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The legendary Bohri thaal is one of the most fascinating eating experiences that you can have in Mumbai.
The Bohri thaal is a form of community eating. There is a common plate (the thaal) from which people eat. The meal starts with salt, which is supposed to act as an appetite enhancer. It is then followed by an array of kharaas (savoury) and mithaas (sweet) items alternating each other. The fare is meat heavy. Some of the popular dishes include Russian kababs, cream chops, mutton samosas, white chicken, mutton biryani, raan and sancha ice creams.
Till recently your only chance to try out a Bohri thaal was to be invited to a Bohri wedding. Caterers from the Bohri community organize the thaals here.
There are no Bohri restaurants in Mumbai. Even in Bohri Mohalla, you only get Bohri-run dessert shops like Tawakkal’s, and ice cream shops like Taj Ice cream, but none offering Bohri food. Bazar Road in Bandra has a couple of stalls where Bohri caterers Jeff’s and Safe sell some Bohri dishes like biryani, mutton cocktail kababs and samosas and pepper chicken and dabba gosht.
A couple of developments have happened recently which allow the city’s food lovers from other communities to experience the Bohri thaal. This is thanks to the emerging pop up restaurant scene in the city.
You have The Bohri Kitchen run by young Munaf Kapadia, a Bohri, from his residence at Cuffe Parade. They do meals on weekends where his mother, the ever-smiling Nafisa Kapadia, cooks the meal and serves guests. The group size varies from 10 to 16 people. The food is served on a thaal and then people take it on individual plates and eat it. This is done keeping in mind the fact that non-Bohris might not be comfortable eating out of the same plate with other people. I tried this lavish meal with four other friends and we actually ate out of thaal and I quite enjoyed the experience. You can book a seat through their Facebook page.
Insia Lacewalla of the Small Fry Co organizes Bohri Pop Ups under the Secret Ingredient banner. They plan to hold the Bohri pop ups once in three months. Here the food is cooked by her mother, Tasneem Lacewalla. They limit the group size to 8 and people actually eat out of the thaal.
Do keep a look-out for these pop ups and try out the thaal which is such an integral part of Mumbai’s culinary tradition.
Photo Credit: Kalyan Karmakar
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Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.