Monday, September 22, 2008

Tandoori Nights at Mohammad Ali Road:Mumbai

Have had this penchant desire for over a decade to go for a guided food tour to Mohammad Ali Road especially during Ramzaan. Idling, over our chotta pegs of 100 pipers, contemplating dinner plans, Sandip Ghose says, would you want to go to Mohammad Ali road ? Haven't heard such sweet words in such a long time. I was hoping he would say that.

The next moment we were whizzing from the US club (where we were sipping our Chotta pegs) were dropped by the driver at Mohammad Ali road, near the Minara Masjid. We enter Memon Wada, the options are endless in 6 sq kms terrain under the JJ Flyover. I hope to see twirling dervishes, we end up seeing twirling and swirling barbecue rods and headless chicken with conclave and protruding pectoral chest muscles.

We looked around asked for the food street and started walking. As we enter we are hit with a swarm of people, sellers, stalls, figs, dates, skull caps. The stench of grown up goats, the exhibition of grown up/massive billy goats. Go deeper, more jostling and even calling, food every where, sights, smells, sweet bread, ice creams, home made sweets, every part of the goat/sheep and the bada (buffalo and perhaps cow) . To name some, trotters, tongue, udders, brain, kidney, testicles, liver, intestines liver and lung apart from the common cuts of boti kabab, Keema/Seekh Kabab and Chaap.I have always wondered what is this fetish of eating every body part of the humble goat, which extends itself to an extreme of 21 dishes from 21 body parts.

Its the 17th day of Ramzaan in September 2008 and we are pretty much lost in the unguided tour. The options we have are, permanent established restaurants,Hindustan, Chinese Grill (where you get to sit inside and are served their everyday regular menu) or the street food. We choose the street food, with a twist as it has some benches and chairs. Its the Azaad restaurant in Memon Wada.

We order, seekh kabab, Boti kabab Bheja (Brain), Kaleji (Liver), Gurda (Kidney) and Cheeri or Kheeri (is udders or intestines), pretty extreme stuff (Sandip knows better). The atmosphere is festive almost like a fair almost a food fair. The food is a wee bit bland as we ordered the earlier courses without masala. The seekh kabab and boti are nice juicy and spicy. In all we have ordered 8 dishes with naans (sliced and roasted buns) with thumbs up and the bill is Rs 460/- (we think he seriously fudged the bill), as adjoining restaurants offer the same stuff at Rs 15/- a portion and we have been charged Rs 60/- We should have invested in a skull cap each (costing rs 10/-each) and looked like the fellow namaazi and iftaari folk or asked for the prices before digging in.

Would like to rate it high on experience but low on the quality of food quotient, it was at best mela food, not the gourmet variety one would expect. Other explanations, as the prices of food in regular Muslim restaurants are so low (owing to the propensity of their clientele to pay), the ingredients are also cheaper and hence the output is mediocre. Usually the cooking prowess of the muslim Khaansaama's overcomes the lack of expensive ingredients.However on a uber- crowded night like the Ramzaan, economics takes precedence over prowess and like everyone else, everyone is out to make an extra buck.We do not stop for for the innumerable desserts on offer, its turning out to a hot and noisy. We get into the cool Elantra car and head out to the less crowded areas ofMumbai and enjoy a paan (in fact two) opposite Bhartia Vidya Bhawan off Marine Drive. Interesting evening. Have to do it in Delhi before Id, the clock is ticking, the choice is in three Lahore's in Delhi Ist Jama Masjid, Nizamuddin, or the now infamous Batlahouse in Zakir Nagar.We miss our Rs100/- per head by a massive two hundred and sixty rupees, but the objective was experience.
So Long

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