“Yemeni, Maharastrian or Malwani for lunch?” Arva asks me.
All of it! I want to say. Despite my palette being unable to conjure impressions of what any of that food will taste like. 1 hour of googling later and I still have no idea.
“I’ll leave it to you.” I answer.
She choses Maharastrian, a South Indian kitchen with an emphasis on vegetables and fish.
We are here specifically to try the Bombay duck, which is actually a fish that also goes by the name bummalo- you wouldn’t want to meet this fish walking home at night. They don’t have it that day, Arva discoveres after chatting with the waiter in Urdu. She orders the Kingfish instead, which comes in thin steaks, battered and fried with a coating of notascrunchyasitshouldbe semolina batter. A small ceramic tub of tamarind sauce accompanies it. And we can help ourselves to the tins of sliced onions, cheeks of the miniature lemons they eat here and a chutney. I take a spoonful of the chutney and shove the whole thing in my mouth. And visibly recoil from the pungent pickle.
“Ah – you are just supposed to dip into it.” Arva explains.
I deploy a more cautious approach for the remainder of the dishes.
The neatly lined up squares of gram flour fritters or Kothimbir Wadi are crunchy and hard to stop eating.
My favourite dish is Pithla; bright yellow, coloured by turmeric and chickpea flour and cooked to the consistency of smooth porridge. It’s riddled with mustard seeds – an indication, Arva tells me, that we are moving further South in Indian cooking. As it sits on the table and cools, a skin begins to form. I’m a big lover of skins be they on Romanian ciulama, cornflour thickened Spanish hot chocolate, custard and now Pithla. I eat and eat – sigh (from pleasure and exertion) and eat some more.
“This is a kind of comfort food.” Avra smiles.
It certainly makes me feel better.Slowly, a thought that has been skulking in the dark corners of my mind steps into the light and I consciously think it. And it’s this: I want to travel, I want to eat, I want to experience this kind of culture.
Having children has hastened this conclusion forward. It’s one of the side effects I guess. You’ve magicked people into existence, it’s possible and if you like me think that growing tomatoes from seed is pretty mind-blowing, imagine what effect making people will have on you. It somehow makes the possibility of expiring seem much more real. Which has the effect of making you go “Ah – I’m on the clock, better get on with it then!”
Find it behind general post office in Karama, across the road from Moulin D’Or.