Misal

MISAL

(The Signature Dish of Maharashtra)

By

Vikram Karve

It’s pouring heavy rain, there is water all around, the rivers of Pune, the Mula and Mutha, are flowing in spate, I’m feeling wet and cold, and there’s nothing better to fire up your insides and perk you up than a hot spicy dish of Misal. Since I’m on Lakdi Pul, near Deccan, I head up Tilak Road to Ramnath, my old favorite.

I don’t delve too much on the contents, or the ingredients, which basically comprise an Usal, rassa (the spicy curry) and the garnish of sev, chiwda, farsan, onions, fresh corriander and green chillies, arranged in three tiers and served with a wedge of lemon. There are two bowls and spoons. Using both spoons, I mix the contents thoroughly, squeeze the lemon, and eat. It’s hot, delicious, my tongue is on fire, my nose and eyes water – the true test of a genuine missal. I bash on regardless. (Never try to douse the appetizing zesty fire in your insides by sipping water or ruin the gastronomic experience by succumbing to a bite of pav or bread they may have the temerity to place alongside).

Pav with Bhaji or Vada may be fine, but if you want to savor the genuine taste of misal, and experience the ‘proof’ of the real stuff, it would tantamount to sacrilege to have pav with misal.

The misal at Ramnath had peas in the Usal, but I prefer something sprouted like matki, moong or a combination, like they serve at Vinay on Thakurdwar Road in Girgaum in Mumbai. In fact, though Misal is the signature dish of Pune, I don’t think anyone in Pune serves a better misal than Vinay of Girgaum. ( If there is, do let me know).

I had my first taste of Misal way back in the sixties in a place called Santosh Bhavan near NMV School on the way to Appa Balwant Chowk from Laxmi Road in Pune, but looks like the place has disappeared.

Both Misal and Vada pav are Indian Fast-Foods, but Misal is certainly not a ‘junk’ food. If made with all the proper ingredients, it’s zesty, healthy, nourishing snack.

Dear fellow Foodies, do let me know where I can get a good fiery misal in Pune, where I have recently relocated after a long hiatus. Till then I’ll miss my Sunday morning lip-smacking misal at Vinay’s, which I religiously relished for the past six years in Mumbai, and have to make do with the fare at Ramnath.

VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

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