One of my mother’s persistent concerns is that because me, my sister and indeed most of my friends and cousins show a minimum interest in learning to cook the traditional Indian recipes, passed on from mother to daughter over the ages, shall slowly wane into ignominy due to the pervasive influence of western dishes like pizza and pasta, fast food and ready to cook meals. She continually bemoans her staunch belief that my children shall never be able to taste the delicately spiced traditional Indian food her grandmother’s generation used to cook. Yet in his home-dining experience, Mr. Munaf Kapadia, addressed this very fear of my mother. Along with his mother, Ms. Nafisa Kapadia, a home cook par excellence, he introduced The Bohri Kitchen: a home dining experience where patrons can enjoy traditional Bohri dishes cooked at home, using the traditional methods.
The family belongs to the Bohri community among Muslims, and every weekend they throw open their doors to 16 guests who are then treated to authentic cuisine of the community. I, along with 15 friends, had the good fortune to recently be among the lucky diners to be invited to the Kapadia residence.
On arrival we were welcomed with chilled glasses of coconut water with blended malai – it doesn’t get more refreshing than that! Our host, Munaf Kapadia, explained to us how traditionally the Bohris eat their meals together, seated on the floor, from one communal thaal. Realizing that members from other communities may actually be uncomfortable in eating from a communal thaal, TBK introduced the concept of the ‘Scam-thaal’: the dishes are served on one communal thaal or plate but the patrons eat with individual plates and cutlery; kind of like an ersatz buffet. Soon after this a humongous plate showed up. Even as we gaped at it, our host informed us with a smile that this was “only the medium sized thaal”!
The meal began with a traditional ritual where the youngest member of our party served each guest a pinch of salt to be had as a palate cleanser. The size of the thaal had us all salivating in anticipation and soon after that the first course arrived: smoked chicken samosas and for the vegans, smoked daal Samosas served with green mint chutney, a beetroot chutney, a sweet dates chutney, pineapple bondi raita (my personal favorite) and the omnipresent tomato ketchup. In my life I have scarcely tasted a better appetizer than piping hot samosas with cold mint chutney! After that the non vegetarians got a second appetizer, just as delicious as the first, boneless chicken kebabs.
A unique Bohri tradition is that after every savory course, they have something sweet to cleanse their palates with. So after the warm and spicy kebabs we were served cold Doodhi Halwa packed with dry fruits and as delicious as a dessert gets. Now it’s my staunch belief that desserts are the best part of any meal and nothing can be better than being served dessert bang middle of the meal!
After our palates were thoroughly cleansed with double servings of the halwa it was time for the maincourse comprising of succulent raan (the thigh of a goat) marinated for more than a day and cooked in a special homemade masala. The style of eating this particular dish is rather “primitive”. The meat is so tender that it falls apart at touch making it nearly impossible to serve and thus you serve yourself with your hands by tearing out chunks of meat from the bones. It’s a rather messy and thus inevitably fun exercise.
The Raan was complemented by slices of bread and glasses of rose sherbet. After the last of the sauce was polished off the plates there emerged from the kitchen a big bowl of spicy mutton biryani. We were also served the third beverage around this time: chilled Jaljeera soda. You would think after all the other dishes we would be full by now but the fragrant rice dish packed with spices and pieces of boiled potatoes would not be denied and between the 16 of us we actually managed to empty the bowl.
The conclusion to this wonderful meal arrived in the form of handspurn milk ice-cream. We were served four different flavors though my personal favorite was the mango ice-cream. Among the other three flavors one unique flavor that demands mention is the paan flavored ice-cream, and for those who would rather prefer the actual thing that was available too. It was quite a scrumptious lunch and I would highly recommend it to all.
To book your seat contact The Bohri Kitchen at 9819447438 or contact them on their Facebook page. They do deserve all the patronage they can get.