My Asia: My Bombay with Shaheen Peerbhai of The Purple Foodie

(AKA ‘My Mumbai.’) Bombay, yes, I still call it that, holds a special place in my heart. It is—after New York—my favorite city in the world. It’s everything: modern, yet medieval; glamorous, yet gritty; cosmopolitan, yet Indian. Bombay is not for the weak of body and mind. The city’s chaos will overwhelm you, confound you, and, ultimately, embrace you.

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Today, I’m so thrilled to welcome Bombayite Shaheen Peerbhai of The Purple Foodie to notabilia to share her city with you. Shaheen is a former IT professional-turned-cook; she is temporarily based in Paris as she recently received a scholarship to study Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu. “I still can’t believe [it],” she writes.

Her popular blog is a treasure trove of easy-to-follow recipes— try her Nutella pop tarts, honey lavender madeleines, and rosemary and garlic oil foccacia—and gorgeous photographs.

Now, to Shaheen…

Must -eats?

Yazdani Bakery. Over a half a century old, Yazdani Bakery is tucked into a by-lane in the bustling area of Fort. Step inside and take your seat on one of the many wooden benches in the modest sized seating area. A look around the place will divulge its rich history. The vintage framed posters of burly men, the humongous clock from an era gone by, and the antique brass call bell make the Yazdani experience a charming one. Your visit to Yazdani is not complete if you haven’t chatted up the owners while sipping your chai and biting into your brun maska, slathered with copious amounts of Amul butter. Regulars swear by the multi-grain bread and raisin-loaded apple pie.

Deluxe Lunch Home. A no-frills place serving simple, delicious fare from Southern India. The menu changes everyday, so there’s no monotony. Eat yourself happy with their unlimited thalis—served on a banana leaf with 2 to 3 types of vegetables, poppadams, pickle, and red rice with sambhar or rasam. I especially love the days when the sweet dish of the day is the dal and jaggery payyasam. If you’ve got company, order a plate of Kerala chicken with Malabari paratha.

Indigo. My go-to place for a casual meal with friends. Favourites: steak, burgers with blue cheese and bacon, smoked chilli tomato sauce pasta, and Caesar salad. They’ve got a breakfast menu and daily specials, too.

Taj Ice Cream. Taj Ice cream is a hole-in-the-wall place in Bhendi bazaar that’s been making hand-churned ice cream for over 120 years. I keep going back for the Alphonso mango and Sitalphal (custard apple) ice cream.

Must-Shops?

Bliss. A beautifully curated store that houses products from new and not-so-new designers. You’ll find jewellery (Soul of Silver being my favourite brand), colourful pillow covers, chairs made from aluminium buckets, kitschy clothes, and accessories.

Freedom Tree Homestore. The team of designers of Freedom Tree bring quality homeware and tableware at affordable prices. You can mix and match products and take home what you like. I love their bright coloured plates, cake stands, butter dishes, dhurries, and linens.

Fabindia. My go-to place to shop for modern ethnic clothes. I find something new every time I visit: silks, cottons, intricate embroidery, stoles, and gorgeous jewellery. Some branches stock homeware and furniture, too.

Crawford Market. For all things food. If there’s an ingredient you’re having trouble finding in the city, chances are that you will find them here. Here’s a nifty Crawford Market map (visit Mumbai Boss to download):

Must-Dos?

Walk down Colaba Causeway. Haggle your way down one of the city’s most famous markets. Find scarves, Kolhapuri chappals, junk jewellery, and semi-precious stones here. Bargain hard. And then, take a break at Leopold or Churchill.

Queen’s Necklace. Watch the waves hitting the tripods as you sit along the Queen’s Necklace on Marine Drive. One of my favourite things to do and something I wish I’d done more of before I left the city.

Turning Tables. Attend an underground restaurant at Brown Paper’s Bag’s Turning Tables where a chef from one of the city’s top restaurants cooks up a dinner at a subscriber’s home. You get to meet and chat up ten interesting strangers.

Must-Art?

Kalaghoda Festival. The annual arts festival gets bigger and better each year. With workshops on writing, photography, poetry recitation, and food writing panels, in addition to street plays and art installations, the entire street behind Jehangir Art gallery is cordoned off for the entire week. The bustling street is filled with stalls selling everything from clothes and chunky beaded necklaces to self-published books and handmade cards.

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And so, My Asia draws to a close. Do check out the entire series: My Seoul with Lauren Kilberg of double takesMy Shanghai with Wee Ling of chopchopcurrypokMy Taipei City with Catherine Shu of Shu FliesMy Kuala Lumpur with Adrianna Tan of Pen to Pixel, and My Jakarta with Kaho of Chuzai Living.

It’s been a popular feature and I’d love to highlight six more cities in 2012. Know a creative person in Delhi, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, Manila, Bangkok, or elsewhere in Asia who wants to share his or her must-stop spots with my readers? Please email all suggestions to me with the subject line ‘My Asia.

(Additional credits: Photographs by Shaheen Peerbhai; Crawford Market map via Mumbai Boss. Used with permission.)