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Live the Bohri experience, bond over a thaal

‘A family that eats together stays together.’ Haven’t we heard this saying at home, at least while growing up. Chef Rumana Roohwala’s ‘Thaal’ in Reis Magos should be on your bucket list to feast on traditional Bohri Cuisine and experience the joy of feasting together

Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ

Today, each of us have our spaces and own timings for our meals, blame it on hectic lives, TV schedules, or whatever. So, in a time when dining tables have lost their significance, chef Rumana Roohwala has introduced traditional Bohra cuisine, including the thaal, where community sharing and bonding over food have great significance.

As you enter Thaal, situated in Reis Magos, the rustic-styled garden area also has a bar. With influences from the Middle East noticeable in the décor and furnishings, the feeling is homely and comfy as you enter to partake in the giant meal.

Forget about sofas, chairs and cutlery and hit the floor. Sitting on the carpet against cushions, with a group of people who are dear is unbeatable, and the cramps and discomfort will be a topic to laugh about while dining. For Rumana it is about sharing the Bohri lifestyle as guests enjoy eating a traditional Bohra meal while sitting around a large thaal that can accommodate up to eight people; placed on a safra (cloth), it is put on a tarakti (stand) on the floor.

Here, Rumana takes you through the entire meal, through the eight or nine courses, explaining the served dish, the significance of the food, its history and more. It is just not a meal, but an entire experience that begins with a hand washing ritual followed by tasting a pinch of salt that is believed to cure the taste buds. Well, expect no starters before you finish the dessert, as it is considered auspicious to begin with some ‘mithaas’.

The Kalamra prepared with curd rice, lots of dry fruit garnished with pomegranate seeds and rose petals was great to begin with. And while the food served is sufficient for the people seated, you can ask for more servings. Next came the khaaras, chana batata – a tangy salad made of chick peas, mutton kheema and moong dal mini samosas and some flavourful chicken bohri cutlets.

I asked for an extra serving of the samosas, but was weary of eating a lot as Rumana told us in the beginning that it would be an eight course meal and I wanted to keep adequate space for everything. So, I was being hard on myself, not over indulging in good food with Arabic and Middle Eastern influences.

Moving forward after some sweet and savoury items, we were served some malido – a traditional winter sweet that is made from crushed wheat, jaggery, dry fruits and ghee. This was so comforting.

For the main course on that Sunday there was the red chicken and mutton dum biryani. The Thaal menu has different offerings each day, and Rumana needs at least an hour and a half’s prior notice for the thaal. Alternatively one can dive into the Bohra cuisine from the a la carte menu; a tough task it is. We ended the meal with some homemade milk ice cream and paan which is complimentary for guests who choose the thaal. The cocktails here are also a must try. The Cinnamon Appletini was my favourite here!

This is a great place to begin the New Year with a resolution to try out different cuisines and explore cultures and cuisines together!

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