Who lives to eat, travels to eat, and in essence breathes and thinks food? I, Geeta Maini, do!
My passion for food and everything related to it—from cooking well, to serving and to making it aesthetically pleasing—has taken me across oceans to markets, local homes, and cooking schools. My skills and style of cooking have evolved from when I first started cooking. I continue to learn and grow as I read and travel more. There is no better way to learn culinary arts and skills, and the history behind global cuisines, than by experiencing food firsthand during travels. In October 2019, I am delighted to lead E.Y.H.O.'s North India culinary tour.
Onwards to India—not my birth place, but nonetheless, a special place in my heart. For many, India’s rich and vibrant culture has always been a major attraction. More so for the food addict in me! Stretching from the temperate north to the southern tropics of the Asian subcontinent, India is the ideal country to experience, savour, and learn about an astonishing diversity of cuisines. When layered with the history of multiple invasions and civilizations, every corner you turn and every city you visit delights with a unique food culture. During my frequent travels to India I thought I had captured all the regional cuisines but alas! I was fooling myself. The myriad of cuisines within India have yet to be discovered.
Start in Mumbai, and take an early morning stroll through the Sassoon fish docks.
Witness the frenzy as the day’s fresh catch is hauled onto the cement platform, and the fishermen rush to secure their haul into the hands of chefs, market vendors, and home cooks. I am in awe of this fishing village. With their unique culture honed over generations, every person looks happy, content, and proud of who they are and what they do. Be it shelling prawns, cleaning fish or just helping out at sea, every child, when able, helps out with genuine pride. Thankfully, this community is definitely not a dying breed!
Just as colourful are the nearby vegetable markets. After a good scrub and breakfast, amble down to the Fort Area’s iconic Crawford Market for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Crawford Market is like no other; it’s unique with shoppers, retailers and wholesalers all milling through narrow aisles piled high with everything from foodstuffs to toiletries, and pets to wholesale carts of fresh produce. What a bustle! Yet the chaos seem strangely organized. Across the road is the infamous Chor Bazaar, or Thieves Bazaar, where one can find furniture, antiques, watches, jewels, art and knick knacks . . . you never leave empty handed. Fact: my husband and I bought our living room furniture here, hand crafted and carved.
An added treat of a visit to this area is its exquisite colonial architecture. My favourite, by far, is The Victoria Terminus. Here, colonial buildings have intricately carved exteriors . . . a must-see.
As you stroll, grab a Mumbai cheesy chutney toastie grilled over a charcoal fire, and maybe some vada pau’s that would beat any potato mash!
Save room for the succulent, charcoal-grilled kebabs at Badai Miya, or those at Karim’s in the ‘burbs. While in South Mumbai, don’t forget Britannia or Jimmy Boy for authentic Parsi delicacies. Whether you call it Bombay—as the residents still do—or Mumbai, as it’s officially known, the food here tastes just as divine.
Stay tuned for our next stop in Nasik’s award-winning vineyards, before we head to Rajasthan with its royal cuisine.
Geeta Maini is a popular chef, cookbook author, and cooking instructor. Her blog, Khaana Sutra, carries contemporary and traditional recipes of her Indian/Kenyan/Canadian heritage. She can be found tending her vegetable garden or cooking up a storm in her Burlington, Ontario kitchen. Occasionally, she considers requests for washing dishes in exchange for a place at her table.