For those who have lived a good part of their lives in Mumbai or any other part of Maharashtra, devouring the local food at small, old-time joints serving authentic Maharashtrian delicacies, the mention of Kothimbir Vadis, Thalipeeth and Sabudana Vadas, tickle the taste buds and fond memories.
Manisha’s Kitchen, tucked away in one of the quiet, residential lanes of Karama, is hugely popular with not only the Maharashtrian community within Dubai, but also lovers of the cuisine. Old-timers say the quality of the food has been consistently flavourful since its inception. Legend has it (yes, it is a place that evokes legends from its patrons) that the lady, Manisha, started her business from her home kitchen catering to office-goers and events before starting the shop here.
Remembering Kaku – My Maharashtrian Neighbour
On a balmy winter afternoon with Batata Vadas and the weather of Lonavla during the monsoons on my mind, we sauntered in to this little eatery. Unpretentious, with no more than eight tables inside and no less than five on the pavement, the simplicity of the decor was only affirming what I had heard of the place. Wholesome home cooked food served just the way it would be if I walked into my Maharashtrian neighbour’s home.
Kothimbir Vadis (AED 12) and Misal Pav (AED 11) were ordered without glancing at the menu. The wait for the food was rather long, which I had been warned about by a lot of regular visitors; but when the food arrived, it was clear why the preparation had taken so long. The golden, deep-fried Vadis were well crisped on the outside, while the soft chickpea-coriander interior was still hot and moist. Dunked in the spicy-sweet accompaniment, the four Vadis disappeared faster than the polite server had an opportunity to ask if we liked the dish. The spicy, onion-tomato gravy with the mixed sprouts, was a little watery compared to my memory of a Maharashtrian Misal. The aroma was thick with the traditional masala, if only the Pav would have been fresh and warm.
Sol Kadhi (AED 11) was a sweet disappointment, literally. The concoction was devoid of spices, which was not only a sharp contrast to the traditional taste, but also to the spice indication marked on the menu. The only other drink we ordered, Piyush (AED 12) was an overdose of sugar with the subtle tastes of cardamom and saffron having drowned in the creamy, luscious yoghurt base.
Bharali Wangi (AED 14), probably the most underrated dish we ordered. Baby eggplants stuffed with a decadent coconut- peanut filling, floating in a rich coconut (yeah, some more) gravy left us scraping the sides of the dish with the Bhajani Thalipeeth (AED 12). The highly nutritious flat-bread comprising 12 different grains peppered with onions and spices seemed dry to touch, but melted in the mouth.
Savouring Street Food
And we finally gave in to the temptation when we ordered the quintessential Batata Vada (AED 7) and Sabudana Vada (AED 12). We had decided we would give these fried beauties a miss and venture into new territories, but when we saw them floating towards an adjacent table, the stomach lurched, as if knowlingly, and we surrendered. The two pieces of Batata Vadas served with garlic chutney satiated the pangs, not of hunger, but of taste – a reminder of the past, prowling the streets of Mumbai. The three Sabudana Vadas were relished in nostalgia, crunchy and golden with an unmistakeable burst of peanuts and green chillis.
That day, I didn’t leave Manisha’s Kitchen with a happy belly and heart, I just came home. The rustic flavours bringing even the simplest of fare alive, sufficient portions and befitting pricing, all kept Mumbai alive, long after we came home.