Mumbai food: Vegetarian dishes to try at signature non- vegetarian eateries
Some of these best known seafood and meat joints in Mumbai have a lot going on for those on a plant-based diet
While a large part of the island city’s culinary landscape is earmarked by its coastal, Mughlai, Iranian and other meaty offerings, the greens connoisseurs needn’t be disappointed. This time our food trail led us to some stellar vegetarian fare that signature non-vegetarian eateries in the city have been dishing out for years. Some conventional, some experimental, but most so good, that they could even appeal to dedicated meat eaters. Here’s the long of it:
The Veg Stroganoff at Piccadilly is a Continental addition PIC/Datta kumbhar
It’s hard to believe that a signature Lebanese food joint, known for its mutton shawarmas and fila chicken, could also dish out a superlative Veg Stroganoff. The Veg Stroganoff, says Parvez Buzorg, is the "Continental addition" to the menu. "It has been a popular choice among our patrons right from the start. Also, located on Colaba Causeway, we get a lot of foreign tourists who seem to prefer this dish over our non-veg fare. Guess, they get enough meat back home," he says.
We see why. Served with brown rice, topped with a tuft of parsley, the sauce has a brown base, the right amount of thickness and sweetness, cooked with zucchini, bell papers and cheese that, refreshingly enough, doesn’t overpower the taste.
Oh! Calcutta, Tardeo
The mochar ghonto at Oh! Calcutta is a picture on a plate. PIC/pradeep dhivar
There’s a popular Bengali proverb: tatei kapad tatei bhat (do not destroy the banana tree, it gives you both food and clothing). The truism stands validated in the case of the Mochar Ghonto, a Bengali dish prepared from banana flowers at Oh! Calcutta. The large, purple-red blossoms grow from the end of a bunch of bananas. “It’s a favourite among most of our Bengali patrons, even those who like the fish served here,” says Sunil Panda, manager. Garnished with coconut shavings, the dish is delicately spiced, has a subtle sweetness and a hint of coconut that compliments the banana flower. The prep is tedious — a tiny black string needs to be extracted from each floret and each dish comprises hundreds of florets. “The taste makes it worth the effort,” he smiles.
Bharwan Mirchi Salan
Gajalee, Phoenix Mills
Restaurant manager Kisan Badhei adding shredded cheese to the Bharwan Mirchi Salan at Gajalee. PIC/pradeep dhivar
This seafood haven has several vegetarian delights tucked into its menu. Try the Bharwan Mirchi Salan which has been satiating its patrons for over a decade now. The Hyderabadi long capsicum is the key ingredient. It’s stuffed with potato, cashew paste, green peas paste, coriander leaves and mustard paste and then cooked in a spinach-base gravy. It’s rich in flavour but tempered on the hotness and is had best with tandoori rotis. The shredded cheese garnish, which is optional, adds to its appeal. Restaurant manager Kisan Badhei, who has had a long innings with Gajalee, says, “This dish was created by Chef Ramachandran about 10 years ago — he now mans our Singapore restaurant. When he came up with the concept, he had said, ‘pyaar se main mirchi bhi khila sakta hoon’.” Badhei says most groups that come to dine here have a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian preferences. “This dish scores with both. We wanted to keep a standout vegetarian item that is not commonly found in restaurants in the city.”
The bhindi masala is prepared North Indian style in onion paste. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Yet another seafood sanctum in the city, Trishna can impress with its greens too. The Bhindi Masala here is one of their top ordered dishes, along with their butter garlic crab and Bombay Duck fry. This dish is a departure not just from seafood, but also in terms of flavour at this Mangalorean eatery. It’s cooked in north Indian style, in thick onion paste and medium gravy. The bhindi is first seasoned and fried and then cooked in the gravy, prepared beforehand, as it is a long-term process, explains restaurant manager Taranath Kuckien. “Customers don’t want to wait long, so we prepare the gravy in advance. Since it is a popular item, there’s never wastage,” he says. With its spot on flavours and generous quantity, the dish, Kuckien tells us, is a hit among the foreign patrons visiting the restaurant. “They love okra and are experimental with their greens when in India.”
For Kelvin Cheung, chef-consultant at Bastian, the Mapo Tofu with Sichuan peppercorns and garlic has a special place in his heart. “It is a dish I grew up eating. It was always a favourite in our household because it went so well with rice,” he says.
Chef Kelvin Cheung of Bastian tempts us with the Mapu Tofu and Veg Tempura Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
But it’s not just Cheung’s favourite. The patrons who frequent this Bandra seafood joint (named after Sebastian, the crab in Disney’s The Little Mermaid) love it too. “It’s addictive because you get a kick from the chillies and Szechuan peppercorns,” he laughs. The silken tofu, he feels, is the key ingredient because “the firmer tofu gives too much of a chew” and doesn’t absorb the sauce as much. “Personally, I prefer the soft, silken tofu with rice versus a firm tofu, which is better for frying and grilling,” he adds. The tempura vegetables and popcorn grits, a classic southern dish with a silky texture, comes a close second. “Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diners love them because the taste is so comforting,” Cheung adds with a grin of satisfaction.
The Turnip Cake takes 24 hours of prep time. Stuffed with radish, these are lapped up with as much fervour as the seafood dim sums. Pics/Poonam Bhathija
If the fresh, hot dim sums pocketed with minced prawn, chicken or crab meat top the list of most patrons at Yauatcha. The turnip cake gets lapped up as much, if not more. For good reason. The turnip cake, actually dim sums, is made of shredded radish (typically Chinese radish or daikon) and plain rice flour, are spicy and crispy on the outside, with a surprising moist texture within. “It’s a labour of love for us, because it takes 24 hours to prepare. The radish paste needs to be steamed for two hours and then kept to dry for another five hours. It is then refrigerated overnight below 5 degrees celsius. Once cold, it is removed and cut into square pieces,” explains head chef Wang Yixuan. They are then deep fried and topped with garlic, fragrant chilli, spring onion and fresh red chilli. The vegetables used in it are procured locally, while the spices come from Hong Kong.
We peeked into the kitchen to see the elaborate preps for the Turnip Cake
The eggplant schnitzel at Imbiss is their only vegetarian offering, it blends in with the meaty joint’s German cuisine. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
This “meating joint” as the board outside reads, sits in the quiet Fourth Pasta lane in Colaba. Known for its German fare, specialising in pork, Imbiss has included just this one vegetarian dish on its rather experimental menu. The idea, says owner Dhiresh Verlekar, was to “give non-vegetarians an option should they look for a respite from meat at times”. But, clearly, it works for the vegetarians too. The dish comprises three slices of eggplant, where just the middle one is stuffed with cheese. They are all seasoned with spices, coated with bread crumbs and then deep fried. “We chose eggplant as it cooks fast and easy, and the texture is great. The idea is to serve it like lasagna, with the cheese in the centre, mayo and tossed salad on the side. It’s served with mushroom sauce and brown sauce,” he adds.
Hotel Deluxe, Fort
The vegetarian thali is as exhaustive as it gets. Pic/Sameer Markande
Hotel Deluxe, the popular Kerala cuisine haunt nestled in Fort, is not just for hungry Malayalis wanting authentic seafood and mutton sukka. “We realised there’s an equal demand for the vegetarian thali as well. After all, that is the staple food of Kerala,” says Mehboob Rehman, manager. Promptly served on a banana leaf, the spread is as exhaustive as it gets. It’s lined up with two types of pickle, inji curry, a brown curry made with ginger that goes well with hot rice, four kinds of sabzi including avial, and a mountain of rice that is topped with dal and sambhar. The rasam and payasam, served in small plastic cups, complete the meal. “We serve the Palada payasam only on Sundays. It is rich and made of rice ada, milk, sugar and ghee,” he says. The restaurant has been around for 75 years, but this vegetarian thali was introduced about a decade ago.
Cajun spiced potatoes
Bombay Barbeque, Andheri (West)
Love them or hate them, but there’s no ignoring potatoes. And, at Bombay Barbeque, otherwise known for its murgh tikkas, the Cajun Spiced Potatoes is a much favoured appetiser. "It’s the most asked for item in our starters, because it’s a crunchy fusion of the cajun spice imported from Louisiana and the locally grown baby potatoes," says chef Sugata Sengupta. Prepared using garlic powder, mayonnaise, cajun spice, red onions, parsley, coriander, fresh cream and Bydagi chillies, the spicy starter is part of their buffet menu. "We parboil the baby potatoes and leave it to cool. Each potato is pressed individually, and deep fried till crisp," he explains. He believes it’s the sauce that does the magic. "We blend the cajun spice with the mayonnaise to make it spicier than the standard fare. Most Mumbaikars like it that way," he adds.
Chef Sugata Sengupta adding the last touches to the most popular appetiser on his menu, the Cajun Spiced Potatoes. Pics /Poonam Bathija
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