Though I call myself a Mumbai girl ( been here since last 19 years!) , at heart I am still a TamBram who sometimes misses Chennai’s ‘Tamizh culture ‘ feel. That is why I love Matunga. The minute I step out of bus no 213, which goes from my place to Maheshwari Udyan , I feel at home.
The flower market , the various cafés serving South Indian fare and the temples with their typical ‘ gopurams’ all bring on a wave of nostalgia and I start feeling I am in Chennai’s Mylapore instead of cosmopolitan Mumbai.
Once home to mainly Tamil Iyers and Palghat Iyers , Matunga now has a huge Gujarati population and all the Tamizhs have probably shifted to Chembur or Dombivli. Still , it’s probably the only place in Mumbai where you will find authentic sambar ( not the sugary syrup served in most restaurants) and where you can have real filter coffee.
So here are my top 5 things to do in Matunga:
1) Eat at Arya Bhavan
This is a relatively new eatery, near Chedda stores, right in the heart of Matunga market. Though it is not as famous or iconic as Ramashray or Cafe Madras , I think their food is way better. Run by Muthuswamy Caterers , it serves great dosas , idlis and vadas – all accompanied by sambar , coconut chutney and tomato chutney. Their Bisibele Bhath is superb too , much better than what other Matunga restaurants have on offer.
2) Visit a temple
The South Indian Bhajana Samaj koil reminds me of the temples my patti used to take me to when I was young , to light diyas in upturned lemon peels. Everyone speaks Tamizh here – remember what I said about Matunga being mini Mylapore?
The Sankara Mutt , Kanika Parmeshwari koil , and Asthika Samaj koil are other temples in the area which you can visit.
3) Shop in the market
The flower market has amazing gajras ( mallipoo) and other fresh flowers. The vegetable market has some vegetables which are not available elsewhere and which are used extensively in Tamizh cuisine. Go here to buy karnai kizhangu , vazhai poo( plantain inflorescence ) vazhai thandu ( plantain stem). You can also buy freshly ground coffee powder from Mysore Concerns or Quality Coffee , so that you can make your own filter coffee at home 🙂 Chedda Stores is another shop which is a favourite – I cannot go in without buying something – they sell everything from samosas and theplas to idli batter and ready made chutneys.
4) Buy books
Matunga’s footpaths have people selling a wide array of books – fiction , magazines , crosswords and puzzles books , children’s books , books on accounting and engineering – you name it and you will find it. Do haggle for a good price though!
5) Pani puri at New Pankaj’s
Every time my sister flies home from the USA , she goes directly from the airport to have pani puris here – that’s how good they are! New Pankaj’s Panipuri stall is just outside Chedda stores and claims to use Bisleri water for the pani – if that makes you feel better about eating roadside panipuri. Perfectly chilled pani poured into crispy puri , along with soft bundi and sweet chutney – a plethora of tastes explode in your mouth , making it irresistable!
So the next time you come to Mumbai , do visit Matunga !