The word “core” has a lot of meaning right now as I write this since it represents my return to preparing food and serving stories. This series focuses on foods or components that shape communities, places, and individuals. The first one comes from my place ‘Virar’, a little less cosmopolitan but it has the same madness and chaos. And it’s not too far from Mumbai (we still call ourselves Mumbaikar, iykyk).

On a cold winter morning, the aroma of spice-pecked roasted chicken leads you to Agashi Bhujing Centre in Agashi , some five kilometres from the busy Virar station. The sparsely equipped centre doesn’t have a dine-in option. Agashi Chicken Bhujing, a third generation shop tucked inside a lane in Agashi, serves “bhujing” an unique meat and poha dish that has fans everywhere. This is the place that birthed the bhujing back in 1940’s and still going strong. The Marathi word bhujne, which implies roasting, is the root of the word bhujing. Many privileged locals who had frequent interaction with the British in the 1940s added “ing” to the dish. The dish is a mixture of Poha, chicken, potatoes with coarsely grounded masalas.

My take on it comes from avoiding to use chicken but keeping the meaty mouthfeel constant, hence the use of mushrooms, for extra umami as well. The choice of spices is simple, cloves, peppercorns, cumin, cinnamon. Mushroom first marinated with a paste made of chillies, garlic, ginger and roasted later mixed with cooked onions, further steamed to retain the moisture, and aids in cooking the poha. A flavourful brunch dish to enjoy on your lazy Sunday with G&T, or a chilled beer!

The Virar One

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