Gaffes at a Mumbai Irani café and Dal ghotala
In the guerrilla war of the bulge you never know when your diet will be ambushed. There are traps and lairs everywhere and you are ensnared when you are most unprepared.
Two Saturdays ago, on a morning that appeared magically cholesterol free, our diets were accosted once again.
It was a beautiful day in June and for once, instead of food, we had music on our minds.
We were reverently visiting Furtado’s - the iconic historical music store opposite the Metro cinema in the Dhobi Talao area of South Mumbai.
When we stepped out of the melody steeped environs to meet friends in Navy Nagar for lunch then - we were brimming with music. So satiated was I with my musical encounter that I almost said I didn’t think I could eat lunch.
Fortunately for me however, I swallowed my words just in time.
As we turned the corner a nondescript board made its appearance. And it read ‘Kayani’
Kayani? Kayani!!! Mumbai’s famous hundred year old Irani café – Kayani!!!
I could hear some music again.
The Pianos at Furtados?
No. This was a familiar rumble and it was moving away from me.
It was coming from under the green T-shirt on the tall man striding away from me. A man I had thought was my dieting ally until a few seconds ago.
I stared disgustedly at the receding green T-shirt on the man I had married twelve years ago. One look at the Kayani signboard and he had turned traitor to our weight watching cause.
So what if he had long legs – I would overtake him!
We raced to the marble stairs of the eatery and then suddenly we could walk no more. The menu in large white lettering on the blue board outside and the sight of the jellies and custards in the display at the entrance made us weak in the knees.
That was when we spotted the knotted blue rope considerately hanging at the entrance.
A hundred years of having weak kneed customers like us had prompted the owners to hang that rope there to help people in predicaments like ours. And that day the rope rescued us. We grabbed it to help ourselves up the stairs.
There was no doubt this place belonged to the previous century. It certainly belonged in the Pre Cholesterol Obsession era.
A hundred or more eggs grinned unabashedly at us as we stood there. The Caramel custards and jellies were a little more covert in flaunting themselves but their inviting looks were unmistakable. As we stood rooted to the spot their cousins – the creamy chicken patties arrived in tray loads and plonked themselves in clear view next to the chicken lollipops and laughingly beckoned us.
There was no escape.
The contemptuous waiter with his knowing smile waved us to the red and white gingham print tablecloth clad table. Perspiring and breathing heavily we collapsed there.
“Ch …….ch…….chai?” I queried hesitantly with an apologetic smile.
“Haan, haan……. Bun maska chai na?” The generous waiter corrected me irritatedly.
We nodded eagerly in relief. We hadn’t dared to hope for the maska (butter) but what the hell. We had gone back a hundred years in time (the prices on the menu under the glass slab on our table confirmed that) – we needed the calories.
Our waiter disappeared.
Another appeared. We asked for chicken patties. He hung around suggestively with a knowing smile.
“Chicken lollipop, chicken farcha, mutton cutlet, keema ghotala aur eggs akoori bhi le aao” my husband muttered hurriedly in a single breath and ducked under the table in anticipation of a reprimand from the present era.
The tea was tear-jerkingly sweet. The bun had so much butter on it. Everything was deliciously deep fried and egg coated. And to reassure us as we ate the thin wizened owner of Kayani sat in full view at his counter - allowing us to hope that no matter what you ate here, you could still look like him.
Every cell in our bodies protested as we left.
We rode the ten kilometres from Dhobi Talao to Navy Nagar in guilty silence for lunch.
Through lunch our friends gave us looks of confusion and irritation. They complained several times that we looked dazed and distracted. And as the clock struck five they exasperatedly said goodbye.
The taxi driver looked at us for instructions.
“Dhobi Talao” we mumbled without meeting his eyes.
“Ch……ch…ai?” I muttered again to the same waiter who had served us that morning, looking steadily down at the tablecloth in embarrassment.
“Chai, khari, nan, khatai…………..?” he asked scornfully
We nodded quickly.
“Aur ek chicken nuggets aur do fish and chips parcel” we added with eager nervous smiles.
- Measure out a cup of Sabut Masoor Dal.
- Wash it and add 5 cups of water to it. Add salt and half a teaspoon of garlic paste.
- Close the cooker and heat it on high flame until the first whistle. Then turn down the flame and cook for another twenty minutes.
- Turn off the flame and allow the cooker to cool.
- Meanwhile cook a packet of frozen seekh Kababs (Chicken, Mutton or Vegetarian as you prefer) as per packet instructions. Actually just microwaving for a minute at maximum power also works.
- In a karahi heat two tablespoons of oil. Turn down the flame and add 1 tsp of jeera seeds, 5 cloves of chopped garlic, ¼ tsp of garlic paste, a green chilli and ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder and fry until golden. Be careful otherwise it will burn.
- Pour the dal into the karahi and boil well for about 5 minutes. Mash the dal against the sides of the karahi as it boils.
- When the dal has attained a smooth consistency add 5 tablespoons of milk and boil some more.
- Now cut up the seekh kabab into centimetre wide pieces to get rings.
- Add these rings to the dal and boil some more.
- Serve hot.
- Garnish with sliced onions fried golden brown if you like.