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There was a lot of outrage in social media recently in reaction to the news that President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995. This bill bans beef slaughter in the state and the serving of beef in its restaurants.
Beef has not been available for a while in Mumbai restaurants though. The bill was, after all, passed 19 years back making beef slaughter rare in the state. Most of what is served as local ‘beef’ in restaurants is buffalo meat or buff or carabeef. It was only in high end restaurants and five stars that imported beef was served at pretty exorbitant prices (upwards of Rs 1,000 a dish).
Some restaurants got away by serving buffalo instead of beef and by describing it ambiguously as ‘tenderloin’ or ‘steak’. A few didn’t list beef on the menu but would serve it when regulars would ask for it. In most cases what would be served as beef would actually be buffalo!
Here is a list some of the legendary ‘beef’ dishes of Mumbai. Made with buffalo meat in most cases of course!
New Martin Hotel, Colaba: The steak fry with onions and chips here is so popular that you might not get it if you land up after 8.30 pm. This Goan-styled dish consists of a full flavoured well done deep fried thin slice of steak covered by a sea of fried onions with chips on the side.
Sarvi, Nagpada: This Irani joint near Nagpada is best known for its melt in the mouth beef shammi kababs. These are served in casseroles for those in the family room on the first floor.
Sneha, Mahim: Beef chili fry and porota is a popular combination in the various Keralite restaurants in Mumbai. The version in Sneha with its luscious meat enrobed in sweet caramelized onion with a latent chili hit is one of the best on offer.
Valibhai Payawallah, Bohri Mohalla: The recently shut down Valibhai Payawallah at Bohri Mohalla was one of the few remaining places that practised the lost art of bara handi cooking where a number of wheat and lentil broths are served with slow cooked meats. This is said to have been originated in Iran. The meat of choice is beef and they have made an art of converting discarded cuts such as the oxtail and the hump of beef (pichhota and topa) into deliciously tender delights.
Ling’s Pavilion, Colaba This Chinese family run restaurant serves an excellent stir fried, soya sauce-based beef chilly fry where the meat is tender and bursting with flavour. They also make a peanut and oxtail stew at times.
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.