Matunga - Mini Madras in Mumbai!
On a rainy day last week when I was looking for something quick and spicy to cook I came across a Pepper Rassam paste I picked up from Matunga a few months ago on a trip I took exploring Mumbai’s markets with my friend and food columnist Vikram Doctor. Vikram is very much a market enthusiast and an advocate of food foraging but in a uniquely Mumbai way; that is to go to specific places to buy specific things. In fact he has it down to a fine art - I am just learning! That day on the menu was an exploration of Matunga Market.
Matunga market caters to the South Indian communities of Mumbai and is known to be the hub of all things South Indian in Mumbai, right from ingredients to fabrics, flower garlands and excellent places to eat South Indian food. Vikram and I met at Idli House which is located just out of Kings circle, the sentral point of Matunga. This is a small little restaurant, that is easily missed if you are not looking for it. A tiny basic eatery that serves up excellent home-style idlis (steamed rice flour cakes) in over 25 varieties with fragrant sambaar (tangy lentil gravy), coconut chutney and dry podis or powder chutneys. The variety of unusual idlis on the menu number standard idlis and some lesser known ones such as the oondi, that is full of freshly grated cocnut, khotto an extremely granuallarly textured idli that is steamed in a jackfruit leaf that laces it with traces of the jackfruit leaf flavori. My favourite however was the Pepper idli. Top your idli with a dollop of white Coimbatore butterand finish your meal with a South Indian filter coffee.
After breakfast we made our way to Matunga Market via King’s Circle, home to pavement book sellers, Irani and Udupi eateries, silk sari shops and coffee houses—with clientele spanning generations. Vikram points out all the best places to eat at along the way, Ramashraya, Ram Nayak Udipi, and Sharda Bhavan, famous for their crisp Dosas and gingery Medu Vadas. We stopped to buy some typical South Indian staples at a dark old-school shop manned by two old men; mango pickle, dried berries and dried naarthankai (a south Indian citrus that is delicious). We were escorted along by the heavenly aroma of roasting coffee thanks to the Mysore Coffee concerns outlet that sells fresh ground coffee on one corner. They should bottle that aroma and sell it to all these hi flying coffee shops.
Westopped for a few minutes at Garden fresh a local provision store that stocks all sorts of gourmet goodies including a few really unusual ones. This place is a warren of foodie discoveries! I stocked up pepper and garlic rasam pastes that allow one to cook up flavour laden rasam in seconds, all you need to do is add a spoonful to hot water and give it a good stir and you have piping hot rassam with cloves of garlic, whole chillies and curry leaves floating on a strong tamarind kick! South India’s answer to chicken soup for the soul! Have it as a soup or with rice and something fried on the side great to have handy in the monsoon. Nothing to beat the wet world outside than a little warmth on the inside! Garden fresh is also good for a number of other things. Papad Dosas, that are dosas cooked to crisp butter goodness, great for appetisers although they are traditionally meant to be eaten with a thin chicken curry.
When we (or rather I) had finished buying out the store out, we headed to Matunga market. Here you will find vendors that stock a variety of unusual tropical vegetables from South India, of course some of them are common to other cuisines as well but here they are clustered for South Indian cuisine; bamboo shoots, colocasia (arbi), breadfruit (delicious and flaky when baked or fried, tapioca, jackfruit, lotus and banana stems, drumstick and banana flowers, Madras kakdi.
Matunga really is like a mini Madras in Mumbai and I came away with memories of colorfull markets full of produce and lovely flowers, beautiful South Indian women, dressed in crisp south silk sarees, shiny black hair adorned with flowers browsing through the bylanes. Its a timless area to lose yourself in.
When we were done with the market we headed to the City Lights Fish Market, which deserves a post by itself and before we ended the day, Vikram took me to this little hole in the wall place to pick up something very special . Cafe Medina is a non-descript place that caters to bachelors living in the area, serving North Kerala style food. Its on lady Jamshedji Road in Mahim (To find it travel south from the muslim restuarants you see in the area around Mahim dargah you will find it on the right side facing south). We were there to pack a couple of portions of their Kaffa Biryani, a kerela style Biryani made of beef and tapioca. It is spicy as hell and redolent of curry leaves and made the perfect thing to bring home to the husband for lunch!
GYAN and links For great writing on Matunga check out the blog Man from Matunga , Vikram Doctor on Beadfruit and a look at Kappa Biryani
|The Rassam pastes in bottles!|
|A kind of root vegetable I cant remember the name.|
|Breadfruit (costs 20 rupees a piece)|
|Love the marketing ! "Veg Protien AKA mushrooms!|
|Vege seller with mix of things|
|Green peppercorns were in season then...|
|Banana stem, banana flower and Madras Kakdi|
|all sorts of bananas|
|Just loved this one!|
|Kappa on the menu!|