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   Among my favourite foods is paneer... (January 8, 1990)

Among my favourite foods is panner. Not the Punjabi pancer, which is rolled in masalas and fried and eaten in pakodas (made famous by Kwality, three decades ago) or with green peas. It is the Parsi paneer, squeezed out of milk and water and of a texture so smooth and velvety that even the Swis cannot match it.

I remember paneet from my childhood, which falls in quite another era and generation and century, a man used to go about with a pot on his head and announcing: "Khara-mora paneer: perhaps, it is the same man who comes to the house now, twice a week, on Sundays and Wednesday s, the paneets floating in the salt water, Rs 20 per dozen, and you cannot get anything cheaper than that in Bombay.

There are not many paneer-wallas left now. I discovered him by chance, from a Parasi lady on the first floor whom he used to visit. He comes from some dairy in Jogeshwari and his clients are fixed, mainly Parsis. Now I have become one of his regulars. My breakfast is not complete without four paneers.

My other favourite food is the fish roe that a friend brings from Udvada. The roe is freshly obtained from the sea around Devka and Udvada, fried in local oil, the skin crisp and crackling, a network of millions and billions of eggs inside. You bite into the roe and enjoy the fishy taste. It goes very well with morning tea (Hasmukh).

Further down the Gujrat doast, from Navsari, come more fish roe. This is prized roe, the sturgeon fat with it. The Kolhas of Navsari, probably the most famous pickle makers in the country, make an acharout of it, stuffing it with red masalas and steeping it in vinegar. I do not have this for breakfast, I have it for dinner. Fine-grained white boiled rice, tur dal seasoned with semi-burnt garlic, and the roe pickle. Occasionally, there may be some fried and sliced brinjals, but that is optional.

I also enjoy the levti, a tiny sliver of a fish, deep-fried sufficiently to make it crunchy. The only trouble with it is that it is hard to get, even in the season. And, I understand, this is the season, when the levtis swim towards the harbour to shelter themselves from the monsoon storms.

You eat the levtis by the mouthful, four to five per bite, and you have them with your whisky, preferably Pritish Nandy's Black Dog.

 
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