The Earl of Sandwiches! – Gourmet Sandwiches on the streets of Mumbai

One of the great items of street food you can get in Mumbai is the Bombay Sandwich.
Made by a hawker on the side of the road there are often many variations but in it’s classic form it is two slices of soft white bread with the crusts removed, buttered with Amul butter (for those of my readers who have grown up in Mumbai this will bring back fond memories), then a layer of green chili-coriander chutney on one piece, with a layer of red garlic chutney on the other, followed by slices of boiled potato, cucumber, onion, beetroot and then seasoned with chaat masala. Each bite is a  mouth-watering burst of different flavours that can’t be described, only experienced.

Sandwich Maker

Sandwich Maker

I recently discovered this guy in Borivali, one of the outer suburbs in Mumbai, who has expanded the traditional sandwich into a huge repertoire of varieties that would put Subway to shame.

Sandwich Menu

Sandwich Menu

Plying his trade for the past 4 years he prides himself in being the most expensive (because of his quality ingredients but he is still cheap) and having the widest range. Sometimes you have to wait for up to ½ an hour before you get your sandwich, such is the crowd!
What impressed me was his cleanliness and the meticulous organization of his (small) kitchen. Someone who fully understands the concept “Mise en Place’ if not the expression!

Wibs Bread

Wibs Bread

Meonis

Meonis

It took me a while to figure out what Meonis was! (Mayonnaise)
I am gluten intolerant so I didn’t think I could partake in his fare but discovered that he even makes a breadless sandwich. Two slices of paneer (cottage cheese), toasted so that they become firm, take place of the bread. Delicious!

A finished  open sandwich

A finished open sandwich

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Possibly the greatest culinary invention ever devised! – Cake in a Jar!

Haute Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake in a Jar

Haute Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake in a Jar

The Boss and I discovered this little beauty the other day.

Heeding the ever-present demands of the  ever ravenous Tommy, we headed off to the Juhu Branch of “Country of Origin” a newly opened patisserie in Juhu, one of Mumbai’s upmarket suburbs.

So named because of the foods from all parts of the globe, Country of Origin provides a wide selection of teas, chocolates, fresh-baked breads, and sinful desserts.
Presented with a mouth-watering display of desserts we struggled to make a decision but finally settled on the Haute Chocolate and Hazelnut Jar. Other flavours include: Cookie Dough, Caramel & Cream, Cookie Dough & Hazelnut Crème, Red Velvet and Black Forest Cake.
All one needs to do is place it in the Microwave for 30 seconds before eating, however the Boss and I being anti-Microwaves, instead went “old-skool” and kept the jar in a pot of hot water for 20 minutes ( yes I know, amazing restraint!) until the chocolate on top had melted and permeated the lower layers.
Mmmm, heavenly deliciousness! Now if I can only figure out how to get Roast Chicken and Mashed Potatoes in a jar, my kitchen larder will be complete!

Britannia Rules!

One of my favourite restaurants to visit when I am in Mumbai is the Britannia Café, an Iranian Cafe located in the Ballard Estate area of Mumbai.

Britannia Cafe

Britannia Cafe

It was founded by Rashid Kohinoor in 1923, the same year the current owner, his son Boman, was born.
Now 90 years old, but with the energy of a 20 year old, Boman Kohinoor still waits on tables, taking the orders and cracking jokes constantly. I was very impressed with his knowledge of current New Zealand politics, especially as many Indians I meet confuse New Zealand with Switzerland. I am very happy he didn’t complement me on my country’s chocolate and start quizzing me about pocket knives!
Irani Cafes were originally opened by Zoroastrian Iranians when they arrived in India in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Mumbai was the most popular destination as it was an established trading centre. The Iranians chose to work for the established Parsi community (who first arrived from Iran over 1000 years previously) and gradually opened up small restaurants.
Typically these were often found on corners because when they started coming to Mumbai, most of the corner premises were vacant as many Indians would not take the corner believing that it was very unlucky for them. So the Iranis started renting them and found the corners good for business.
Iranian cafés used to be numerous and popular. In the 40s, 50s and 60s there were about three to four hundred Irani restaurants, bakeries, stores in Mumbai, but they are slowly diminishing, and now maybe only about twenty, thirty Irani restaurants are left today.

Britannia & Co

Britannia & Co

Despite the crumbling walls and dated décor Britannia continues to do thriving business as the food is excellent. Enough to motivate the Boss and I to drive in for over an hour from the suburbs just to have lunch!

Britannia Interior

Britannia Interior

Britannia is famous for it’s “Chicken or Mutton Berry Pulao”, a rice dish garnished with cashew nuts and little red berries. The berries are from the Berberis vulgaris plant, known more commonly as Zureshk , which grows in the wild in much of Europe and West Asia. Rich in vitamin C, and with a sweet and sour flavour they are used frequently in Iran as a flavouring for rice dishes and poultry.

Chicken Berry Pulao

Chicken Berry Pulao

We ordered a plate of each, and then a third as it was consumed in no time.
We also ordered Bombay Duck (not a duck but a very tasty local fish battered and fried)

Bombay Duck

Bombay Duck

Sali Chicken

Sali Chicken

Sali Chicken

And Chicken cutlet

Chicken Cutlet

Chicken Cutlet

Each dish I ate seemed to make my tape worm more and more ravenous so I ordered a plate of Egg Masala to top everything off.

Egg Masala

Egg Masala

Finally having sated the seemingly unsatiable appetite of the tapeworm we finished with Caramel Custard, Chocolate mousse and Mishti Doi , a sweet yoghurt.

Caramel Custard, Chocolate Mousse, Mishti Doi

Caramel Custard, Chocolate Mousse, Mishti Doi

All the food was excellent and coupled with the slightly eccentric setting made for a very enjoyable lunch. One thing I have noticed with Parsi and Iranian Restaurants is that they don’t seem to eat any vegetables. However the sprightly 90-year-old owner seems to disprove the rule that eating veges is a must for good health!
Britannia Café is only open from 12p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is closed on Sundays. If you ever find yourself in Mumbai make sure you make a visit and do so soon as places like this are fast disappearing.

Britannia Rules!

Britannia Rules!

Britannia’s slogan is “There is no love greater than the love of eating”, which should be my life’s motto! (Apart of course from my love of the Boss! ……… better add that before she thumps me!)

Britannia Slogan

Britannia Slogan

Pic Courtesy Unlisted Sightings

Road Trip Day 2 – Sai Vishram Resort, Byndoor.

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We stayed for two days at the Sai Vishram Resort, a lovely 24 acre property right on the sea-shore with a beautiful golden sand beach.

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The resort is a vegetarian resort, vegetarian communities being quite common in India.

The story behind the resort as it was told to me is quite an interesting one. Apparently a Bangalore business man became a devotee of Satya Sai Baba and made changes in his life including becoming a vegetarian. Realizing that it was often difficult to find good vegetarian places to stay he had an idea to open a small vegetarian hotel for people like himself to stay at. On a subsequent visit to Puttaparthi to see Satya Sai Baba, he was told by his Guru that whatever dream he had in his mind he should do it on a larger scale and he will be very successful. And so the Sai Vishram Resort was established.

It is a beautiful property which in addition to the beach has large areas of trees and tropical gardens. On both days the resort was visited by a troop of Langurs,who kept us entertained as they leapt from tree to tree.

Langur

Langur

There are also a number of wells on the property and in this particular one the old skin shed by a snake could be seen trapped in the stone.

Well lined with Laterite Blocks

Well lined with Laterite Blocks

Discarded snake skin

Discarded snake-skin

In this area Laterite blocks, seen here ready for use, are commonly used for building as it is easily mined and provides good insulation against the heat when used in house construction. The same stone was used in the construction of Angkor Wat some  3000 kms away!

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Being sensitive to the culture of the resort we had warned our niece before arriving that she wasn’t to talk about chicken and fish etc. The first evening while in conversation with the resort manager, you can imagine our discomfort when the soup arrived and a little voice piped up and asked the manager if there were prawns in it!

The food in the resort is excellent! On the first morning we had one of my favourite things for breakfast, Neer Dosa and Chutney. More common in the coastal regions particularly around Mangalore, Neer Dosa is a rice pancake made by soaking rice overnight and then blending the next morning in a food mixer with coconut milk and a little salt. It is delicious with anything but particularly nice in the morning with fresh coconut chutney.

Neer Dosa and Coconut Chutney

Neer Dosa and Coconut Chutney

I liked it so much that I supersized my next portion (got to keep the tapeworm happy!).

Neer Dosa

Neer Dosa

The Boss had a different type of Dosa called Rawa Dosa which is made in a similar way but with semolina. ( I had to snatch it off her mid-mouthful to get a photo!)

Rawa Dosa

Rawa Dosa

We spent the morning on the beach, swimming, kayaking, and jet skiing but by midday it was too hot even for me and we had to retreat to the A/C for the rest of the afternoon. In fact at this time of the year, even by 9am the heat is intense and unless you are by the sea or in a forest, can be pretty hard to cope with. By 5pm the heat is once again more tolerable and we returned to the beach and flew kites in the fresh sea breeze.

Kite Flying

Kite Flying

A couple of eagles were puzzled about the intruders on their airspace and hovered around for a while wondering whether or not to attack.

Eagle vs Kite

Eagle vs Kite

A wonderfully relaxing day and as I was to discover a few days later after visiting the overcrowded and shall we say less than pristine beaches around Calangute in North Goa, the beach here is really an unspoilt paradise.

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French Cuisine, Cuban Libations, Indian delectations

There are a lot of places in Pondicherry to satisfy my main aim in life (filling my stomach).
However my favourite and arguably the best purveyor of culinary delights is Villa Shanti.
Villa Shanti is a beautifully restored French Colonial building which has been converted into a lovely boutique hotel.
One of the main draw cards is the open air restaurant in the central courtyard which serves very good Continental and Indian food.
On our recent visit we arrived for dinner and I rapidly proceeded to order something which I have only recently discovered in life but about which I am determined to make up for lost time.
Villa Shanti makes possibly the best Mojitos outside of Cuba and being particularly dehydrated and realizing the importance of keeping fluid levels high in the tropics I made sure one was on the table in front of me not long after I arrived.

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In the meantime the Boss had ordered a smoked chicken and avocado salad which was extremely tasty.

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However preferring to concentrate on rehydrating myself I quickly ordered another mojito. The only negative with Villa Shanti is that their mojitos seem to take a long time to prepare ( something to do with the mint leaves being handpicked by French maidens under a full moon and then crushed with the blunt end of a  Baguette) so it is wise to order the next before you reach the bottom of the first.
The next course arrived, the boss taking delivery of her seafood spaghetti

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while I decided to partake of the Barracuda with Polenta to fill in the gaps between mojitos.

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Whilst this was delicious it was all in preparation for the piece-de-resistance ( my school French wasn’t wasted after-all!)
Next to arrive was what I consider to be one of the finest desserts ever created by humans.

Orange Almond Cake
Orange Almond Cake with Bitter Chocolate Mousse.

Admittedly there is a small amount of bias in my comment as being Gluten intolerant this is one of the few desserts I can eat, but everyone else at the table was in agreement and also ordered one.
If heaven could be contained to a plate, this would be it. And enjoying it so much I proceeded to eat it everyday ( sometimes twice a day) for the next 3 days!

The best food in Siem Reap is found at the heavenly Haven.

Food being the main motivating force that gets the boss and I out of bed in the morning, we always search for great places to eat when we travel.

After a couple of false starts in Siem Reap, we were fortunate to discover the Haven.

Haven is a training restaurant for young adult orphans (orphans, half orphans and abandoned children) started by Swiss couple Sara & Paul Wallimann.
Haven gives these orphans a vocational training in hospitality or as a cook, teaches them life skills and supports them in their transition from institution to real world.
The food is superb and the restaurant so popular that you must book in advance for dinner and sometimes for lunch as well.

We phoned up and managed to get a table for lunch as long as we arrived within 15 mins ( when good food is on offer we can be anywhere in 15 mins!).

Haven is a small place a short walk from the famous ( some say infamous) Pub Street.
We were greeted on arrival by a young girl with a welcoming smile and guided to our table outside in a small garden area lined with banana plants and shaded by a sail awning.
After making our choices from the menu there then followed one of the best meals we have enjoyed in a very long time. In fact so good that we immediately booked a table for the following days lunch ( dinner already being fully booked).

On day 2 I remembered to carry my camera to photograph the food.

For a starter we ordered the delicious green mango salad, but so excited were we to eat it that I forgot to take a photo before it was finished!

Remains of the Green Mango Salad

Next I ordered the pan-fried fish with green mango salad ( now you can see it) on a bed of fried potatoes and home-made mayo.

Pan Fried Fish

The Boss had a Khmer Chicken Curry.

Khmer Chicken Curry

For dessert we had the divine yellow bean dumplings in hot coconut milk with ginger.
It takes a little time to prepare but the wait is worth it!

Rice Dumplings

Then to finish I decided to try the fruit infused rice wine from a local company called Sombai
Sombai was started by a lady from Mauritius who infuses locally sourced fruits and spices into the rice wine.

Sombai Rice Wine

I am not normally a fan of rice wine but sometimes on holiday one tends to live dangerously. This one was however very very nice. I chose the cinnamon and banana flavor and really enjoyed it.
The other available flavours are Anise-Coffee, Coconut-Pineapple, Galangal – Tamarind, Ginger – Red Chili, Green Tea – Orange, Lemon – Lemongrass, Mango – Green Chili.
The rice wine comes in beautifully hand painted bottles and would make great souvenir gifts (Obviously once you have drunk the wine inside!)

Rather than knock it back in one, it was very nice to sip slowly and ensured that I would be in a very good mood for the afternoon’s sight seeing.

Sangria, Paella, and Spandex! What more do you need!

Aside

I always enjoy going to Chatuchak Market at the weekend as each time I go I discover a new treasure hidden in one of the many lanes.

The best time to get there is about 9.30. Most of the shops are open by then but the crowds haven’t arrived yet and the heat not too oppressive. I never go with an agenda but just wander aimlessly and despite having visited many times over the years there are still parts of the market I have yet to see, such is the vastness and the sheer number of stalls.

This last weekend though I discovered a great place to hang out and people watch while recharging your batteries for another couple of hours of roaming the stalls.

The place is called Viva Aviv and I stumbled upon it when I was looking for a place to sit for a while.   What caught my attention was the Spanish Chef standing in front tending to a large paella pan, not something one would expect in a market in Thailand.

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Feeling like a change from Thai food we sat down, discovered they also serve Sangria, and settled in for a bit of R&R. The chef is very entertaining and happily poses for photos and keeps the passing crowd entertained with his “aerial seasoning” of the paella ( by the end of the afternoon the ground is covered in salt!)

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If he isn’t entertaining enough the bar has a live DJ, which seems to change each week, and the combination of Sangria and the great music means that an intended half an hour stop stretches into a couple of hours and before you know it half the afternoon has passed.

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I wasn’t the only one this happened to. The Scandinavian couple next to us who had sat down for a cold can of coke soon graduated to a jug of Marguerita, whipped out their iPad and settled in for an afternoon of backgammon while dancing between moves!

And to top the afternoon off we were visited by a bunch of strange figures in black bodysuits who proceeded to do in impromptu dance in front of us!

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