The best meals of 2018 – Where and what I ate

It’s becoming a sort of ritual now…to round up the year with the best meals I have eaten and 2018 has been especially kind. It’s the year I really traveled for food and created itineraries for those who love to travel for food (I consult with Cox and Kings and created itineraries for their product Tour To Feast). 2018 was the year of learning about food of different communities and going absolutely hyper local.

So here they are…my most memorable meals of 2018.

deena kaka’s hing ki kachori, varanasi

Varanasi’s very own Soup Nazi, Deena Kaka runs this small kachori shop near Chowk area. The shop is literally on a footpath where people patiently wait while he fries the kachori. You can’t ask him to hurry up, you have to wait patiently and wait in the line or else you don’t get any kachori. . . Deena Kaka opens the shop for just 3 hours in the evening, fries 3 batches of kachoris and goes home. The price of one kachori is Rs 5 which hasn’t been increased in years. He doesn’t do it for money anymore, it’s purely for the love of food. And the love shows in his kachoris which are stuffed with aloo and fried in desi ghee. The air around the shop is thick with the aromas of hing which makes his kachoris stand out. He serves them with black gram and chutney. This plate of kachoris is the best food I have eaten in Varanasi.

Also Read: Varanasi – The city that runs on high vibration

Deena Kaka ki hing ki kachauri, Varanasi

pathare prabhu meal at dine with vijaykars, mumbai

As a part of my research to create Mumbai itineraries, I got a chance to eat the food of local communities; Pathare Prabhu being one of them. This was my first time eating a hearty meal of this community who are one of the original settlers of Mumbai. Apart from the fish, prawns and mutton, we were served a bunch of dishes which were made using fresh produce from the garden of Vijaykars which had jackfruit, ajwain, papaya, banana, gooseberry, lemon and lot of other stuff growing there. Even the pan was made with freshly plucked leaves and the gulkand filling was homemade with rose petals growing in the garden.

Pathare Prabhu Meal at Dine with Vijaykars, Mumbai

konkani muslim thali at ammEEZ kitchen, mumbai

Another one of my research stories. Do you know there’s a home chef in Andheri East (a very sweet and shy aunty) who hosts people at home and feeds them Konkani Muslim food? The food is a little different from Konkani Hindu or Konkani Brahmin food. There was surmai cooked in a beautiful kokum flavoured saalan, bangda fried in green masala, feeka saalan with prawns, papdi with kardai prawns, peeli khichdi, kulde (rice papad), sukdi (poha served with sugar and coconut milk). Blissful meal!

vietnamese soup in Bangkok

I was in Thailand in May this year and craving for a bowl of soup. A quick Google search took me to this noodle shop on Phra Athit road where I had Vietnamese noodles with pork, chicken, shitake mushroom and quail egg. Simple flavours but such a brilliant dish.

Vietnamese Soup in Bangkok

koli meal at anjali koli’s house, mumbai

Mutton curry, surmai kanji, kala vatana and gwar bhaji, surmai fry, papad made with pohe, prawns and spring onion stir fried and the perfectly fermented ghari (vadas made with fermented rice batter). This was my meal at Anjali Koli’s house (part of my research for C And K), completely different from the Koli meal I ate a couple of years ago at Versova’s Koli village.

Koli Meal at Anjali Koli’s House, Mumbai

vegetarian thali at Hotel ganges view, varanasi

This meal came as a breath of fresh air when I landed in the blistering hot Varanasi in June. I headed to the Ganges View Hotel on Assi Ghat for a meeting and the very kind owner offered me a simple meal of daal, torai and chana daal, jackfruit subzi, bhindi and roti.

Vegetarian meal at Hotel Ganges View, Varanasi

tribal meal of wild monsoon greens at vanvadi, neral

My most memorable meal of the year at this beautiful forest collective in Neral called Vanvadi. The meal consisted of foraged monsoon greens of the Konkan region. And yes, I ate mahua flowers for the first time. Read more about Vanvadi here – A Walk In The Woods – Vanvadi, Neral

Meal including local wild greens at Vanvadi, Neral

organic breakfast at hotel danmark, copenhagen

Croissants…enough said. This was my breakfast at my hotel in Copenhagen. In a super busy schedule, I would wake up early and spend one hour enjoying my breakfast of “the best croissants I have eaten”, cheese, sausages and fresh orange juice.

108, copenhagen

I travelled to Copenhagen this year with the Copenhagen Tourism Board and got a chance to have my first Michelin meal. 108 is known as Noma’s little sibling and works with the same philosophy of sustainability and locally sourced food. What I loved the most from the menu was this deep-fried brown beach mushrooms with smoked egg yolk sauce.

Also Read: Fun things to do in Copenhagen

Michelin Star meal at 108, Copenhagen

breakfast at tambe arogya bhuvan, mumbai

I went to this humble eatery as a part of my research for a story and constantly wondered why I didn’t all this while. One place I love for it’s misal-pav, thalipeeth and kothimbir vadi.

Tambe Arogya Bhuvan, Mumbai

also read: Will travel for food – Where has it taken me

chef shriya’s mangalorean ootA

Shriya is my business partner (we run The Literary Table together) but this was the first time I actually ate what she cooked (apart from staff meals). Her Mangalorean Oota pop-up was my introduction to Mangalorean cuisine and I am glad it happened through her. Her ghee roast was my favourite of all dishes. Beautifully robust flavour of ghee, chillies cooked for 6 hours into submission and a delicate neer dosa. I would’ve gone for seconds if there weren’t more courses to try. The best part if this dish is that it took Shriya 4 months to perfect the recipe. Her dedication to her craft is God level.

Chef Shriya Shetty’s Mangalorean Oota

tuna jerky at the olive bar and kitchen, mumbai

I have fallen in love with jerks plenty of times…none of them I’d like to go back to except the beautiful beautiful Tuna Jerk-y at Olive Bar and Kitchen in Mumbai. Chef Rishim is an absolute magician and I love him for doing what he is doing at the restaurant. The tuna is smoked and dried in a way that it tastes like beef jerky. Add some potatoes and smoked tomato ketchup to it and it’s a perfect dish.

Tuna Jerky at Olive Bar And Kitchen, Mumbai

kutchi meal in dholavira, gujarat

The year end trip was to Kutch and what a glorious way to end 2018. I saw the glorious sunset and moon rise at the white desert, lived in a quiet village-stay away from civilisation and mobile network and visited a 3000 year-old Harappan site in Dholavira. I met a local expert there who took us around the site and treated us to a simple home-made meal of mixed vegetable, daal, bajra roti and chaas.

Kutchi thali in Dholavira, Gujarat

What are your most memorable meals of this year? And is there anything you’ve eaten this year that you would like me to try? Let me know in comments.
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