Someday, I will ask a Gujarati how do they feel when someone sees them and asks Kem Cho? Maja ma cho? Meet a Bengali for the first time and tell him Ami tomake bhalobashi and Rosogulla and Mishti Doi. The Bengali Bhadralok won’t do anything to you but it hurts him badly, I can vouch that. The fact that there is more to Gujarati food than dhokla and fapra and Thepla … is something I realised after this special Sunday. It was a meal at Soam, Tardeo Mumbai
Soam Mumbai location
The place is located at the ground floor of Sadguru Sadan. A quaint neighborhood, a hospital opposite and an art school across the street and the famous Babulnath Mandir on the other side. Situated at the junction of this road, an easier way is to look for are eager faces waiting for their turn to get inside a restaurant. The Sunday overflow of guests is a regular affair here. Chairs are lined up for them on the main road and a fan too. That’s the first layer and till you reach your table, you have to go through another waiting lot inside the restaurant.
What can you do for good food?
There were no commotions amongst the waiting diners. No one had a frown on the face. Does the keenness for good food also bring a sense of calm in you? Inside, it’s a show running on its own. Some leaving the table at the end of their meal, others engorged with their food and conversation, others either waiting or ordering their food. The tables are close to each other, so this place is not for your first or even second date. Soam is for celebration of unpretentious food and the sense of comfort. A place where you can definitely bring your parents and expect them to be thrilled.
The Vegetarian Sunday lunch. Calm in Chaos at Soam Mumbai
Honestly speaking, had it not been for Rushina, I would have never gone for a vegetarian Sunday Brunch. Madhushree was with me and Alka Jena – Odiya home chef also joined us. It was almost like an Omakase meal experience. We pretended to figure out what to order but were in Rushina’s playing field and she gladly ordered for us.
Bhelpuri, dahi papri and all the chaats to start off. A dash of a farsan platter
We started with chaats. This was also a first time. Who starts Sunday lunch with bhelpuri and Mumbai chaats? Dahi Phuchka, Papri chat was also there but still, this? Bhelpuri has been a better friend to me than Jhaal Muri always, so I started with that. The Farsan Platter, which is like a bhaja bhuji platter had small palak cheese patti samosa. At the cost of sounding cliche, the cheese was melt in mouth and that was a sure shot crowd pleaser. There was a debate across the table on the golden cubes and they were simple makai wadis. Done to perfection, soft and a velvety texture, these were made with makki ka aata. Dhokla and savoury gujiyas filled with a green pea mush (almost similar to our koraishutir kochuri filling) also adorned the farsan platter. And as expected, the platter was addictive.
The Fun of Paanki at Soam Mumbai
The wait staff came next with a heap of steamed banyan leaves. Lying in between two banana leaves, like a thin dumpling sheet, was a rice crepe. They will serve one half of the banana leaf on your plate. The best way to have this is to scoop it out slowly with the spoon. If you are finicky like me, then apply patience and skill and few deep breaths to get it out in a single piece. I felt like I have earned this. No food loving Gujarati fellow diner will kill you if you mess it up. There were bowls of chutneys on the table as an accompaniment to the paankis. The taste of these soft crepes, with a hint of garlic, literally, was imprinted in our brains.
Turiya Patra with biscuit Bhakri
This was again a first time for me. By this time, we were scraping through the last bits and pieces of the paanki. I was looking forward to having more but then, turiya patra arrived. Turiya is our jhinge (ridge gourd) and sans the patra, the taste os quite similar to a jhinger torkari. The ridge gourd was so well cooked that it was almost creamy along with the nuggets of colocasia leaves in a mildly spicy filling. It came with a biscuit bhakri. However, there were puris on the table and I couldn’t resist but having this with the puris.
Shrikhand, Undhiyon and Puri
By the time, Undhiyon appeared on the table, I had started receiving suggestions on trying out the Shreekhand with Puri too. Undhiyon is a delicacy which is close to Gujaratis. If you haven’t had Undhiyon, then don’t get into a conversation over Gujarati food. A seasonal mixed vegetable dish, whose parallel can only be Shukto for Bengalis or Avial in Kerala. Shukto is different as it’s bitter and I haven’t tasted Avial. Before coming to Soam, we did a food walk in one of the sabji gallis of Tardeo and we were introduced to papdi or baby sheem as its called in Gujrati. This is one of the key ingredients of Undhiyon. This came with puris and a bowl of Shrikhand.
I don’t know if that’s the correct way but I went back to my childhood and just as payesh with luchi is a deadly combination, I tried Shrikhand with Puri and I could not stop. By this part of the meal, I had moved on from the grief of no non veg on a Sunday afternoon and with this, I was over moon. Shrikhand was a perfect Sunday companion – relaxed, desired indulgence. I started missing my bed.
Soam Mumbai is a must try
A sweeping statement comes out when you can sweep a Bengali over a Sunday lunch. I can stick my neck out to say this. By the time we finished our meal, there were more people coming in, as some ended their Sunday meal with a satisfactory smile. There were some more, waiting outside with an eager expectation of a fulfilling meal. Simple flavours, unpretentious presentation and fresh preparations with recipes, which seem straight out of a home kitchen, is the order of the day perhaps. Next time I meet a Gujarati, I will ask when was the last time you had an Undhiyon? Will that be too stereotyping?