The best meals of 2017 – Where and what I ate

How you begin the new year sets the tone for the rest of it…

It’s true. I started 2017 with a langar at a Gurudwara in New Bombay, wishing for  equally great meals in the coming year. And what a fabulous food year it was. I traveled to various cities for food. Took a trip to Pune to try the famous Bedekar misal and loved it, went to Surat to eat the locho and visited the ponkh market, traveled to Indore (done that twice this year already) and found another food city to fall in love with, took a solo trip to Calcutta and Meghalaya (where I ended up making some most amazing friends), traveled to Goa to learn sourdough which became one of the most brilliant experiences of 2017, traveled to Indore (again) and ended the year with a trip to Srilanka. Apart from all the good food I ate at these places, there were umpteen fabulous meals cooked by my mother, a couple of trips to Lucknow that involved loads of chaat, and some amazing beef curry/fish curry and rice meals at Chetna (PositivityAngel’s) house. Don’t think I can be thankful enough for this year.

I am an atheist, but somehow going to a Gurudwara doesn't feel like I am confirming to any religion. The idea of following a teacher and learning from his/her experiences sounds more logical to me than blind faith. Also, what fascinates me is their self-less service and the feeling of giving back to the community. Eating at a langar with people from different casts, religions and financial backgrounds and accepting your food with a feeling of gratitude is a humbling experience. So glad to start my food journey this year with such a beautiful meal. I hope the food that I eat this year helps me connect to my roots and make me aware of the efforts people put-in to put that food on my table. Also, here's a big thankyou to all the people who came into my life this past year, taught me new things, gave me new experiences and motivated me to be better than myself. I don't know whether all of you will be part of my journey onwards, but I will always cherish and value those times, learnings and experiences. Wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful new year. #NewYear #gratitude #CircleOfPositivity #Happy2017 #gurudwara #food #langar #feelinghumbled #thankyou #HappyNewYear

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Sarafa Market, Indore

Indore has won me over for life with it’s food. I have already taken two trips to the city this year and I think it’ll become a mandatory feature in my life. The bhutte ka kiss, garadu, sabudana khichdi and wafers bana ke at the Sarafa Market are the epitome of street food. You haven’t truly experienced India’s street food if you haven;t visited Indore.


Sarafa Market, Indore

Bengali Meal, Mukherjee Guest House, Calcutta

Earlier this year I traveled to Calcutta and stayed at a homestay in Salt Lake owned by a lovely couple. As soon as I reached, which was a little after lunch time, I was served this fabulous Bengali meal cooked by the owner’s mother and the Mashi who cooks food in their house. Clockwise on the plate – dhokar dalna – dumplings made of dal cooked in tomato gravy, chicken kasha – chicken cooked in nice onion and tomato gravy, rice, dal – loved the hint of sweetness, bengun bhaja, pabda or catfish shorshe with lots of kalaunji (nigella seeds), tomato chutney and shukto – Bengali mixed veg of raw banana, yam and other vegetables.

You can checkout the guest house here.

Bengali Thali, Calcutta

Khasi Food, Meghalaya

The Calcutta trip was actually a pit-stop to the Meghalaya trip which I took with Chalo Hoppo (the company organises trips in North East India and is owned by an absolute fun bunch of young guys). We ate a lot of Khasi food all through the trip, but this meal in particular which I had at Mylliem was the most memorable one. Also, it was our first Khasi meal which included Dal, rice, tungrymbai – a paste of fermented soybean, sesame seeds slow-cooked with pork, tungtap – dried fish chutney, dohkhlieh – boiled pork salad with ginger and onion.

Checkout Chalo Hoppo guys here.


Khasi Food, Meghalaya

Chef Rishim Sachdeva’s new menu, Olive Bar and Kitchen, Bandra

Ask me what’s that one perfect dish I’ve eaten at a restaurant in Mumbai and I’d say it’s this plate of lamb ribs at Olive Bar and Kitchen. Brilliantly tender lamb with carrot puree, grilled baby carrot which is also cooked in the puree (it’s not in the pic but was part of the dish I had), grilled corn cob and corn miso (fermented paste of corn kernels) which just takes the dish to another level. I have already been there twice in two months and think will keep going back.

Chef Rishim Sachdeva is doing fabulous work at the restaurant. His pickle bar is a work of art. When you go there make sure to ask him about the different jars and the stuff they contain. He’s using varied fermentation techniques in the dishes. Like the 3 day fermented hummus which is so creamy and so fluffy you’ll be amazed. The green peas puree in sweet potato gnocchi has fermented lemon instead of lemon juice that keeps the green colour intact and adds a beautiful layer of flavour. Add to that, everything is sourced locally except lamb, salmon and pork. Yes, even cheese. I think this man is a genius. 

 📸Courtesy @adiwanji

Asian Food, Shizusan

Some good meals get better because of company. That’s the story behind the meal at Shizusan. Loved hteir sushi, bao, gyoza and lobster. One of the best Asian restaurants in Mumbai. Also, I shared this meal with my best friends – Amrita, Vipul and Radhika – which is why this one makes it to the list.

Meal at Shizusan

Kumauni Food, Meraki Bombay

A Kumaoni meal in Bombay, cooked by an awesome Kumaoni cooked who brought the fresh produce from the region. Pooja of Meraki Bombay – the Kumaoni and Meghalaya food pop-up – invited a bunch of friends over for this fabulous meal. There were big fat cucumbers with alsi and garlic salt, bhang chutney, pahadi aaloo cooked with jakhiya (local spice), bajre ki roti with local greens, mooli ki thichvani (a curry made with smashed radish and potatoes), dal, bhekti fish curry (bhang seeds were used to thicken the curry), beautiful smokey beef curry and bal mithai to end the meal. We also munched on fresh peaches, apricots, sour berries and lichis plucked from the trees. 

Checkout Meraki Bombay on Facebook.

Kumaoni Food, Meraki Bombay

Independence Day Special Meal, A Ramanayak Shri Krishna Udipi and Boarding House

Had this amazing south Indian meal at A Ramanayak which is their Indepenence Day special meal. Love their philosophy of keeping it simple and accessible to everyone. Also, they don’t hesitate in reprimanding customers if they are wasting food. Kudos to such places and people who run them.

A Ramanayak Shri Krishna Udipi and Boarding House

Khandeshi Lunch, Peckish Mumbai

Khandeshi lunch at Aparna Surte‘s house, the brain behind Peckish Mumbai where she hosts pop-ups and take cooking workshops. The meal was organised by Authenticook, another company which is doing amazing job bringing focus on regional food. Khandesh forms the northwestern part of Maharashtra which includes the Jalgaon district. Being a dry area and low on fresh produce the food of this region is spicy, oily with lots of chutneys and pickles. Our meal today was cooked by Aparna and her mother Sanjeevni. .

On the plate there’s a chicken curry cooked in Khandeshi kala masala, patavada aamti (stuffed and steamed bengal gram flour dumplings in curry), raw methi with garlic and sesame, pithla (besan preparation), vangyachi bharit (mashed brinjal), thecha, two types of chutneys and bajra bhakri. There was also khichdi with lasaneeche tel (garlic oil) and sewai kheer. All of this served with ‘Khandeshi agrah’. Absolutely killer lunch!

Khandeshi Lunch, Peckish Mumbai

Sinhalese Meal, Colombo

A brilliant meal that I had at a home chef’s house on Colombo. Sinhalas are the original settlers of Srilanka and their meal includes curries and rice. There are so many spices and ingredients that go into Sinhalese cooking, it’s a lot like Indian food and yet so different. My meal included dal, rice, jackfruit curry, chicken curry, egg plant curry, beans, dry fish preparation, two types of sambol and watalappam. There’s a lot that I learnt about Sinhalese food which I’ll soon share in another blog post along with the details of the home chef.

Sinhalese Meal, Colombo


Amrita ke mahaan parathe

This girl is my favourite cook and her parathas – ghee loaded – are slowly becoming my absolute comfort food. So crisp, so amazing and so good! You have to eat them to know what I am talking about.

Paratha, Amrita Rana

Prawn Curry, Veg Stew and Sourdough, The Sumitrans

Coming to my most memroable travel experience of 2017 – the sourdough baking workshop in Goa at Sujit Sumitran’s house. So much learning, so much positivity and such good food. I think Sujit’s sourdough breads and Sudha’s curries and stews are made for each other.


Asian Langar

What do you do when you have a bottle of Sake lying around that you brought back from your Japan trip? You get together with friends and make loads of Asian food (enough to suffice a langar hence #AsianLangar) to drink the sake with. Cooked this amazing lunch with Amrita and Radhika where we cooked stir fried Malabar spinach, mushroom gyoza, cold noodles salad with miso and peanut butter dressing, miso eggplant and okonomiyaki. And, there was lemongrass-basil sangria with coconut rum to accompany the lovely feast.

Asian Meal

Dal Bafle, Amrita’s Mom

Amrita’s mom is such an amazing cook and she feeds everyone with so much love. I’ve been to Indore twice this year and she happily cooked this meal of daal, bafle, kadhi, aloo ki subzi and chutney for me.

Dal Bafle, Indore


A comprehensive guide to eating chaat in Lucknow

Log bohot chatore hote hain,” (people really love to eat chaat) overheard outside chaat shop. Aur Lucknow ke log to kuch zyada hi chatore hote hain (and people in Lucknow even more so). The chaat of this city turns you into one. I think the word chatore must have been coined in Lucknow seeing the love people have here for chaat. It comes from the word chaatna or licking cause you will definitely want to lick clean your plate of chaat, and it’s a socially acceptable practice. The evening plans in Lucknow are made around eating chaat. Shopping is fun here cause you can take a quick chaat break. As a kid my only reason to accompany my mother for shopping was a post shopping treat of pani ke batashe and hot aloo tikkis. For the uninitiated, chaat is sold mostly in the evenings so don’t come to Lucknow expecting to eat chaat in the middle of the day.

Dahi chutney ke batashe at Jain Chaat

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Phaltan – A weekend getaway in Maharashtra

Around 250 kms away from Mumbai (110 kms from Pune), there’s a small town where the sky is clear blue and vast green hiils till as far as you can see. Located 50 kms from Satara, Phaltan was once a Maratha Princely state of British India ruled by the Nimbalkars, descendants of Naik Nimbaji Nimbalkar. The first wife of Shivaji, Sai Bai belonged to Phaltan.

The drive to Phaltan, although a bit bumpy, is made pleasant with pristine lakes and acres and acres of sugarcane farms, the main crop of the region. On my recent weekend trip (hosted by Jakson Inns), I drove around the length and breadth of Phaltan and the surrounding region only to be enamoured by the sheer beauty of Maharashtra.

Things to do in and around Phaltan

Windmill Farm in Pusegaon

Around 45 minutes drive away from Phaltan, exists one of the most dream-like places in Maharashtra. The windmill farms of Pusegaon can be one of the most romantic destinations in India. There’re huge windmills till as far as eyes can see on top of the hills, clear sky, light breeze and the most spectacular sunset. You can pack some food and drinks and have a little picnic here. If you’re staying with Jakson Inns they’ll arrange a cute picnic basket for you.

There were more than 200 windmills in the region producing enough electricity to supply to the whole Phaltan area.

Pusegaon Windmill Farm, Maharashtra

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Books that have inspired me to travel

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” Stephen King

And the magic has been transporting me to the most beautiful of lands since I was a kid. I have been shipwrecked on an island somewhere in Europe, fallen off the rabbit hole to find a wonderland, been through many adventures at a school of witchcraft and wizardry, have eaten the most exquisite Wazwan at a Kashmiri Pandit’s house, bought a house in Tuscany on an impulse, and have been young and poor in Paris. And then there are a few books that have actively nudged me to travel to a certain country, city or have a certain kind of experience. In no particular order, listing down a few favourites.

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

During summer holidays in my maternal grandparents’ house in Karanpur (in Uttaranchal now), I’ve spent many hot afternoons pouring over every detail of the island where the shipwrecked Swiss family creates a world that’s beyond anyone’s imagination and then spends almost entire life on the island. I would daydream of the tree-house, lying in a hammock, reading a book and eating food that the family started growing in their farm. That kid in me, drinking shikanji and laying on the deewan (bed) with a stack of books, still dreams of being shipwrecked.

Under The Tuscan Sun (Film and Book) by Frances Mayes

I watched the film first and while it’s absolutely unrealistic and completely different from the book, it made me fall in love with Tuscany. A 35 year old recently divorced author finds herself dealing with a writer’s block. She travels to Tuscany and buys an old villa on an impulse and ends up creating a family there. The book is a more realistic account of the author’s life who moves to Tuscany with her partner. Her decision of buying a house is less more impulsive. What’s common in both are the beautiful fruit orchards, bustling local markets, the food that Frances cooks and the enchanting scenery.


Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

While a lot of people I know are in love with Japan thanks to Haruki Murakami’s books, my idea of traveling to this lovely country shaped up after reading Strange Weather in Tokyo. While reading the book all I wanted to do was sit at an Izakaya or tiny subway bars chugging sake and eating pickles, dried mushroom, grilled prawns and lobsters with wasabi. A year later I was doing just that at tiny bars of Golden Gai.

Sanjo Kiyamachi at her Gyoza joint Chao Chao in Kyoto

Also read: Going beyond sushi – Eating my way through Japan

The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie

Learning about McLeodganj through a cat’s perspective has probably been my best travel inspiration. I knew I wanted to be at this tiny Tibetan town in the mountains as soon as I started reading the book. When HHC (His Holiness’s Cat – the central character of the book) wobbled her way through the lovely hills, I imagined myself trailing on her paw-steps. I wondered about the pretty book cafes where she would perch herself on top of book shelves. I wanted to sit at those cafes, a book in hand, looking at the Dhauladhar and drinking hot chocolate.

Also Read: Where to eat in McLeodganj

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

This beautiful collection of letters between Juliet Ashton and the residents of Guernsey Island is the only reason I’d wish to visit this tiny British island which was occupied by the Germans during World War II. The people of the island, cut off from the rest of the country, formed a book club as an escape from the life of scarcity. Like Ashton who eventually traveled to Guernsey and fell in love with the people there, I too dream of being on that island someday.

The high point was when a food blogger from Guernsey dropped by my blog and left a comment on the post I had written for my The Literary Kitchen series.

Also read – The lIterary Kitchen – Potato Crust Pie from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Shalimar The Clown by Salman Rushdie

While the book is a comment on the partition and Kashmir issue, its the description of the Wazwan meal that made me fall in love with the cuisine and gave me this burning desire of traveling to Kashmir and eating at a local’s house.


How to save money for travel and plan your trips smartly

Last month when I was in Goa to attend a sourdough baking workshop at Sujit Sumitran’s house (read more about it here), I received a phone call from a business journalist. She was talking to people who had quit their jobs to travel and wanted to know how were they managing their finances and funding their travels. While quitting my job in early 2016 I never thought I was doing it specifically to travel. Yes, traveling was on the list but sorting my life out after a divorce and getting away from a job I didn’t like anymore were far bigger reasons to quit. Also, while I was quitting my regular job with fixed paycheque, I wasn’t quitting working. This only meant I had to work towards getting freelance projects that would help me sustain my humble lifestyle in Bombay as well as save to be able to plan a trip once every 2-3 months. The saving part came easily to me since I already built a habit during my job, the trick was now to sustain the habit and save more efficiently.

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