Die-hard foodie Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal, 35, grew up near Mumbai’s Grant Road market. It’s a small market, she says, but has an interesting mix of vendors — everyone from utensil sellers to farsaan vendors and shops peddling specific fasting foods for the Gujarati, Maharashtrian and other communities.
“It’s an unexplored chapter in the city’s culinary history,” says Ghildiyal, as she whips up her own version of a Maharashtrian coconut curry at her Powai home, with a twist of water chestnuts bought fresh from Grant Road. “There are so many similar hidden food stories in our country.”
That was the genesis of Masala Trails — a 24-day culinary tour through Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan, Kolkata, Cochin, Goa, Hyderabad and Mumbai — last week, after 18 months of intense voyaging across the country. Set to launch in February 2011, Ghildiyal conducted a trial run last week, and the response was encouraging, she says.
One of the participants, designer, artist and blogger Jyotika Purwar, says it was just what she needed to refamiliarise herself with Indian markets after 10 years in Chicago. “I was nervous about not finding all the ingredients. So I was very pleasantly surprised when, on this food walk, I found fennel root, a favourite ingredient,” says Purwar. “The Grant Road market was full of colours, a juxtaposition of the old city with the new. The Rajasthani-Gujarati lunch at Soam made for the perfect conclusion to the tour.”
As Ghildiyal guides her tour through the eight regions on her itinerary, she plans to rope in local foodies, writers, bloggers and local chefs to give the travellers a complete food experience.
The tour — which will cost $7,375 (about R 3.5 lakh), including travel, stay and some meals — will include visiting markets, eating at gallis, dropping in for a meal at a local foodie’s home and watching them cook. Plus, a fine-dine regional food experience in some cities.
The itinerary includes a tour of a sweetmeat factory in Kolkata, chaat at Daulat Chaatwalla and a peek at the spice trade market in Delhi, a royal dinner at a palace in Rajasthan and a fine-dine Indian meal with a contemporary twist at a restaurant in Mumbai.
“Finding local foodies was tough. In places like Kerala, where I didn’t have strong foodie contacts, I went about asking taxi drivers: ‘Aap fish curry kahan khaate hain? (Where do you eat fish curry?)’” she says.