Uncovering the little-known gems of Bohri food
Not much is known about Bohri food. And part of me wants to keep this delicious secret all to myself. But then I’m also a believer in keeping regional and community based cuisines alive. So at the cost of sharing my mutton kheema samosas, here goes!
Tucked into a quiet lane near Cuffe Parade is a pretty, old building- home to the above mentioned kheema samosas and a gentle lady named Nafisa. To say she’s a talented cook would be an understatement. Every Sunday, Nafisa and her family invite about 12 people to sample the little known delights of the Bohri community’s cuisine. What’s so special about lunch at a stranger’s house? Well, unless you have Bohri friends to invite you over for a meal, there’s no other way to taste this cuisine. There are no restaurants in the city that serve this fare and the only place I’ve had a sampling of bits and bobs of the cuisine is at Bohri Mohalla- an old world street food area that serves some (barely scraping the surface of this cuisine) dishes. The only way I’d get to try steaming, delicious paya and bite into the crunchiness of Russian pattice is if I sat with people I’d meet for the first time in a house I’d entered for the first time and shared my food with them. I agreed. The thought of missing out on mutton raan made me instantly work on my love for strangers.
The Bohri Kitchen is an experimental concept by Munaf and his mother Nafisa (obviously Bohris) wherein they invite people over for a hearty Bohri Non-vegetarian meal over the weekend. Prices are good and the food, delicious. The weekend we ate our seconds and thirds, had paya, fried chicken, kheema rice, a slightly sweet bohri flat bread that soaks up the flavours of the paya, russian pattice a delicious pineapple raita and a unique dish of potatoes cooked with kokum. If you’re vegetarian, the last two dishes are for you!
After a brief introduction by Munaf about his mother (the chef) and the food that would follow and a round of introduction for every stranger gathered there, the food started marching onto a giant thaal. This large plate is traditionally placed at ground level with smaller dishes put into it. The idea is that all the courses are in front of you and a group of people sit around this thaal and share the meal. All kick started with a taste of salt, that’s always part of the thaal.
This time however, the thaal simply acted as a serving plate and everyone helped themselves and sat down at their respecti ve chairs greedily. Phew! I wouldn’t have to be wrestling the last kebab from a stranger after all.
Everything was mouthwateringly good. But for me, the standout dish was the Russian Pattice. Crunchy, jali goodness wrapped around a good morsel of meat. Not too spicy, not too bland. And fried just right. This is apparently a popular dish in a community that loves its fried goodies.
The Paya was cooked to falling-off-the-bone perfection and the chicken, tasty. And the conversations picked up. My initial apprehension of eating with a roomful of strangers was quickly dispelled when i realised that this sort of dining experience will only attract the real foodie. The ones who you have a lot in common to begin with. But more importantly, ones who are equally engrossed in the food rather than conversation!
After many helpings and deliriously happy stomach, we ended the meal with some ice cream. With promises to return for the famous Bohri Biryani! Strangers and all.
To add a little Bohri Yumminess to your weekends check this link on Facebook. You can follow the page for upcoming Bohri lunches and ping them to get invited.
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