On a recent and short trip to the Bay area, I was told about some Maharashtrian delights appearing on the menu at India Chaat Cuisine (ICC). Having griped about the unavailability of this cuisine in the Bay area (or the US in general) I had to make the trip. From what I have seen, ICC wants to be the "pan-Indian Chaat" restaurant in the Bay area, because they have North, South and West quite well-represented, and in addition they also have Indo-Chinese. I tried the Maharashtrian stuff, so have no idea the quality of other cuisines.
Long story short: Bombay or Mumbai is the capital of the state of the Maharashtra. "Maharashtrian" food is quite varied, but all over the state there are some common staples: Pohe, Zunka Bhakar, Sabudana Vada, Vada Pav, Misal. ICC offers most of these items, and then some (I wish I had taken a picture of the menu, but too little, too late). This is some of the stuff I sampled:
Vada Pav: This is classic Bombay street food. The Vada is made up of boiled potatoes sauteed with some basic spices and curry leaves and then rolled into balls, dipped in a chickpea(?) batter, and deep-fried. Pav is simply bread (similar to a burger bun, but smaller and different in taste and texture). The condiments are usually a red chutney made from dessicated coconut, red chillies and some other ingredients. While individually the items were average (except the red chutney which was DA BOMB), overall the Vada Pav was quite good. I don't want to get into comparisons in terms of authenticity or taste or flavor, simply because its rare to get it here.
Puneri Misal: This was a letdown. Not only did it lack heat, it was almost sweet. Misal is a hot soupy curry made with sprouted beans (or other pulses) and some "farsan" or snacks thrown into the mix. Usually Pav is the accompaniment.
Sabudana Vada: Tapioca mixed with potatoes, corriander powder, cumin powder made into disc like shape and deep fried. This is literally "fast food", i.e. Maharashtrians eat this when they fast. I know the obvious logical fallacy with what I just said, but basically the argument goes that when Maharashtrians fast, they don't eat what they do on a regular day. For example, everything is cooked in ghee and not oil. They don't eat rice (a staple) and substitute it with something else. The sabudana mix at ICC was fresh, and even though it was fried, it wasn't greasy and the accompanying chutney was really good!
Sabudana Khichadi: Similar ingredients as above, but it is not made into a disc or fried. Again, this was also really good.
Thalipeeth: Another classic Maharashtrian staple. Different flours are used to make the dough: wheat, millet, chickpea and are mixed with spices, chillies, cilantro and has naan like thickness. It is then cooked on a cast iron pan. This was also very good (though, I would have preferred more heat), it had the right texture and flavor.
There are quite a few items that I need to try, but in case you have, please report! Overall, for those enthusiastic about trying some of these food stuffs, this is a good find and deserves mention on Chow.
Also tried Peacock's Chicken and Lamb Biryani. Great stuff! It's been a while, so I am not making any comparisons to Annapoorna or Kebab Corner, so please update me on the Biryani scene if you can. Thanks!
India Chaat Cuisine
1082 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94086