Indian vegetarian food is in a class of its own. With millions of committed vegetarians who reflect centuries of spiritual heritage, the basis of their cooking is lacto-vegetarian and vegan. Only soft dairy is used, mainly ghee (a clean-burning high quality version of butter), boiled milk, yoghurt and paneer, a home made cottage cheese.
The underlying charm of Indian vegetarian cooking resides in the selection and cooking methods used for the spices. In the hands of a cook who understands the subtle emphasis that gives such rich variety to their dishes, it can be unmatched for complexity of flavours.
Mumbai Chaat is among the best. A fresh, companionable family-run cafe in Sandringham village, the menu offers a range of chaat – snacks – as well as quick meals. Their samosa with tamarind chutney is a hearty spiced version of this well-known chaat; we find that one makes a sufficient entree for two diners.
Chef Pratibha Ambani offers a changing array of curries (i.e. savoury vegetables) to choose from for the Regular Thali, which includes one curry, daal, rice and five roti. Matt and I found one Thali and a couple of additional small bowls of curry to be a satisfying meal between us.
In addition to the 5 wafer-thin roti and a bowl of rice, our platter contained 1 bowl of vege korma (veges in a creamy sauce), 1 of stuffed eggplant, 1 chole (chickpeas in gravy), 1 gujerati dhal (a thin sweet-sour sauce), 1 methi mutter malai (peas in fenugreek), and 1 bowl of a sweetly tangy yoghurt & chopped apple raita, all delicious and quite differently spiced to perfection.
Thali prices start at around $13.50, depending on extras.
And we each had a glass of their excellent mango lassi. Perfect.