Bandra Food Memories

Those readers who have lived through the sixties and seventies will recollect that the daily menu at home had a certain sameness and at the same time, studiously adhered to the stereotype fare for a particular community. No experiments with Chinese or Italian or Thai or Continental fare.

Goan prawn curry
Goan prawn curry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a regular meal for a good old fashioned Goan Catholic family like ours, rice with fish or prawn curry was the anchor, surrounded by other items like vegetables, meat, pickle and fried fish, if there was a surfeit of fish. Dals and other lentils were a rarity.

And of course, the vegetable was cooked by my mother in a true Goan style with lots of coconut scraping added. Sometimes the main course of fish/prawn curry and rice would be preceded by soup, a ‘side dish’ of beef accompanied by vegetable and/or a salad with bread.

On occasions like feasts and birthdays, pork made an appearance on the table, whilst chicken was so expensive that it was reserved only when we had guests. And only really important guests, not just anyone. More often than not, it was chicken xacuti that was on the table.

Gradually, in the late seventies, chicken started featuring in the meals a couple of times a week, if we managed to get our hands on ‘curry pieces’, a euphemism for the remainder of a chicken and sold at a lower rate than a whole chicken, after the breast and legs were segregated for delivery to the hotels and caterers.

For my generation of Bandra Catholics, procuring ‘curry pieces’ is part of local folk lore requiring persistence and diligent networking. Whenever two or more housewives gathered, they exchanged notes regarding where these could be obtained.

Based on this information, follow up action was initiated. I still recollect being conscripted, after being rudely woken up from an afternoon nap and sent scurrying on my bicycle to some cold storage or the other to buy a packet of curry pieces.

As the price of the bird became comparatively more affordable and because of the medical profession pushing white meat for health reasons, chicken has now become so ubiquitous that on a recent holiday to Kerala, we decided not to touch chicken, at all. Instead we concentrated on eating sea food and other Kerala delicacies, but all that is the subject of another post.

Eating out as a family, as we know today, was unheard and reserved for some major celebration, like a promotion at work. The only exception was a place called Pamposh, opposite National College, on Linking Road, where I was introduced by my dad to idlis, vadas and masala dosa. I still relish the last item and it is my first choice in any South Indian restaurant.

Rather, the eating out that we quite looked forward to was being invited by someone. Especially, if that someone was not a Goan, as it would mean a variation from the regular fare. Not that the regular fare was not delicious; its just that the palate becomes jaded after eating the same dishes on a regular basis.

With thanks to
Potato Chops and Boneless Chicken

We were particularly lucky to count amongst our friends many East Indian families. I loved being invited to their parties as I was sure that there would be a surfeit of pork dishes, including vindalho, sarapatel and if the occasion warranted, a roasted suckling. Plus the perennial favorite, duck moilee. And all this accompanied by fuggas or a pulav.

And as part of a more regular fare, for me the piece de resistance of East India food** will always remain the beef potato chop. Actually, it is not a chop, as one may imagine; rather is a a potato pattice stuffed with beef mince and shallow fried and the mince is prepared using the famous ‘bottle masala’. Bottle masala is an essential to East Indian cooking with almost any recipe requiring the addition of one or more spoonful of the powder.

Funnily, in those days, if you liked some dish you mentioned it to your host and if you were lucky, you would be invited to partake of the same the next time it was cooked or some was sent over. Today, if we like something we either ask for the recipe or more likely, Google it.

I could go on and on about the food I enjoyed when growing up, but I don’t want to bore you especially since you have so many other blogs to visit. Maybe, I will do some other posts of this genre in the future.

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013.


**For more about East Indian food watch Kunal Vijaykar, The Foodie, in a traditional East Indian village in Mumbai talking about their food.

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51 Replies to “Bandra Food Memories”

  1. Jose, this post is a real treat for me! Thanks so much!! I was born and brought up in Bandra, studied in St. Stanislaus’ High School, moved out of Mumbai a couple of decades back.

    Your description/mention of Pamposh, ‘curry pieces’ and ‘bottle masala’ brings back a lot of very fond memories. While I belonged to a vegetarian family, my first exposure to non-veg food came through our Goan and East Indian Catholic neighbours.

    How come you haven’t mentioned ‘bombil’ (Bombay Duck), ‘Central Hindu Hotel’ (famous for usal-pav and batata-wada, their ‘back-room’ was the favourite smoking hide-out of the more ‘bindaas’ among the Stanislites ), MacRonnels (their brown bread was expensive, but worth every bite), A-1 Bakery (best ‘paav’ in the world!!)?

    1. As I mentioned in the last para, I could go on and on about the food I enjoyed when growing up. However, since this post is to form part of the Write Tribe Festival of Words, I felt I should restrict the length.

      Yes, Macs was iconic place, which sold quality confectioneries. Still remember it as a place where you were promised a treat, if you did well in school. Quite an incentive.
      And A-1 bakery is still around, selling bread round the clock. And now it has a whole new range of puffs all priced at Rs. 15. Just eat a chicken and mutton puff.

  2. Once again a lovely walk down memory lane. Regular WTers will tell you how much I love these ‘period pieces’ like I call them when bloggers walk down their personal memory lanes.

    This post clearly shows us how much you loved and continue to love your food. And the fact that there were staple dishes back in your childhood mean that they remain your most loved ones, don’t they. At least for me, even today my mother still makes them staple dishes just the way they were made at least 20+ yrs ago and they kindle nostalgia in me whenever I eat them.

    Awesomely delicious post in more ways than one 😀 You sir, must write more often. This is a humble request from your newest fan!!!

    1. Thanks for your gracious comments. Yes, it has been confirmed that you love ‘period pieces’ and I will certainly try to write more often. Especially, since there is gun held to my head.

      Yes, I love food, period. And though I relish the staple dishes, I enjoy trying new dishes. In fact, our recent holiday in Kerala was a gastronomic tour combined with plenty of relaxation.

  3. I want those Potato Chops and boneless chicken. The photo is so crisp that I feel like grabbing one from it! Rice and Prawns curry is the favourite weekend lunch here. I am enjoying your trips down memory lane as it brings back a lot of memories for me too. 🙂

    1. Potato chops, ok. But what boneless chicken.;) The best prawn curry in the world is the Goan prawn caldin; slightly sweet with lady fingers. Something like fish moilee. Bit more tedious to cook than a conventional curry

  4. I am so not liking the breakfast at home now and would love to grab the interesting food you mentioned here… We were vegetarian at my parents place so it was all vegetarian fare always. Yes, can relate to the outing part. It was may be once in a month. I remember, we had this Madras Cafe which we used to frequent. And of course, as you mentioned, Chinese, Italian,Mexican were unheard of!

    1. Who told you to read foodie posts early in the morning. But I guess you ‘serious’ bloggers are all the same. Even the middle of the night is a good time to read posts.

      I guess going to a south Indian restaurant constituted eating out for many of us when growing up. Probably the most affordable eating places for budget conscious parents.

  5. I have heard that the ingredients of the bottle masala of the East Indian families are kept secret and handed to family members only. mouth-watering post.

  6. I love how you evoke the bygone era with your post. It is wonderful to hear about Bombay back in the 70’s & 80’s. By the time we moved there it had pretty much become the sprawling metropolis it is today. Your post reminded me of the Bombay I have seen in some old Hrishikesh Mukherjee movies. 🙂

  7. Rice and fish curry is the regular lunch in my place too. Fish is something Catholics can never say No too. And the pictures itself look so yummy… I don’t think I can visit all those blogs with food staring out at me from the screen. 😀

    1. Can you believe that there was a time when I couldn’t stand fish. My mother had do coax and cajole me to eat fish. But later I took to fish like the fish takes to water. Now it the first choice for me.

  8. I became nostalgic after reading about Bombay of those good old days .Masala dosa is one thing which no one can resist. Good that you decided to write. Hope to see your lovely posts more often.

  9. Enjoyed this trip down memory lane too. Especially reading about the good old days of Bombay with their brilliant eateries. Glad you decided to write again – you have an amazing way with words that make us nostalgic 🙂

  10. Loved that trip down memory lane. Although I turned vegetarian some years back I come from a family of hardcore non-vegetarians but being from North India the food was so completely different. Mutton was a staple and we’d turn up our noses at fish, literally… Specially sea fish :-). My Husband is a prawn fanatic.. That being a staple would have been his dream come true. Interestingly our eating outs were also to South Indian joints.

    1. I guess South Indian joints were the most affordable. Even today they continue to hold their own unlike the Irani cafés, which have all but disappeared.

      We hardly ate mutton. Guess it was too expensive even then. Many are put off by fish because of the smell.

  11. Again another post down memory lane Jose. The same interest in food conjure up so many memories.Nowhere in the world one can find the taste of a Goan chicken xacutii..maybe we are biased 😛 Have a peep at my post.Maybe you will remember some of your favourite Christmas delicacies 🙂

    1. I will certainly visit your post. In fact, I plan to visit all the food post, given my abiding interest in food. Actually, mutton xacuti cooked by a Goan Hindu family is even better than the chicken preparation.

  12. It was fun to read about how things used to be back in the day and what you used to eat. The culture is so different from what I am used to in the United States, but the fact that we all have to eat and come together to do so unites us all. ♥

    1. Yes, what I wrote about is specific to a couple of communities, who in any case are a microscopic minority in India. Actually, there is no pan Indian cuisine, just as there are regional variations in the United States.

  13. Lots of idlis and vadas in posts today. And I believe I do recall Pamposh on Linking Road though I’ve never eaten there. And yes eating out as a family was reserved for birthdays only. I think we appreciated those outings a whole lot more than we do now.

    1. I haven’t got round to reading the other post, but when I do, I am sure I will come across lots of idli/vada. Pamposh still exists even today, but I don’t think idlis and dosas are served any more. Looks more like some lounge bar.

  14. that mix of different foods from different cultures was so nice… for me, i was so used to having Keralite (Malabar specifically) cuisine that when I finally stayed in Pune for 3 years, it took me quite awhile to get used to poha and sabudana vadas.

    Incidentally, even now, 90% of Malabar cuisine comes down to rice and fish curry/fish fry … 😀

      1. I love poha, especially what I make. The combination of poha and cha is very popular amongst the Maharashtrians. Can be eaten at breakfast or in the evenings.

        There is a restaurant in Mumbai, Fountain Plaza that serves Malabar cuisine. I often order the rice and fish curry/fish fry though the last couple of times I have had a dry chicken with parotas.

  15. That was wonderful trip down your msmory lane. I’m not a foodie at all and whatever little experiments I have done are after my marriage on hubby’s insistence. I guess most of the items on your post are fairly new to me except ‘vindalho’ which I tried on my Goa trips in 2007 and 2008. Next February I’ll be in Goa for a couple of days and will make sure to try out some of these. Bottle Masala is something really new to me. Hubby would love to go through this post. He’s fond of trying out new dishes. 🙂

    1. Bottle Masala is really a garam masala, which is tightly packed in a bottle and stored. Hence the name. Of course, like any garam masala there are variations depending on the original recipe.

      Hope you have a great time when you visit Goa in February. Have you checked out my post ‘Xacuti’ that I wrote in April 13? Might get more ideas of Goan cuisine.

  16. What I enjoyed more was the transition of foods that came as times changed. And honestly so different from my own home setup. Like dals and lentils formed an important part of my life forever. Food habits across family can be a case study itself…

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