The bread that makes Mumbai rise

#1 Sep 14th, 2018, 22:15
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Yazdani is housed in a building which used to be a Japanese bank. Photo: Nayan Shah/Mint

Mumbai is a city of bread. From the old-world bakeries to the community khanawal (small local eateries) serving a variety of traditional unleavened breads to artisanal restaurants and hipster cafes offering everything from aged sourdoughs to gluten-free alternative flour confections. The breads chart the history of the many migrations into Mumbai and, despite the many challenges thrown up by the high levels of humidity, are enduring symbols of the city’s culinary diversity. Lounge went on a walk around South Mumbai with Saee Koranne-Khandekar, baker and author of the book Crumbs! Bread Stories And Recipes For The Indian Kitchen,taking a storied and insightful look at the myriad ways in which we break bread.

The morning begins at Girgaon’s crowded Thakurdwar neighbourhood, with its narrow gullies and the constant dishevelment caused by the Mumbai Metro Rail 3 project. Behind the blue construction barriers and next to a street florist is the unassuming façade of Sujata Upahar Griha (formerly known as B Tambe), a Maharashtrian eatery of unspecified date, though patrons and waiters claim it has been around for nearly a century. A true khanawal, Sujata caters to all income brackets, a fact that is quite apparent when we walk in and everyone is welcome, whether a worker from a nearby construction site looking for a glass of water or shop owners and office-goers from the neighbourhood. The menu has definitely not adjusted its prices according to the inflation of our times and till date, the most expensive thing there is a rabdi puri, at Rs 145.


Started by one of the members of the family behind the legendary Tambe Arogya Bhawan in Dadar West, Sujata is our first stop because of its bhakhris. Unlike the standard tandlachi (rice flour) bhakri, which is found in Konkani and Maharashtrian restaurants across the city, at Sujata, the bhakris come in options of jowar, bajra, nachni (finger millet) as well as tandlachi and are served with an assortment of gram flour and horse gram gravies and a side serving of sliced onions, a wedge of lime, fried green chillies and a dry chutney. The latter, along with the bhakris, forms an entire meal for farmers in rural Maharashtra. “The thing about a bhakhri is that it takes much longer to cook than a roti and therefore not all commercial establishments are willing to invest in it,” says Khandekar.

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