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Chai & Chats: Stories from Mumbai with Rama

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Ahead of our Chalo Mumbai with Khao supper club, we sat down with mum for a chai and chats to know a little bit more about growing up in Mumbai, her fond street food memories and how her childhood influenced the dishes she shares with us. Grab a chai and have a read!

Khao: Which area of Mumbai did you grow up in?

Rama: We lived in the Kurla area of Mumbai. It is in the East of the city, not too far from the airport so quite busy. We had a small house and shared a courtyard space with some of our neighbours. When I go back there, I don't even recognise the street or area anymore, it's all changed. Lots of high rise buildings there now!

Khao: What are your fondest memories of growing up there?

Rama: It was really great. I remember on days when a new movie came out, my sisters and I would go for an matinee show so we could be home in time for dinner. Growing up, I had school friends of different faiths and backgrounds so I was often invited to their homes for food after school and ate some interesting dishes I don't think I would have tried anywhere else. When it was Diwali or Eid, neighbours would bring over a dish or two and we would share something we've made too. I really enjoyed trying what people would bring over, it was really special to experience that. And of course, I cannot forget all the street food!

Khao: Of course! What street food dishes did you enjoy?

Rama: So many different things! We used to go and eat lots of pani puri (tangy & spicy mint water served in semolina puffed puri's), bhel (potatoes, onion and tomatoes tossed with crisps and assortment of chutneys to add spice and sweet) and one of the popular stalls was this man selling bateta wada (spiced potato fritters). Actually last time me and dad went to Mumbai, we found out he has a whole restaurant now.

Khao: Oh nice, did you go? How was the food?

Rama: Yes, of course we had to try it but it was not so great as I remember growing up!

Khao: When would you go out for street food? I'm sure nani cooked lots at home too?

Rama: Yeah she did but going out for street food was a treat. When nani was going out to buy fresh vegetables for dinner, we would go with her and on the main road with all the fruit and veg sellers, there was also different street food stalls. There, we would always enjoy something or another.

Khao: What sort of dishes did nani make and how did her cooking influence your cooking?

Rama: Nani made the best food, it was so delicious. I think we were living so close to many different cultures, we ate some really interesting dishes and it influenced her cooking style too. There was one cauliflower shaak I make often that I learnt from nani who learnt it from a neighbour. The cauliflower is cooked with only a few key spices and not too much water. One thing that influenced me is more simple cooking, with a more drier style of making the typical Gujarati shaak, I think it just tastes much better that way. But you know, thinking about that cauliflower shaak nani made, it was so tasty, I cannot make it in the same way, hers was just too good!


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