There was a time when the new restaurants that opened up in Mumbai represented different cuisines of the city’s immigrants from across India.
There were Irani cafes of course. Malvani restaurants from the coast of Maharashtra. The South was represented by Mangalorean, Keralite and the ubiquitous Udipi joints. There were Gujarati thali places and then Gomantak seafood places from Goa and small Catholic-run restaurants from there as well. There were dairies which doubled up as sweet shops and chaat wallas representing UP and the North.
Then things began to change. If you look at the big restaurant launches in Mumbai in the last couple of years you will notice that they have all been around European, Far Eastern, Mediterranean cuisines or the rather vague ‘world cuisine’. There have been a couple of modern Indian restaurants such as Masala Library and recently Bombay Canteen in the Indian front. However, barring the odd small Bengali place there hasn’t been any new Indian regional food focused restaurant that has opened recently in Mumbai.
Bucking this trend though is the new underground home chef movement in Mumbai. They have organised pop ups in shops and in houses which showcase Indian regional food. Some of these home chefs have begun to develop a following among diners looking for local alternates to the latest Korean, Lebanese or ‘casual European’ restaurant.
One of the most popular names in the home chef scene is Gitika Saikia. She is a former marketing professional who now focuses entirely on her pop-up meal enterprise. She offers Assamese and North-Eastern tribal cuisine which is just not represented in the Mumbai restaurant scene.
Another busy person in this area is Perzen Darukhanawalla Patel who is also known as the Bawi Bride after her blog of the same name. Perzen does Parsi food pop ups.
Bringing in the male quotient in the pop up scene is insurance professional and weekend cook, Soumitra Velkar. Velkar is a Pathare Prabhu and cooks the food from his community. Pathare Prabhus are one of the earliest inhabitants in the city of Mumbai. The food offered by him is pretty unique as there are no Pathare Prabhu restaurants in the city.
One of the newest entrants to the booming home chef scene in Mumbai is Nafisa Kapadia of Bohri Kitchens. She cooks Bohri meals and serves them in her South Mumbai apartment. There are very few Bohri restaurants in Mumbai apart from takeaway joints such as Jeff’s and Safe in Mumbai which makes her enterprise pretty rare.
Some of these home chefs have gone the independent route to market themselves. Others have tied up with companies such as Insia Lacewalla’s Small Fry Co. which organises pop ups across the city. Then there is Saket Khanna and Neeta Valecha’s Meal Tango which organise meals cooked at home by home chefs.
This is just the beginning of the home chef led regional food movement in Mumbai.
Some great Indian regional meals are in store for you if you are willing to seek them out.
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.