Tuesday, 24 September 2013

One Food Experience: Soam

Soam, located near Girgaon Chowpatty, bang opposite the Babulnath temple, is a haven for tasty and authentic Gujarati food. It is a vegetarian's delight, that has enchanted meat eaters who are not too fond of vegetarian food. A clear sign of the popularity of this restaurant can be seen by the fact that though we had gone there on a weekday afternoon for a late lunch at around 2-2.30 p.m., we still had to wait in the queue for around 20 minutes before we got a table.

There were two of us who loved the different food experiences of the meal we ordered. I have decided to include both recommendations for the restaurant as the one-food experience you should have at Soam. Both of these, along with the restaurant itself, are really worth trying out!

1. Panki and Guava Panha

Panki is a very interesting Gujarati dish. It is made by spreading a really thin layer of rice flour batter (that has little bit of spices like jeera and turmeric) on a banana leaf and then steaming it in the banana  leaf. It is served on the table in the banana leaf itself, and you need to open a hot banana leaf and peel the Panki off it to eat it hot and fresh, right off the leaf.

Panki on the banana leaf

The experience of eating Panki is one-of-a-kind and very interesting. First, there is a release of aromas and steam as you open the banana leaf. Then when the steam clears a bit, you see this bright yellow colour against the backdrop of the lovely green, that just appeals to your eyes. Then you peel off little by little and enjoy the flavoursome, thin, soft Panki that just melts in your mouth. Ah! There is nothing like it!

Guava Panha

The Guava Panha is a take on the summer favourite Aam Panha. It goes very well with the Panki with its combination of sweetness with an edge of tartness.

2. Farsan Platter

This one is made for those who believe Gujarati food is at its best when its deep fried like my company does (and you can now guess whose recommendation backs this)! It has a great combination of traditional Gujarati snacks like ghugra and dhokla, with the modern touch of Palak Cheese Patti Samosa and Makai wadi.

The oh-so-yummy farsan platter!

Ghugra (top and bottom) is a savoury pea-mixture stuffed in a maida pastry that is folded in a beautiful manner, which takes a lot of skill, along the edges. This is then deep fried and makes a lovely crunchy snack with a spicy filling. Soam made it almost like my granny used to, and that is very good by any Gujarati standards, considering my granny's ghugras were very popular.

The Palak Cheese Patti Samosas (top right) were this fantastic combination of sauteed spinach and cheese stuffed in patti strips and deep fried till the cheese melts. When you bite into a samosa there is the crunch of the patti, followed by the gush of melted cheese with hints of flavour from the spinach. It is a delight in your mouth!

Makai wadi (left of the basket) was a unique corn snack that was steamed and then pan fried. It was a take on the Maharashtrian kothimbir wadi.

Last, but not the least, was the quintessential Gujarati dhokla. I am not much of a dhokla fan (yes, I am Gujju and no, I don't like dhoklas!) but this one was soft and fluffy, steamed perfectly, with just a little hint of spice from the chilly powder sprinkled on top before steaming. I know enough of dhoklas to know it was just like a good dhokla should be.