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, that part of Mumbai which also has a bit of Chennai in it. 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. 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, Matunga is probably the only place in Mumbai where you will find authentic sambar ( not the sugary syrup served in most restaurants) and real filter coffee.
So here are my top 5 things to do in Matunga:
My favourite: Arya Bhavan near Chedda stores, right in the heart of Matunga market. 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. And what better way to finish you meal than by guzzling a cup of fresh filter coffee?!
Madras Cafe is a close second. Packed to the rafters (literally!), their neer dosas are great. You might have to share a table with complete strangers but that only adds to the experience.
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) and vazhai thandu (plantain stem). No idea how to use them in your food? Read this and this for some yummy recipes.
You can also buy freshly ground coffee powder from Mysore Concerns or Quality Coffee to 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- old and new
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! There are both new and second hand books here. Beware of fake copies though. Commonly known as ‘pirated books’, the author/publishing house do not benefit from your purchase of these books. If you love books, you will want to support authors and buying the original print is the best way to do that.
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 any 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 !