IF DHURUP Chand is to be believed, the Guru Nanak Sweet Mart in Guru Tegh Bahadur (GTB) Nagar of Sion Koliwada is the only place in Mumbai to buy ‘anarse’, a Punjabi-style confectionary made with rice and jaggery.
Anarse heralds spring, signalling the coming of Baisakhi, informs Chand, who hails from Punjab, and has been making the sweet for nearly 45 years. The Guru Nanak Sweet Mart is just one of the many authentic Punjabi eating joints set up in the Sion Koliwada area, where any food lover worth his salt would gravitate to for the roadside chhole kulche or samosa chana.
GTB Nagar, a microcosm of the Sikh community, several of them families of refugees who came to India at the time of Partition, continues to celebrate the community’s reputation for hearty meals. In the Sion Koliwada area, the competition between Mini Punjab at the north end of the JK Bhaseen Road and Hazara Restaurant and Bar is an age old one, say old-timers.
Both outlets that operate primarily post evening compete especially on who makes the better fish koliwada. Mini Punjab, started by one Hukum Singh, and Hazara, known to be one of the oldest restaurants in the area, both started out as modest stalls, which now have separate AC and non AC rooms and mezzanine floors to separate the ‘family crowd’ from the young crowd
A waiter at Hazara restaurant claims that their fish koliwada — fish marinated in spicy Koli masala and fried — was originally their adaptation of Maharashtrian coastal cuisine that is now popular in every restaurant down the road.
But if sea food is not your thing, there is paya, lush tandoori chicken, mutton and other delicacies from the tandoor. A local legend goes that actor Sunil Dutt was known to come looking for a man who would set up his stall near a lane off Hazara restaurant at nightfall, from where he would sell the most delicious mutton served across the city.
There is plenty for the vegetarians too, starting with enough Chole Kulche outlets to ensure they return home with a full stomach. And to digest it all, there is Kashmiri Soda available at the roadside carts. Or pop into a restaurants like Hardeep Punjab, which has its own special touch for minty chaas, served in large electric bulb-shaped glasses.
Once the chaas is downed, of course, it’s time to head to Guru Nanak Sweets to watch as Dhurup Chand prepares his anarse, and eat them hot out of the wok.