The Hype-othesis

Is the misal sold at Aaswad in Dadar west really the ‘tastiest vegetarian dish’ in the world? We dropped by to find out.

A Wait To Remember

Since their global triumph last year, all roads, blogs, newspapers, tweets and even the late Bala Saheb’s image on the Shiv Sena Bhawan building {quite literally}, point towards Aaswad.

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This leads to quite the pile-up. Like most other vegetarian institutions around Mumbai, we need to wait in line even at 3.30pm, much after the ‘lunch hour’ has finished. But despite this {and over a dozen names before ours}, we were seated within 15 minutes. Aaswad is a simple canteen-styled establishment with a menu made up of a good mix of Mumbai snacks and Maharashtrian specialties.

A Well-Balanced Misal

A spicy green moong curry topped with fresh condiments and crunchy farsan, is Aaswad’s misal better than say Prakash’s down the road, or Thane’s Gokhale {both equally revered misal institutions}, and even further: better than every other vegetarian dish in the world?

It’s said that the mark of a good misal is one that perfectly balances freshness with pungency. And that’s where Aaswad’s misal scores high.

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At first we’re hit with the brighter flavours of lime, kandha, dhania and the salty crunch of farsan. But the finish has a lovely savoury kick that’s balanced by the sweeter notes of dalchini and anise. This comes thanks to the use of goda masala, a local garam masala-like mixture used to finish a lot of Maharashtrian dishes. What also helps control the pungency is the addition of potatoes which absorb  and tone down the spiciness of the seasoning, allowing the fresher flavours to come through. All in all, a winner in our books.

The Post-Misal Meal

What else should you have at Aaswad? Definitely get a round their soft and fluffy bhakri with a side of comforting pithale {a thick sabzi made from besan, spices, onions and green chilli} and bharli wangi {a spicy baby-brinjal curry}. Also, don’t miss the thalipeeth, a delicious roti made using a flour of mixed grains and pulses that are roasted to give it more robust flavour. It also helps that it comes with the most generous dollop of homemade white butter.

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Lastly, the Dalimbi Usal {accompany with hot puri} is a greener, fresher and tangier misal like curry. It’s made using val beans {the more hipster name is Fava} and coconut, and is a pleasant surprise on the menu. What you can give a miss to is the kharvas, a steamed pudding made using the highly nutritious milk procured from cow that’s just given birth. Aaswad’s version literally had the texture of old paneer and not a jiggly pudding. Also, their famed ginger-lemon squash, which is just too syrupy sweet.

Photos source: Aaswad