Traffic jams and flooding aren’t the only woes Mumbai faces during the monsoon; picking the right food is just as much of a concern.
“The rains make the climate moderate and aid the growth of bacteria, thus increasing the chances of diseases from contaminated food,” says Rahul Bhagwat, a chef at Mangiamo. He advocates sticking to dry foods like corn, chickpea and oats because “they give vital nutrition to the body while causing no harm to it”.
Another chef, Rajesh Ratna of Escobar, is in favour of eating light meals and using ginger, honey and turmeric to keep the digestive system fit. “As for beverages, stick to the warmer ones. Add ginger or mint powder to your tea and coffee. They help fight germs,” he says.
Here are some handy tips on what you should stock up on during the rains and what should be left on the shelves while it pours.
Veggies and fruits
Chef Diego Palladino of Pizza Metro Pizza warns against buying green, leafy vegetables in the monsoon. “They tend to have worms and bacteria. Use them only after washing and steaming,” he warns.
Paul Kinny,executive chef at Intercontinental, Marine Drive, adds, “Wash leaves and vegetables with care, especially if being used in salads. They contain more worms in this season — particularly lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and brinjal. I’d recommend a quick stir fry.”
Palladino recommends sticking to vegetables and fruits that are rich in vitamin C (oranges, lemons, bell peppers, tomatoes and potatoes), as they work as antioxidants and boost one’s immunity. “Avoid eating watermelon, muskmelon and cucumber due to their moist nature, which increases their chances of harbouring bacteria,” he says.
“Seafood should only be consumed if it is fresh,” says Kinny. Bhagwat adds, “All imported fish products need to be stored below minus seven degrees Celsius.” Dispelling the myth that seafood is not suitable for the monsoon, Palladino says, “Grilling and steaming will ensure that the meat is heated well, hence killing any bacteria.”
Ratna advises against eating oily, spicy and fried food, especially from street vendors. Kinny adds, “Food is usually kept in the open at these stalls and that encourages faster growth of germs, given the climate. Fried food should be avoided anyway, since physical activities tend to reduce during the monsoon.” However, if you must use oil in your cooking, Bhagwat recommends light oils like corn and olive, rather than mustard or sesame.
While Ratna says dairy products should be consumed in small amounts, Palladino recommends avoiding them altogether, since they are prone to maximum contamination. “You should also avoid eating curd, lassi and cottage cheese when you’re dining outside,” says Bhagwat.