For the love of good food….
Has it ever happened that….
If any of the above or similar instances have defined your life at some point, then you will also be able to visualize the answer to these questions in your favorite local cheap eats. Here we especially refer to those places that are little mercies and beacons of light in the darkness of the city, serving up delightful food for those hungry souls, even at ungodly hours.
Our focus this week is one such eatery, which in some sense has become a benchmark in defining late night food in the star studded, upmarket neighborhood of Vile Parle West. If you have been in Juhu long enough, then you would know the place I am referring to. It’s a small street food set up and has been running for over 25 years outside the landmark Cooper Hospital serving hot Egg Bhurji (spicy Indianised version of scrambled egg with bread loaves) & Pav Bhaji (spicy mashed vegetables with bread loaves) and their multiple variants right off the stove. Just 5 years back this roadside stall metamorphosed into a small outlet called Mohd. Nasir Cooperwala in Juhu Gully (lane) with an air-conditioned small 8-10 table seating area. The word ‘Cooperwala’ is to let people know that this is the same old joint, just in a new location.
If you ask around for the Bhurji wala in Juhu gully, be almost sure that you will be directed to this place. When you see it from a distance it looks like a small blink-and-you-miss place. But stop at it long enough and you know you will come back for more. Open till 4 AM in the morning, post 2:30 AM this joint becomes a literal road show and reverts to it’s earlier form of only the outdoor cooking area and roadside seating areas capturing almost the entire street with hordes of hungry patrons.
We dropped in at 7:30 PM on a Sunday evening and yet the place was beginning to buzz with activity. With a very visible 3-tava setup for the food, and only the juices being made inside, you are easily witness to all that goes in making arguably the best Egg Bhurji in this part of town. The right-most tava was being used for the vegetarian cooking (surely owing to the large pure veg population of the locality), the other two tavas were used for the egg preparations. For us, one of the main enticements of street food is to watch the art of food being cooked and that too when it appeals to all five of our senses.
The popularity of the place could be seen by the quantities being cooked, packed and served on the tables. There were multiple cartons of packaged butter, piles of egg crates in one corner, a huge vessel full of chopped onions to be used in the cooking and as a garnish. There were also large stacks of pavs (local Indian bread loaves served as an accompaniment with many dishes) kept at multiple places. One of the highlight points were when around 20 eggs were cracked open in front of us and quickly transformed into mouth-watering bhurji. While clicking pictures, we were told by a grinning waiter, “Madam, photo lena hai to Saturday subah aao. Bahut saare aande tootte hain. Photo achha aayega.” (Madam, if you want to click photos, you should come on a Saturday morning. There are many eggs broken at the same time and cooked. It will make for good photos.) A little insightful thought explained this comment – Friday nights herald the party weekend for the nightlife in Juhu.
The 4 main dishes in this joint are – Pav Bhaji, Egg Bhurji, Omlettes and Pulao. All other things on the menu are permutations and combinations of these 4 basic items. And most of the items on the menu have a regular version as well as a cheese version. To explain a bit in detail, in pav bhaji you have the regular, the khada, jain and cheese versions. In Egg Bhurji, apart from the regular version, you get a variety of toppings like fried egg, half fried egg, cheese and the likes. The most interesting section is for the pulao, where versions range from the regular tava pulao to the bhurji pulao (pulao cooked with egg bhurji), the bhaji pulao (pulao cooked with the veg bhaji) and the bhurji bhaji pulao… One of the stand alone items is the ghotala, a dish made using 4 eggs with 2 of them boiled and cooked in gravy and then topped with more eggs.
We ordered the Pav Bhaji, Egg bhurji with a single half fried egg and the Bhaji pulao. The Pav Bhaji wasn’t much to write home about, as there was nothing very different or spectacular about it. Served with 4 pavs, flat and dripping with butter, the bhaji was spicy and tasted very similar to what you would get at any of the Chowpatty stalls.
The Egg bhurji though was something to return for. It was again served with 4 pavs. The bhurji was well cooked and spicy as hell to suit the desi palette. It was topped with a half fried egg and you could see the yolk seeping into the dish making it a juicy affair. With each bite I could see my husband almost nodding his head in satisfaction and saying “this is good”.
But vegetarians fear not. What I ordered next was quite a novelty factor. The Indian version of stewed rice arrived on the table, piled up on a small plastic plate. The pulao was spicier and more flavorful than the regular tava pulao and the diced potatoes and other vegetables in it gave it the right amount of chunkiness. Just before me I saw another girl order it laden with cheese on top. I am sure that adds to the taste multiple fold. The mosambi juice we ordered to go with the spicy food also was good.
The cost for all of this was Rs 530 and was good enough for the both of us.
For the joy of a rice version of the Pav Bhaji or anything to do with eggs, this place is a must visit, again and again just to try every thing on the menu.
Name: Mohd. Nasir Cooperwala
Address: Mangal Jyot Building, CD Barfiwala Road, Vile Parle West, Mumbai. Landmark: Vodafone store
Specialities: Pav bhaji, Anda Bhurji, Pulao, Omlette
Veg/Non Veg: Both (Eggitarian)
Value for Money: 4/5
Food quality: 3.5/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5