SEAFOOD IN KOLIWADA
You must have noticed a dish called “Fish Koliwada” or “Prawn Koliwada” on the menu cards of many restaurants. Recipe books too feature “Koliwada” recipes, and I’ve observed a few eateries featuring “Koliwada” in their names. But have you gone to the one and only Sion-Koliwada (in Mumbai) from which these yummy seafood delicacies derive their names and actually tasted the genuine Koliwada style cuisine over there? No! You haven’t? Doesn’t matter. Come with me on a Foodie trail. I’ll take you on a gastronomical trip to Sion Koliwada in Mumbai and, together, let us sample and relish the authentic Koliwada seafood delights on offer.
To get there, just drive straight down Shahid Bhagat Singh Road from the Museum. Drive past Horniman Circle, Town Hall, Reserve Bank, GPO, Yellow gate, Dockyard Road Reay Road, Sewree and Wadala railway stations on the Harbour Line Stations. The road will keep changing its name – D’Mello, Barrister Nath Pai, RA Kidwai, Char Rasta – and when it ends at Sion, turn right before the flyover, drive past Shanmukhananda Hall, and when you reach a T-junction, in front of you will see Hazara Restaurant – our destination. Alternatively take the Harbour line train to GTB Nagar, ask around, walk through the hustle-bustle and cacophony, and then let your nose guide you to Koliwada and Hazara.
At the entrance to Hazara you will find heaps of marinated prawns and various types of fish of the season, like pomfret, rawas, surmai. You can have your seafood deep-fried in the huge kadhai of boiling oil or have it roasted on the coal grill or tandoor. You may see a few pieces of marinated chicken, but ignore them; at Koliwada you’re going to focus on seafood!
Every good eatery has a signature dish (unless it’s one of those ubiquitous run-of-the-mill eateries proliferating all over the place which serve such uninspiring pedestrian fare that they are certainly not worth visiting). You must “plan” your “eat” and know what to relish in a particular restaurant.
It’s comical to see people eating “Chinese” at Irani, Mughlai and pure vegetarian Gujju and Udipi Restaurants and vegetarian dishes at Baghdadi, Olympia and Bade Mian. I’ve almost split my sides seeing a guy trying to order a pizza at Mathura Dairy Farm when there are excellent pizzerias in the vicinity at Churchgate.
Whenever I go to a restaurant I make sure I eat the specialty cuisine of the place. If I don’t know, I look around to see what the regular patrons are savoring, and I ask someone knowledgeable, a connoisseur, or even a waiter!
The signature dish of Hazara is Prawns Koliwada. Legend has it that Prawns Koliwada was invented here. You order by weight, half a kilo for two is ample, and watch the prawns sizzle, crackle and dance in the hot oil. I love watching my food being made in front of me.
You go inside. You can either sit with the drinking types on the congested, crammed, smoky and noisy ground floor, but it’s best to sit comfortably in the “air conditioned” mezzanine floor where you can watch the goings on below while enjoying your food. The lip-smacking prawns are crisp, crunchy, scrumptious and zesty – truly exquisite! Once you have savored Prawn Koliwada at Hazara you'll appreciate the difference between authentic “Prawn Koliwada” and the stuff they serve you at various eateries.
Next, let’s have a roasted tandoori pomfret. It looks temptingly appetizing, and as expected, it’s excellent.
But the surprise piece de resistance is the succulent melt-in-the-mouth Rawas Koliwada. It tastes blissfully delicious. You close you eyes and let the generous piece of Rawas fish disintegrate, melt and dissolve on your tongue, and let yourself be transported to seventh heaven.
At Hazara, you eat only seafood – don’t make the mistake of ordering anything else unless you want to ruin your meal. And don’t be tempted to order a “quarter” of booze or a beer, which you will find many others doing. It would be sacrilege to dull your taste buds and “wash down” such magnificent ambrosial seafood delicacies, when you can mindfully savor each and every morsel.
Build up an appetite, and head for Hazara to enjoy exquisite incomparable authentic seafood, Koliwada style. And do let us know how you enjoyed it!