Mumbai food: Khari with a gourmet twist
How would your chai-time snack look if it got a gourmet twist? We take you through the age-old Irani biscuit's newest avatars
There's something about the khari that still gets everyone's mouth watering. A teatime staple in most homes, it just needs a slight dunk before its soft, buttery flavour manifests. Let's not forget Mumbai's Irani cafes, which have ensured that the khari never falls out of favour. From cheese and butter to the jeera variants, this desi-version of the puff pastry is why airtight boxes continue to clutter kitchen shelves, keeping them fresh, crisp and crunchy at all times. "It's nostalgic food," says Reshma Sanghi, who runs Food For Thought Cafe, along with her husband Kapil. "And, it's very Bombaiya," adds Mohit Balachandran, brand head for SodaBottleOpenerWala.
No wonder the popular bakery item is now diving into the menus of casual diners across the city. Sometimes served with a heavy garnish of mushroom, corn or cheese, and otherwise like a bruschetta or canape, the age-old khari finally appears to be coming of age. We made a quick stop at eateries where the snack has taken on a new gourmet avatar. And, might we add, it simply looks delicious.
Corn and Cheese Khari
Food For Thought Cafe, Kitaab Khana
Rs 180 plus taxes, for a plate of five
A couple of years ago, Reshma remembers introducing a 'nostalgia platter' with some of her favourite childhood snacks, including the Monaco biscuits with cheese topping and chutney and ketchup sandwiches. What the teatime platter, however, was most remembered for was its corn and cheese khari. "People started asking for extra khari separately each time," she recalls. Such was its popularity that in mid 2015, Food For Thought decided to give it permanent space on the menu. It's a simple dish to make, says Reshma, but still flavoursome. The rectangular pastry is baked with a thick-layer of sweet corn and cheese in white sauce. It's served fresh off the oven, and yes, it can still be had along with a piping hot cup of chai.
DIY Prawn Chettinad
All Social outlets
Rs 230 plus taxes
This might sound odd, but at Social outlets across Mumbai, khari is being enjoyed with vodka and wine. Chef Shamsul Wahid, group executive chef for Social says the DIY Prawn Chettinad is an example of what a classic Indian canape would feel like. "The khari has a lot of texture with a buttery aftertaste, which helps offset or cut the spiciness of the chettinad prawn," he explains. And, why DIY? The prawn chettinad comes separately in a glass jar, and you decide how much of that spicy chettinad goes on top of your square-shaped khari. It could be spoonfuls or just a dash of the masala. Nevertheless, it's going to hit your palate, followed by some alcohol burn.
Rs 350 plus taxes for five pieces
Traditionally, the bruschetta comes with a generous topping of olive oil-slathered garlic and tomatoes on toasted Italian bread. But, the bruschetta at Masala Bar is one of its kind. "We wanted to create something very local, Indian and authentic," says Chef Saurabh Modi, head chef at Masala Bar. "What we serve is not your typical bruschetta. And, it's a lot crunchier," he adds. The juicy tomatoes are given a snub. Replacing them are diced mushrooms sauteed with Indian masalas and garnished with mayo and coriander — a juicy and wholesome treat.
Mushroom and cheese khari
Rs 195 plus taxes for four pieces
If the vada pav reminds you of Mumbai, the khari will bring fond memories of the Bombay that was. With the legacy of khari rooted in the city's Irani cafes, it's not so surprising that BKC's Irani resto-bar, SodaBottleOpenerWala, decided to give the snack their own twist. Topped with a saucy scoop of diced mushrooms and baked with cheese, this snack is the most sought after dish at the eatery, says brand head Balachandran. "The dish harks back to Bombay's once popular club snack. With this khari, we wanted to bring the best of both world's together," he adds. They have been successful.
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