Malwan, for the uninitiated is the southern coastal region of Maharashtra. Covering districts of Ratnagiri and Sindudurg, it is famous for its sun kissed, palm lined virgin beaches, the Alphonso and other varieties of Mango and of course the Malwani cuisine. People from Malwan speak a unique dialect also known Malwani which is a combination of Konkani and Marathi. The soil of Malwan is rich in iron and therefore red, the houses are made of red bricks and the sloping roofs are lined with red tiles. The staple food items include Rice and Fish preparations but Chicken (Kombdi) and Mutton preparations are also eaten quite frequently.
But my introduction to Malwani was through the television. Numerous Marathi actors hail from this region and their plays, films and songs have an element of this roots. Vastraharan by Machindra Kambli is a masterpiece. It showcases the plight of a few Malvani actors trying to enact the Vastraharan scene from the Mahabharata. A large chunk of the mill workers came from the Konkan. The traces of their presence can be seen at Lalbaug and Parel where the traditional Malwani masala is prepared and sold along with other ingredients traditional to Malwani cooking. Numerous Malwani joints abound in Bombay, very few are authentic.
One such unassuming, humble place is Raju's Malvani Corner on Gokhale Road, Dadar, next to Hotel Sachin (which incidentally sells similar fare). Run by Narendra Govind Sawant since over 20 years, this isn't an eatery joint. It's a hand cart with a side kitchen, all set up on the corner of the pavement. Raju, as Narendra is known serves up plates of lip smacking Malwani chicken and fish. On the side, in a large wok filled with piping hot oil batches of vade are being fried. A vada is made of rice flour, udad dal and spices, fried until fluffy and enjoyed with the spicy curries. On a weekday, I trooped over with my friend Rithika to try out their famed Kombdi Vade. The seating, as you might have guessed is on the footpath. Plastic chairs and a table make the set up complete. The streetlight nearby provides good lighting. Perfect.
We called for Chicken Saguti and Chicken Sukka, both spicy curries native to Malwan(Although Saguti is served as Xacuti in Goa). The chicken pieces were on the bone and tasted quite awesome with the hot vadas. Our order came along with an extra bowl of curry. There were 4 vadas in a plate but we had to call for another one to polish off all the curry! Folks on the adjoining table called for rice instead. Deep friend Bombil or Bombay duck were next were served hot off the wok. Missed having the sol kadhi but I hear it is very good. Other options include fried Surmai, Prawns and Prawns pulao. The tables are located on a lane going off Gokhale road so it is generally peaceful to enjoy the meal. The only thing missing was the sound of the waves, of the surf breaking on the shore but then again Shivaji Park isn't very far from there . Service is prompt and the food is fresh. Some of the dishes are cooked at home in the Sawant household and hence run out by 9pm or so, especially on weekends. So to sample the best selling items, do visit early and let me know what you thought of the food!
The items were reasonably priced, Chicken Saguti and Sukka - Rs. 100 each, a plate of Vade Rs. 35 and Bombay duck fry Rs. 70.
Raju can be found on the corner of Gokhale Road and Anant Patil Marg.
Complete address: 1/23 Kubal Niwas, Gokhale Road, Anant Patil Marg, Dadar West, Mumbai, Dadar, Harishchandra Patil Rd, Chandrakant Dhuru Wadi, Dadar West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400028 Phone:022 2446 2405 ( he is pinned on Google maps too)
Photos by Rithika Kumar