The last few hours of sun casts a pink hue over the Bombay sky. October lights dance across the bay. A veritable cocktail of spices floats in the air as noises from the nearby food stalls give visitors the promise of quick, hot and delicious food. It is a magical evening here on Chowpatty Beach.
It is wonderful to witness such a thing, especially during the Diwali season. All kinds of people from all over Bombay come to this spot, to snack and stroll. At this time of year, all the clothes are just that bit more colourful. Young and old jumble together visiting their favourite spots for Pau Bhaji or Gola. Everybody eats outdoors and everyone shares in the moment.
The normal, frenetic pace of life that defines the city is forgotten on evenings like this. No matter how busy one’s day might have been, time spent at Chowpatty Beach reminds us to slow down and enjoy the company of loved ones, and that good food is never far away. We can always find the time to appreciate a particularly delicious Vada Pau, a rewardingly crunchy Bhel or a sweetly invigorating fresh sugarcane juice.
Thankfully, there are times when we are granted more than just a moment to pause. Diwali, the festival of light, offers all of us a chance to stop, reflect and remember all that there is to be thankful for in the world. Amidst the celebrations of light, colour and the wonderful story, and the constant crackle of fireworks, the whole family comes together to indulge in an abundance of delicious, traditional khana. From mithai to masala chai, every dish is served with love and care, and family, friends, and neighbours all share their delight in a joyful, communal pause.
We absolutely love Diwali. So, this year, we held a special event inside the Granary Building at King’s Cross (near our new café – opening in a few weeks!). It was great fun – check out the photo album. And in the Shoreditch and Covent Garden cafés, Chef Naved has devised two special Diwali dishes of Phaldari Kofta Ruby (veg) and Chilli Garlic Crab.
Naved has even kindly shared his own recipe for the Chilli Garlic Crab (below), so – if you can’t make it to in to see us – at least you can share in our celebrations at home!
CHILLI GARLIC CRAB
Whenever we go to Bombay, we stop in to Mahesh Lunch Home for some brilliant seafood – and they inspired us to create this dish.
Serves two, pretty generously
300g fresh crab, off the shell
40ml refined vegetable oil
A large knob of ginger, chopped
8-10 medium cloves garlic – be generous!
Pinch of chopped green chilli
Handful of chopped dill leaves
Generous handful of chopped coriander
6-8 whole spring onions, roughly chopped
20 black peppercorns, freshly crushed in a pestle and mortar, or in a teatowel with a rolling pin
Lime for squeezing
Salt – to taste
In a heavy-bottomed pan, gently heat the butter and oil together. Add the chopped garlic and sauté until golden brown.
Add the freshly crushed pepper, chopped ginger, and the chopped spring onion bulbs, and saute lightly for 30 seconds.
Add the crab meat and sauté for 2-3 minutes, adding a little water if the crab begins to stick to the pan.
Add all of the remaining ingredients, including the green stems of and toss for for further 2 minutes. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime and serve with Malabar paratha or soft pau (Bombay buns).
IT HAS BEEN an annual December habit of mine, these past ten years since we embarked upon this restaurant business, to sit alone, with myself, and reflect on the year gone by. I am grateful to be here in the Permit Room in our restaurant in Shoreditch scribbling and writing, the oddly enjoyable taste of splintering wood from my chewed up pencil smoothed by my decently strong drink.
These are the last few days, the dregs of 2019. It’s my habit to sit here in the Permit Room at this time. I am the be-stubbled and dishevelled regular, cherishing his precious drink at the end of the bar. Weary, I sit here pondering the year, attempting to figure out what it was trying to teach me. What wisdom can I glean from it?
I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe over time to make that dish unique to them.
We have arrived at a very sad, but inevitable and clear choice. As of now, all Dishooms are now closed to diners.