Saee Koranne- Khandekar, a name synonymous with good food. A lady who proves time and again that cooking ‘at home’ can be glamourous too. Don’t believe me? Follow her kitchen escapades at http://www.myjhola.in/
Well, however, the Saee that I know and love is beyond just recipe videos and photography. What I like about her is her passion to restore heritage and culture, something which is slipping from us every day. And in a few years, probably we will be left with no stories, for all of us are busy making money. Well, she is different and doesn’t stop at that. As much as she loves sharing what she knows, she loves gathering what others know and constantly is on a prowl (positively;))The link above is a testimony to that. She has started a collective forum on Facebook for all lovers of Maharashtrian food, where people, Maharashtrian or not, not only share food- stories but have fun day-long sharing trivia, grandma’s secrets and lore. And I cannot thank her enough for adding me to the group called ‘Rediscovering Traditional Maharashtrian Cuisine’
In the last couple of months, I have been receiving endless invites for reviews, previews, consultation, and the world. But have deliberately and very gracefully turned them down, as I have been promoting my book – ‘Celebrate Life, Food and Wine’ like there is no tomorrow.Very few restaurants, in Mumbai and around, have I agreed to review- Saee’s Mejwani Thali at Four Points by Sheraton, being one of them.
A 3- hour drive on a busy Monday evening and that too- to savour vegetarian food? That needs some motivation, indeed. The only magnet working here was Saee’s heart pouring out onto the Thali and her expertise by moving out of her beautiful home- kitchen to an industrial hotel kitchen. I am glad I gave a few other events in Mumbai a miss and headed straight to Vashi to motivate her further.
A saree clad young lady welcomes us into the restaurant with traditional tikka and flowers. This traditional welcome is all one would need to set our minds on the grand feast ahead. What follows next is a kokum cooler with some crushed cumin, mint leaves and soda. Immediately, arrives in full galore and fancy the ‘Mejwani Thali’, curated by our very own Saee.
Kokanastha Brahmin (Ko-Brah) food has inclusion of coconut, peanuts and sesame seeds in prominence with showers of Goda masala- a specialty spice blend. The menu has been carefully planned to have coconut-masala in the first set and peanut-sesame in the other, in the 2 –menu cyclic menu. The Thali I had included coconut in bounty.
The Mejwani Thali consisted of – A pinch of salt, lemon wedges, Bowl of curds, maharashtrian Pickle, Awlyachi chutney ( Tangy coconut and coriander chutney, spiked with Indian gooseberries that perfect tang and zing). The papad basket contained two specialty papads-Kurdai (Lace- like poppadums made out of wheat milk) and Pohyache Mirgund (beaten rice and sago flour dough which is spiced). These were, once, made in all households as soon as summer vacations were announced. Aunties, Grandmas in the neighboring houses ganged up and chose a certain sun-dried specialty, like so, and made that all afternoon to stock up their kitchens. Certainly, some memories were tickled by this basket of papads.
Crisp -fried aubergine and onion fritters called bhajias and Cabbage-moong dal koshimbir were hiding under the perfect, non-oily wholewheat pooris. The mains included, Alu cha phatphata or fadfade or patal bhaji which was a smooth, silken, sweet and tangy colocassia leaf curry with groundnuts and chana dal adding some bite, Vaal Usal ( Sprouted Hyacinth beans, in a coarse coconut-y gravy with a balance of sweet- sour-spice-and bitter notes. A little over sweetened for ko-brah food, but is purely subjective.), Tomato che Saar (was piping hot and full of flavour) Batatyachi Bhaaji (which is THE simplest and most enjoyed Maharashtrian dry preparation of diced boiled potatoes was perfectly spiced and fork tender),Tondli Masale Bhaat (had a prominent spice and sweet balance of the Goda masala, however, the vegetables seemed bland and steamed), Ghavlyachi Kheer, was for dessert and absolutely outstanding at that. This was one such inclusion in the Thali, which could mask each and every flaw (if one could spot, any). Ghavle are basically ‘2 mm wheat and milk-dough’ bearings which are finger-pressed and pinched in a peculiar manner to release ‘Orzo’ shaped pasta. This surely could be Maharashtra’s answer to Pasta, in all possibilities.The meal ended with Vida (Paan) and Candied Amla.
All this and so much love at INR 375 plus taxes is quite a steal. And that too coming from Saee’s kitchen, take a bow, my friend!
Saee, you deserve a pat on your back, and a big tight hug to have managed this single-handedly and effortlessly. Sadly, we will have to wait for her to announce her next curation. And I sincerely hope it is soon!