Being perpetually on the hunt for food that I have not tried before often leads me to strip malls. Artesia is a strange and magical place with a small Indian population (4.6% of the 2000 census); often thought of as Little India along Pioneer blvd despite the fact that East Asian markets out number the Indian ones 3 to 1. On the window of Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se were the descriptors, Maharashtrian Delicacies and Gujarati buffet. I have a love hate relationship with the word buffet, but that emotion is usually love when it comes to Indian food.
The Marathi people inhabit Western India, and came to prominence when their great leader and warrior king Shivaji Bhonsle formed the Maratha kingdom out the ashes of the Adilshahi Sultanate in 1674. From just a small force of 2,000 fighters given to him by his father he created an army of 100,000 warriors. A master strategist and devout Hindu, Shivaji utilized geography, speed and to conquer Southern India.
I was probably as hungry as a Maratha warrior when I arrived at Mumbai Ki Galliyon Si, which translates to the Streets of Mumbai, and specializes in street food.
Gujarat is a state in the Western part of India with a population in excess of 60 million people, mostly vegetarians. This is the birthplace of civilization in the heart of the Indus River Valley, with neolithic cities dating back to 7000 BCE. I’m not anti-vegetarians (more meat for me), I just don’t like it when I don’t do my prior research and walk into the door desiring stewed goat meat.
Sunday probably isn’t the best day to go, because there was only one person working. She was a delightful woman, but repeatedly mentioned her plight of being by herself which made us feel bad (well, it annoyed me). She eagerly took our initial order, but subsequent requests were received at the counter. I realize this was/is street food, but we weren’t eating it in the street so I am less understanding of this circumstance.
The use of spices in every dish was really impressive, as we were guessing what was inside almost everything that we walked to the counter to bring back to the table. We ordered a pleasant but unremarkable unleavened bread (Alu Parantha?) to go with some of our stew like dishes served in plastic cafeteria like bowls.
The flavors of the little dishes that we did sample were actually really delicious, often with combinations of sweet and spicy flavors. Pretty much any of the stew like dishes we tried were very good.
The best thing on the menu here was the Piyush, which is like a Mango Lassi but much better and a little thinner. Made with buttermilk, saffron, pistachios, almonds, cardamom, and yogurt – I didn’t know if I should put this on my face or bathe in it, but I settled on drinking it and i’m glad I did.
We also ordered the dabeli, which was surrounded by an obnoxious amount of bread but also had fantastic flavors. Kind of like a vegetarian sandwich the pomegranate seeds were the highlight with some chili, peanuts, and grapes inside.
One thing I am kicking myself for not trying is the Carrot Halvah, and I believe I will have to return simply to taste such a genius concept. There are few things in my life i’m more addicted to then Halvah ( Cookie Dough Ice Cream, fresh baked cookies, foie gras, and anything Taro Flavored might hold contention).
I think we were starting to get slightly fatigued from the lack of service, the plastic plates, and the water in a jug in the corner, and decided to decamp to a nearby Indian buffet where I loaded myself down with garlic naan, paneer, and all sorts of stewed meats. I will say though, that this was some of the best vegetarian food I think I’ve ever tasted.