Mumbai: A Healing City and More

By Vikas Khanna


I first came to Bombay to get surgery done in my legs. My parents were told Bombay afforded the best hospitals and the best doctors. Since then I have been to Bombay or Mumbai as it is known now, many times.

Bombay is a healing city for me, especially when I see how people come together in times of need.

(Photo courtesy of Shiva Photography)

Bombay is like New York. People are always doing something, creating something. In the 90s when I was there more frequently, it was a very safe city. All of us would go out late at night and hang out with friends till wee hours of the morning, and we never felt unsafe.

It is also now a cuisine capital and a foodie’s delight. You can try out so many different kinds of food there both local and international.

It was in 1992 while I was at Welcome Group’s famous Sea Rock hotel in Bombay, when an event became a life altering moment for me. The 1992 riots had broken in Bombay. I was stuck inside the hotel and the outside staff couldn’t come in. There were just four of us handling the kitchen and the people for almost three weeks, but it was the most bonding experience for me as we took care of people and kept things running. I said to myself - I love this."

Bombay Specialty Dishes from Vikas Khanna

Vegetable Bonda

Makes 15 croquettes


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 large onion (finely chopped)

2 green chilies, such as Serrano (finely chopped)

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

A 1-inch fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped

3 medium potatoes (boiled, peeled and finely mashed)

½ cup green peas

Salt to taste


1 cup gram flour

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

Vegetable oil for frying

Heat the oil in a medium skillet on medium heat and add the mustard seeds and stir until sizzling, about 1 minute. Add the turmeric powder, onion, chilies, coriander leaves, and ginger and cook until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the mashed potatoes, green peas cook, stirring consistently until well mixed. Season it with salt and let it cool at room temperature.

Make a smooth batter by slowing adding water till it reaches a consistency of a thin pancake batter. The batter has to be light for properly coating the croquettes.

Heat the oil to 350¢ªF in a frying pan or wok.

Roll the vegetable filler into small lime sized balls. Dip them in the watery dough and directly put them in the hot frying oil. The right consistency of the dipping dough is ensured if the bonda fries well.

If the dip is too watery, the bonda will open up spilling out the potato mixture. If dip is too thin, add a bit of gram flour to thicken (you may also add cayenne pepper and salt to keep the right proportion).

Drain the excess oil on kitchen paper and serve hot.

Mumbai Style Machli

(This recipe has the flavors of Mumbai that I have tried to retain in a new style)

Serves 4

1 pound fresh monkfish, skinned  

1 cup milk 

1/4 lb shrimp (20/24) shelled and de-veined  

2 medium eggs  

3 tablespoons tomato paste  

1/2 teaspoon curry powder  

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped  

1 pinch of saffron 

3/4 cup half and half

2 tablespoons coconut milk 

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon wedges for garnish

Preheat oven to 350¢ª F.

Put the monkfish in a medium skillet, just large enough to hold it on medium heat. Pour the milk and season it with salt covering it consistently. Bring it to a simmer, cover, and cook for another 8 minutes. Turn the fish and cook for another 7 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. When the monkfish is nearly done, add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they turn pink. Drain the milk and reserve the fish and shrimp.

Cut the fish and shrimp into bite-size pieces.

Beat the eggs with the tomato paste, curry powder, lemon juice, rosemary, saffron, 1/2 cup half and half, and coconut milk. Mix in the fish and shrimp and season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn into 4 individual ramekins and pour an equal amount of the remaining cream over the top of each dish. Bake for 20 minutes, or until set.

Serve hot with lemon wedges.

A chef by profession, Vikas Khanna’s food is a blend of his traditional Indian Culinary Background and the flavors and history of the highly diversified New York food culture. He is owner/executive chef and consultant to several restaurants and has won acclaim from the prestigious James Beard Foundation.

Vikas is the founder of New York Chef Chefs ’Cooking for Life’, a non profit organization that brings together celebrated chefs of New York City, for tasting events to raise funds for relief efforts around the world. The proceeds of the events benefit organizations such as Save the Children, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, and many more.

Based on his research on the power of the palate, he has created, Vision of Palate, a series of food tasting workshops, designed to educate people with visual disabilities about the complex flavors and aromas of spices and herbs

Through SAKIV (South Asian Kids Infinite Vision), Vikas reaches out to different EYE foundations around South Asia. ’SAKIV- world’ was established in 2005 to host vision expos all around the world. Vikas is an honorary member on the Board of the World Peace Society, New York.

He is the compiler and illustrator of the book,’The Cuisine of Gandhi: Based on the Beliefs of the Legend’, a selection of Gandhi’s writings on food. His forthcoming book ’The Spice Story of India’, is his journal of recipes that are a result of his experiences while working with culinary masters.

Vikas is a graduate of the WelcomGroup School of Hotel and Hospitality Administration, India. He has also studied restaurant management at Cornell University, Food writing at Culinary Institute of America and Food Styling at The New School. He has taught at The New School Culinary Arts, Johnson & Wales, New York University, and Harvard Extension School.

To know more about Vikas Khanna and his work, please visit

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