Take A Punjabi Food Walk Around Sion
On the east side of Sion you’ll find a Koliwada, now occupied mostly by Punjabis. Although officially renamed Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar, the locals around the vicinity still call it by the former name, meaning a village of Kolis. We were taken around this unique locality by travel company Wandering Foodie on their first ever Punjabi Food Walk around the neighbourhood.
I waited outside Hazara Restaurant, as per instructions in my email from the group. In no time, our group assembled with more participants for the walk. We stood around our guide, Jatin Khanna, a hospitality graduate from the earlier years of the millennium. Vinod and Rahul, co-founders of Wandering Foodie, handed us orange bags with a water bottle, and our the evening begins with Jatin’s short lesson in urban history while we walk.
The first food stop of the walk is near Dashmesh Darbar, definitely the biggest gurudwara in the area, and one of Mumbai’s most beloved. Here, we eat Puri Chhole, as many visiting the temple usually do before or after their worship. A fluffy, light, sizeable Puri came along with a simple serving of Chhole, along with a few grains of rajma in light gravy. The specific differences between this and Chana Bhatura were highlighted by Jatin, who lives in the neighbourhood and gives out a friendly nod to staff at every place we visit.
We then took a peek at the grand, dimly-lit Dashmesh Darbar, where we were told about the 24-hour langar in their courtyard, and how anyone and everyone is allowed a meal here.
Next, we dodged traffic on foot to reach a shop selling paya two lanes away. They have White Paya, which is a minimal paya of lamb limbs, mint, and water. The high protein count in the limbs makes it a healthy meaty dish. The regular Masala Paya is fiery and red, with a prominent presence of mint in its flavour after being cooked slow for 4 hours.
The star of this walk was definitely Hardeep Punjab, a restaurant that’s invented a dish that’s yet to find popularity. This one is called Chicken Chaska Maska. It’s essentially Chicken Tikka, cooked in a way that allows it to be covered by Italian-style cheese sauce, the kind usually seen in pasta. The dish is served hot in copper vessels, and blends spicy, soft chicken with thoroughly indulgent melted cheese.
This dish alone, really, is worth making a trip to Sion for, whether you’re in Cuffe Parade or Charkop. It’s unique, tasty, and as innovative as indulgent. It also takes a bit of time to show up on your table, so be warned.
Next, was a stop to calm down after this fiery, cheesy portion. We stopped for a Kashmiri Soda. While there’s no good reason for it, this mix of a freshly squeezed lemon, a dash of masala, and a splash of soda is called so. It hisses over a quickly formed foam, before subsiding to a pleasantly cool drink meant to be a digestive.
Fish and Prawns Koliwada are present on any city-dwelling eater’s vocabulary. This dish was invented at Hazara, the restaurant we assembled at for our trail. Although we ate a Surmai, they have Rawas, Prawns, and even Kaleji to prepare this unique, pan-fried fish with a special local masala.
We neared the end of our tour with Mini Punjab, where we got White Tandoori Chicken. Lighter in flavour, and lacking the monotony of the regular Tandoori Chicken, this is an instant classic if made from good produce. Locals and loyalists firmly believe that anything on a skewer at Mini Punjab tastes good.
The delicious, informative walk was coming to an end at Agarwal’s Kulfi Roll & Snacks, a local treasure. This shop carries a rich Rabdi-based Kulfi with a rich, creamy consistency. If there’s a better way to end a meal in the vicinity, we wouldn’t know of it.
Apart from the food, this walk is a cultural sneak-peek into a unique, interesting community. The food is just a great icebreaker to learning about the history, the worship, and the lifestyle of locals around the area, many of who have lived here since Undivided India’s partition.