from extreme left) Fish Cutlet, Chinchoni (Shark Fish), Prawns Atwan, Fugias, Drumstick Foogath, Bombay Duck Fry, Fish Kujit and Steamed Meatballs (centre). Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

What's on the menu?
From Mutton Khuddi and Prawn Atwan to Pork Sambaray, the menu features over a dozen dishes, including vegetarian options like Drumstick Foogath and Stuffed Masala Brinjal. Guests can tuck into these delicacies over strains of traditional East Indian music. D'Cunha, who learnt the recipes from East Indian homemakers in Bandra, Mahim and Marol, says, "The dishes are easy to prepare since their mainstay is a variety of preserved masalas. I sourced mine from B Curzai, who sells them from her Bandra home. Her masalas are so fresh that its aromas would fill our kitchen during trials."

What's in the bottle?
The kitchen shelves in East Indian homes feature a variety of homemade masalas like Frithad Masala, Vindaloo Masala and Fish Masala. However, a staple is the Bottle Masala, packing in close to 30 ingredients, including a variety of spices along with whole wheat and Bengal gram. Earlier, the masalas would be preserved in dark-glass beer bottles to protect them from harsh light, resulting in a longer preservation. Today, they are sold in glass jars or packets. The masala is used in numerous chicken, mutton and pork dishes, and even vegetable gravy. "These roughly cost `1,200 per kilo. East Indian food can be served only as per the order because the flavour of the masala comes through best when freshly cooked. Also, we can't afford wastage. So, the festival works only if the owner is also a chef, which is true for me," shares D'Cunha, who will also dish out a tweaked version of the traditional East Indian rice-flour handbread. "I hope more restaurants follow suit to introduce the community's cuisine in their menus because it remains authentic," he signs off.

FROM: Today to June 9
TIME: 12.30 pm to 3.30 pm; 7.30 pm to 11.30 pm
AT: Soul Fry, opposite Pali vegetable market, Pali Hill, Bandra (W).
CALL: 26046892

Meldan D’Cunha

Masala mix
Bottle Masala: Featuring about 30 spices — each individually sun-dried, roasted and then pounded together — it includes wheat and raw Bengal gram with a variety of chillies. It may also include saffron and white pepper.
Fish Masala: Used in red curries, the masala features poppy seeds and red Kashmiri chillies along with a number
of spices.
Kujit/Purish Masala: Grounded with coriander seed powder and other spices, except red chillies, the masala lends a green colour to chicken, mutton and fish curries.
Frithad Masala: A mildly flavoured variety made with six spices.
Chinchoni Masala: It is used to make Fish and Tamarind Curry known as Chinchoni, and
Fish Fry.
Vindaloo Masala: Comprising Kashmiri chillies, cumin and turmeric, the masala is added to Chicken or Mutton Vindaloo.

Your East Indian khana

Lobster Curry cooked with Bottle Masala and coconut  milk by Phiona D’Silva

In the food services sector since 20 years, Kurla resident Phiona D’Silva offers a variety of packed masalas like Bottle Masala (with saffron and white pepper), Kujit/Purish Masala, Fish Masala, Frithad Masala, Vindaloo Masala and her version of Garam Masala, which can be specially used for stews and roasts.

“Many other communities freshly grind their masalas while East Indian masalas are pounded and stored through the year,” says the 50-year-old, who also accepts catering orders for home parties and pre-wedding rituals like Umracha Pani, offering a variety of traditional East Indian dishes like Chicken Moile, Mutton Khuddi and stew, Pork Vindaloo and even a stuffed suckling pig along with the Wedding Pickle. “It’s a traditional East Indian pickle made with carrot, papaya and dried dates. It’s without oil and mild in flavours,” she informs.
CALL 9819010426
COST Rs 1,200 per kilo (Bottle Masala), Rs 300 onwards (per plate for catering orders)

Pick up authentic masalas and pickles from East Indian Cozinha (Portuguese: kitchen), a six-month-old food brand started by 24-year-old Kalina resident, Christina Kinny. “Most people from our community were farmers and would be out on the field all day.

So, the masalas and lemon would help preserve the food for a longer time,” says Kinny, who stocks varieties like Bottle Masala, Chinchoni Masala, Vindaloo Mas-ala, Roast Rub, Kujit Masala, Frithad Masala and Tem Che Rose (East Indian Garam Masala) along with Wedding Pickle. Kinny has also started taking food orders for East Indian favourites like Stuffed Chicken and Stuffed Pomfrets.
Timings 10.30 am to 6.30 pm AT 3/A, Benny Jacinto House, Kolovery Village, Kalina Masjid Road, Santacruz (E).
Call 9167442267
Cost Rs 150 onwards (100 gm bottle)


From the menu
>> Mutton Khuddi (Rs 220): The mutton chunks (with bone) are cooked in a gravy of roasted coconut masala mixed with bottle masala.

>> Prawns Atwan (Rs 280): A spicy prawn dish that includes onion, ginger, garlic and bottle masala.

>> Pork Sambaray (Rs 220): A pork pickle with raw dried mangoes and East Indian masala.

>> Drumstick Foogath (Rs 120): Drumstick and potatoes boiled together with grated coconut and tempered with mustard, curry leaves and green chillies.

>> Fugias (Rs 80): Known as balloon breads or pom poms, fugias are fluffy, fried buns made from yeast-based dough, which accompany a variety of East Indian gravies.

>> The festival also includes dishes like Bombay Duck Fry, Fish Cutlet, Chicken Fritath, Stuffed Masala Brinjal, Vatana Khuddi, Prawn Masala Rice and Chinchoni (Shark Fish) along with Bread Pudding, Caramel Custard and Hand Bread made in tandoor.

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