A Malvani Feast on a Handcart

Snapshot

Every evening, at the corner of a street in Dadar West, Mumbai, you’ll see a determined queue of people begin to form. They will be waiting their turn to get their hands on one of the most delicious meals that money can buy in Mumbai – from a small, humble handcart. This is Raju’sMalvani Corner, a roadside eatery that specializes in Konkani or Malvani delicacies. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of so-called Malvani joints in the city, but only a handful of them can claim to serve authentic, homemade, and finger-licking Malvani cuisine. Raju’s is one of them. From sol kadhi to pomfret fry, you can order anything off the menu at Raju’s and be assured that you’ll be getting a plate full of wholesome deliciousness.

The Real Deal

Street food eateries are to Mumbai what cafes are to Paris. In this incessantly buzzing city, the population derives its energy from fast food served up sans frills, but still retaining the wholesomeness of home-cooked food. The cuisines are varied, the ingredients are indigenous, but the deliciousness is uniform. Malvani cuisine is, perhaps, one of the mainstays of the food culture in the city. In a sea of vadapavs and bhelpuri, this seafood-heavy cuisine stands out for its unique, local flavor.

Malvan is a region in southern Maharashtra and its culture is an amalgam of Marathi and Konkani elements. The region is known for its pristine beaches and Alphonso mangoes. Malvani cuisine features mainly fish, rice and coconut but chicken and mutton dishes are also given their due importance.

NarendraGovindSawant – or Raju, as he is better known – hails from a small town in the Malvan region. He learnt the basics of the cuisine from his mother and set up Raju’sMalvani Corner with her assistance in 1986, when he was only 23 years old. Back then, it was rare for a roadside stall to serve non vegetarian food. Raju kept the prices low, kept adding items to the menu, made his own Malvani masalas and kept the quality consistent. Now, more than 30 years later, he has a cult following amongst the locals that his competitors can’t even hope to achieve.

The Formula

Raju hires 10 people to help him with cooking and serving. That’s a lot of employees for a small handcart. But then, looking at the waiting queues and the people wolfing down food seated at plastic tables set on the roadside, maybe Raju could fit in a few more employees!

Most of the food is pre-cooked in a small kitchen close-by. The curries and the pulaos are lovingly prepared before the eatery opens in the evening. But the wade – small Malvanipuris, pomfret fry and other fried items are fried fresh in batches on the cart itself.

The most popular dishes at Raju’s are the sol kadhi – tart and salty coconut and kokum based dring, along with the chicken saguti, tisyra or mussels, chimbori or crabs, bombil fry and kolambi rice or prawn pulao. As one customer puts it, whatever you order off the menu is bound to be good here. All the seafood is procured fresh daily from the local market. And at the end of the day, there are no leftovers. Everything is sold out! In fact, some of the pre-cooked curries get sold out really quickly so if you’re planning to visit, do get there on time.

The masalas used in the curries are all homemade from traditional Malvani recipes. Raju has turned down the heat element of the cuisine a little bit though. Initially, when he started out, he kept the dishes spicy as they were meant to be, but had to tone the spice down to cater to the local palate.

The food is very reasonably priced considering that it’s authentic, homemade and oh, so tasty! A plate of wade costs only Rs 40 and SukiKombadi, a semi-dry chicken, will cost around Rs 120.

UniQ-Locate

Where: 1/23 KubalNiwas, Gokhale Road, AnantPatil Marg, Dadar West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400028.

Raju’s cart can be found at the corner of Gokhale Road and AnantPatil Marg.

Call: 022 2446 2405

Timings: 7.30 pm to 11.30 pm

 

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