Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sahi Dahi

With summer at its peak and a good break from the sun last week, this week I have been on a hunt for everything yogurt (dahi). It just has something about it that is so cooling and soothing in the scorching heat. And the best thing is it can be found in so many forms. So I went around town looking for places that are known for something on the menu that is made with yogurt.

I started with thirst quenchers which make great accompaniments with a meal or a good digestive after a heavy one. Whether at home or at a restaurant, chaas and lassi are the most commonly preferred drinks that people have with an Indian meal. And for both of these I go to two places on opposite sides of the city. For chaas, my all time favourite is Soam at Babulnath, a small eatery that serves delicious Guajarati and Marwadi fare, with some south Indian, chaats and western snacks to please the metropolitan crowd. Depending on my mood I order a plain or masala chaas but both are equally satisfying in summer. For its heavier cousin, lassi, the best place has to be Papa Pancho da Dhaba at Bandra, a funky dhaba theme restaurant with wooden benches and tables, old film posters and typical “truck driver” quotes on the walls. Served in a tall copper glass the creamy lassi can’t get more Punjabi. It is so filling that it can take you back a whole roti in your meal, which in my opinion is totally worth the trade. Right next door to Papa Pancho’s lives the western counter part, the Smoothie. A small dessert parlour, Coco Berry, which makes something not so commonly found in Mumbai, Yogurt based fruit smoothies. These smoothies give tough competition to the best thick shakes and they’re much healthier. One can choose the fruit and they make a smoothie.

Almost everyone likes feasting on an evening snack or even an in between meal snack during the day. One thing that every normal person love’s is a good chaat whatever the time of the day or season. Dahi Vada (as known in the south) or Dahi Bhalla (as known in the north) is a part of my comfort food list. It has the perfect balance of the cold beaten dahi, the little heat of spicy masalas like roasted cumin powder, red chilli powder and chaat masala, and the sweet and sourness of the tamarind chutney. A light but filling dish which I can happily have as a meal instead of a snack. One of the best dahi vada I have had since I was a kid, is at Elco Chaat House at Hill Road. It started as a small roadside stall and has grown into a three storied air conditioned restaurant. It is by far one of the most famous chaat places among locals and tourists.

Another popular dish made with yogurt I have grown up eating as breakfast, a snack and even an accompaniment to my meal, is khatta dhokla (the savoury white spongy cake like dish). It comes in the Gujarati Farsan category. It is served at every Guajarati Cuisine and Thali restaurant and almost all Farsan shops have it on the menu. But the ones I swear by, after the one made by my mother of course, is that served at Trupti Sweets, at Girgaum and Phoenix Mills. The dhoklas are as soft as cotton with cracked black pepper sprinkled on top. They are addictive; one cannot sit in peace till the entire pack is over.

Another form of yogurt I love is dips, with different herbs, spices and vegetables.I mostly make them at home but land up ordering a dip most of the time I go out to dine. A latest favourite is Tzatziki, a Greek yogurt dip with cucumber, quite similar to the Indian Raita. It is becoming increasingly popular these days and is really good because it has two coolers, yogurt and cucumber a hit combination. This dip goes well with wafers, toasted pita bread and bread sticks. I love the one served as a part of the Mezze Platter at Mocha, which comes with pita bread, hummus and tzatziki and a lot of times I request that the hummus be replaced with tzatziki.

Coming to the heavier more meal like dishes the one that Rushina and Theyie rave about is the well known Doi Macch, fish prepared in yogurt Bengali style. They had ordered at one of our weekly meals a while back at Oh Calcutta! at Tardeo. And I was convinced that it was good because as we all know it Theyie being mad about meat, was actually praising a dish made with fish. Another vegetarian main course dish made with yogurt is the famous Marwadi Gatte ki Subzi, made with gram flour dumplings in a yogurt curry that is eaten with pooris or fulkas. There are not many restaurants in Mumbai that serve Marwadi food, but from the handful a great place to visit is Chetana at Kalaghoda. They have a good mix of Gujarati, Marwadi and Chaats. A good family place where one can enjoy a hearty meal.

Yogurt can be used in almost any course of a meal, from beverages, to appetizers, light snacks or main dishes. So how can desserts be missed out? And the first dessert that comes to mind when I think of yogurt is Shrikhand, a prominent sweet in both Gujarati and Maharashtrian cuisine. It is the simplest yet most divine sweet, made with hung yogurt that is sweetened and can have fruit pulp and pieces like mango, strawberry, pineapple and few others, dried fruits or nuts added to it as per one’s preference. A popular chain of handmade ice cream parlours in the suburbs known as Gokul also makes amazing Shrikhand that is at par with the best ice creams. They have a good variety of Shrikhand to choose from.

Another great dessert made with yogurt that is gaining popularity in today’s times among the health conscious people with a sweet tooth is frozen yogurt. Compared to ice cream it is a little tart, lower on fat and much healthier. Frozen yogurt comes in various fruit flavours and the only place I can think of when I crave frozen yogurt is Amore, that has stores right from Colaba in town all the way in Lokhandwala, Andheri, so you’re never too far from one and even if you are the distance is totally worth it.

Seeing yogurt in so many forms and dishes really amazes me that something so plain and simple can be so versatile in so many lip smacking and mouth watering ways. Share your yogurt favourites with us here or on the APB Fanpage on facebook.

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