It’s Monkey Time in Mumbai!

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Monkey Bar is a repeat offender!

A few months ago, I had one of the most memorable evenings of my life at the outpost in Indiranagar, Bangalore. My sister Pami and I left her place, planning to take a leisurely 15 minute stroll through the quiet lanes of the neighbourhood, past the now-peaceful school building, along the softly-lit 12th Main Road to Monkey Bar for some sisterly bonding over a few (dozen?) drinks. But a minute into the walk, a sudden cloudburst caught us by complete surprise, making us run through the evening downpour, to arrive panting, soaked and giggling at the bright, happy and welcoming gates of our destination. The rest of the evening flowed in a daze of cocktails (mixing spirits be damned!), a friendly server who made us feel like princesses, and a few pops of hazy memories of my now-favourite Mobar Burger and Pami’s all-time favourite Chorizo Pav. Incidentally, I think I came to be identified as ‘That Chorizo Girl’ at the Mumbai airport security, because I HAD to carry spicy, piquant, and gorgeously aromatic Goan Chorizo Sausages for her EVERY time I visited her, for more than a decade now. Thank you Mobar for taking that errand off my hands! :)

That's the OTHER 'Chorizo Girl' ;)

That’s the OTHER ‘Chorizo Girl’ ;)

Last week, Monkey Bar hadn’t even officially opened its doors to the gastropub-hungry Mumbai crowds when it happened again! No, not the cloudburst, although heaven knows we need a shower or ten to make things just about bearable around here. But the rest of it was… ‘same same, but different!’ ;)

Teddy and I ambled into a monkey house stuffed to the gill with friends… Aditi Chakaravarty and gang at a booth here, tucking into the Kurkuri Bhindi and Butterfly Chicken, Deepti Dadlani and Ashish Chhabria hanging out at the long wooden bar, Sameer and Saloni Malkani, and Bhisham enjoying the fun of choosing funky drinks off the wall menu, a bunch of 8 squeezing around a table for 2, sipping on the signature Copper Monkey and waving wildly at us to say ‘get over here NOW!’, another quieter bunch hanging out in the outside area, ciggies winning over sweat for now, a few more working up an appetite at the Foosball table, and last but not the least, the gang of heavyweights – Chef Ranveer Brar, Rushina M Ghildiyal, Kalyan Karmakar, and the star of the evening, Chef and co-owner Manu Chandra, all toasting the arrival of this monkey business in Bandra :)

Hangin' a toast to the newest Monkey in town... with Chef Manu Chandra, Rushina and Chef Ranveer

Hangin’ a toast to the newest Monkey in town… with Chef Manu Chandra, Rushina and Chef Ranveer

Bandra only yo!... with Gaurav Sharma, Kalyan Karmakar and Riaan George

Bandra only yo!… with Gaurav Sharma, Kalyan Karmakar and Riaan George

And, like that trippy night in Bangalore, this night too tripped by in the company of new friends Mangaa, Don Drapper, Ginger Rogers and Shazia Imli (truly amazing cocktails these, mixing spirits be damned again!). A few pops of hazy memories are surfacing now… of deliciously spicy Galouti Killers and burst-in-the-mouth Adhunik Panipuris. And also the friendly, omni-present host Sidhesh who made it his business to fuss over Teddy and me all night!

Butterfly Chicken at MONKEY BAR  IMG_9384 Copper Monkey @Monkey Bar - Photo Credit Kunal Chandra

So how does that make Monkey Bar the repeat offender, you ask? Because, with the friendly neighbourhood bar opening its doors bang in the middle of my friendly neighbourhood, it looks like there will be many repeats of offenses like these in the near future! :)

Rediscovering delicacies… next one!

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Today’s ingredient on the rediscovery radar (read some surprising new facts about  Green Jackfruit here) is the Fiddlehead Fern, known as ‘Tete de Violon’ in French and ‘Dheki Shaak’ in Bengali, so called because of it’s resemblance to the coiled tip of a violin or fiddle head.

The coiled head of the Fiddlehead Fern

The coiled head of the Fiddlehead Fern

When I used to have it as a school girl, my favourite preparation was a quick n simple Crisp Fried Fern. The little coiled heads were as quirky to look at as they were tasty to eat! Mom used to tell me stories of how foragers of this fern ran the risk of snakebites as it was a wild vegie that had to be cut close to the ground before it unfurled into a full fern leaf, and snakes normally nested in the fern undergrowth… *SHIVER

A simple blanch and saute with garlic does the trick!

A simple blanch and saute with garlic does the trick! Pic: savagecabbage.org

Today, there are many different recipes that one can try out with this short-season, unique and gourmet vegie – from Asian broths and salads, to European sautes and bakes, to traditional Himalayan curries and pickles, to the humble ol’ North-East Indian ‘Shaak’, sometimes spruced up with fried shrimp… yummm!  

Goes well with a chunk of Pan Seared Salmon PC : oneforthetable.com

Goes well with a chunk of Pan Seared Salmon Pic : oneforthetable.com

This fern is rich in Vits A and C and Omega 3, and can be used much like Asparagus. Just wash the heads thoroughly and remove any brown fuzz, blanch for a minute, pan saute with garlic cloves in a nob of butter, and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice. Or discover your own way of cooking up this wild gift from Nature. You too will fall in love with it, just as I have all over again… 

Porky Porky Nights!

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When the wise ones said gravely, ‘Everything happens for a reason’, I think they may have been alluding to the grand Pork feast cooked up by the multi-talented Chef Gresham Fernandes at Salt Water Grill – a nose-to-tail extravaganza grandly, and aptly, named Swine Dine! That a hog-fest can create beautiful bonds and spin amazing stories was proved beyond doubt that night when, amidst all the incessant porking and beautiful singing and endless Sangria, we made some crazy-good friends, the ones who you meet and wonder ‘Why EVER have we not met before?’

Many months later, at our own little porky get-together called Pool of Pork, pork played the unifier again, this time reuniting long-lost, dear friends completely out of the blue, six degrees of separation be damned!

It all started with the desire to have ‘seriously good’ pork, and after several food-hearted debates about the best pork shop in Bandra, best pork dish and other very critical porcine discussions, Rahul Sharma (the madder half of the couple friend from Swine Dine) and I decided to bury the… piggy!

We cook together, we fight together...

Rahul and I cook together, fight together…


... and we also play together!

… and we also play together!

Venue, menu and legendary pork-lovers from amongst our friends were rounded up and the hogging began…

The swish, sweeping lounge and pristine kitchen of Rahul Sharma and Samira Koppikar’s residence was the venue for the night. On the menu was a Pork Cocktail Sausage with a Spicy Mayo, a deliciously mean ‘Rahul ishtyle’ starter that woke up your taste buds, prepping you for things to come.

Beer Braised Chops with Goan Baos and Gravy

Beer Braised Chops with Goan Baos and Gravy

And what came next was the unmatchable Beer Braised Pork Chops that had gone through some intense braising and blitzing in Rahul’s oven, and even more intense and dedicated chomping and chewing at the dinner table, accompanied by some fresh and soft Goan Baos to soak up the gorgeous juice.

Soy Pork Belly, slow cooked for 4 hrs

Soy Pork Belly, slow cooked for 4 hrs

The original plan was to space out the next two dishes made by me, but the hungry house of gluts wanted to go with the epicurean porky flow. So I tossed up the the Parma Ham, Rocket and Melon Salad double-quick, to hit the table at the same time as the giant ‘handi’ of Soy Pork Belly, slow cooked for nearly 4 hours. The table erupted in a flurry of Egg Noodles and Spring Onion slices crisscrossing with bowls, forks, ladles and hands, the clatter soon giving way to deep ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ between melting mouthfuls of rich, aromatic chunks of pork!

Serious pork eaters don't keep count of how many bowls of Pork Belly with Noodles they have eaten - they count how many more they CAN eat!

Serious pork eaters don’t keep count of how many bowls of Pork Belly with Noodles they have eaten – they count how many more they CAN eat!

Charles Dickens famously said in Great Expectations, ‘If you want a subject, look to pork!’ Well, our group didn’t want for subjects, but we looked to pork anyways ;) Samira, a fabulous singer and composer, inspired the other crooners in the room to open up. And open up they did, to some brilliant live guitaring, turning the night into one long, hearty music session, with a Djembe popping out here, and a closet singer (Sartaj?!?!?!) stepping up there!

The Pool of Pork hogging away...

The hoggers park! (L-R) Carlton, Jitu, Anupama, Kedar, Dev, Rupali, Sanjai, Gaurav


Music and pork running in the veins...

Music and pork running in the veins…


The case of the disappearing chops...

Sartaj in the the case of the disappearing chops…


Girls just wanna have fun... and lots of pork!

Girls just wanna have fun… and lots of pork! (L-R) Anupama, Rupali, me, Samira, Amreena

So, you see, friendships built on pork are truly unique. They bind like Sausages, entertain like Whole Roasted Suckling Pigs, stimulate like juicy Chops, satisfy like Smoked Bacon, and hold up strong and tasty like a Rack of Ribs! Oink if you agree!

[Pork lovers who oinked till the wee hours of the morning were:

Rahul Sharma, Sameera Koppikar, Puneet Sharma, Kedar Teny, Sartaj Aulakh, Amreena Singh, Sanjai Srivastava, Veljon Noronha, Carlton Nazareth, Dev Chugani, Rupali Mehta, Jitu Mirwani, Anupam Mirwani and Gaurav Sharma.]

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