Well it’s apparently “Friendship Day” today. As @5hivani Tweeted, “The number of cool friends you have is inversely proportional to the # of “Happy Friendship Day” e-mails & SMSs that you’ll receive today”. Well I am not going out to help Archies and Hallmarks on this though I must say that the day gave me a handle for this post.
There is no arguing that I am in love with Mumbai. Am addicted to it. Traffic jams, potholes, crummy housing, crap on the road, damp walls, dust, smog, ugly buildings, filthy black and yellow cabs, forbidding local trains notwithstanding. A bit like a bad relationship which you don’t want to get out of even if you know it’s not right for you.
They talk about the ‘spirit of Mumbai’. They are absolutely right. The city is all about its people. If I have stayed on for thirteen years then it is because of the way its people have welcomed me. Right from the days when I landed here by myself, with a suitcase of clothes and no one to call my own. The welcome I received from folks here. The way they made me a part of their own lives made me stay back here without ever looking back.
My friend Veera was one of those who made me feel at home the moment I pitched tent at Mumbai. One of those who made soothed frayed nerves, calmed me down, brushed away my worries and anxieties and helped me settle down in the city. Then she left town with her husband and daughter to seek for Muscat. She has recently come back to Mumbai for a holiday. Promises made to feature her on Finely Chopped and to treat her to pork (300 pc tax on ham at Muscat apparently) and I ended up hosting her in her own city! Aah, the ironies of life.
We headed to Goa Portuguesa near Hinduja Hospital at Mahim a few evenings back. You get pork there and I thought that Goan food would work better than Continental or Chinese for our Prodigal Daughter.
Goa Portuguesa is run by Suhas and Deepa Achawat. They also own the adjoining Culture Curry and Diva Maharashtracha. They are without doubt the most colourful folks in the food world of Mumbai. The two are as kitschy as kitsch can get and are unapologetic about it. Prepare to be assaulted by loud colours and near spoofish pictures of the owners all over the restaurant. What you miss in restraint is made up in character. The Technicolour Tollywood (Tamil Cinema) sensorial assault is what ensures that you don’t forget the place. And the food too. Provided you manage to order without getting put off or feeling squeamish about the photos in the menu card.
The three restaurants are small, cosy, not too crowded on weekdays. An ideal setting to catch up with an old friend. And when you do, then skip the Single Malt or Absolut, and go for a good old Old Monk.
We began with Diva Mahrashtracha’s Kolambachi Karanchi. I remembered these as the divine prawn stuffed half moon puffs which I had at Manish and Vandana’s. Well that was Kolambachi Karanjee apparently. What we had this time were little prawn kebabs with a Maharashtrian flavour. Delicately spiced, with a soft dough base and zestful tiny prawns inside. The look on Veera’s face told me that we had come to the right place.
Next in line was Goan sausage chilly fry and pao. One bite of that and Veera exclaimed loudly with joy, her eyebrows shot up and she then broke into a huge grin. Gone was the polite, dainty, ladylike looks of appreciation. This was primordial. From the heart. Visibly a coming home moment. The Sausage fry was wonderfully cooked. More ‘cooked’ than ‘fried’. Its sour, pickled, spicy, hot flavours walloping you into joyful ecstasy and gastronomic submission. This was a pure, unadulterated, hedonistic, raw, young and unfettered ride. Sheer enjoyment unshackled by inhibitions of diet, reflux, cholesterol and the art of living. This was sinful stuff. A dish which took us back more than a decade.
The rum, pork and conversation left us satiated. We left the restaurant beaming. Wanting more. Screw Friendship day. This is what life is all about.
Oh, and here are the lyrics to the original Beatles Song where the header came from