A samosa for a very naughty boy: Punjabi Moti Halwai Karachiwala

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Samosa Punjabi Moti Halwai


One of my favourite restaurants to hang out at Fort these days is Punjabi Moti Halwai Karachiwala. I wonder if places like these would be considered as ‘restaurants’ or eateries, in a world where restaurant lists are dime a dozen. It has one big hall that opens onto a narrow but very busy street. Inside it, in dorm-like symmetry lie rows of tables and benches. The benches don’t have padding or cushions. Moti Halwai has struck the right balance of serving food which reminds you of home, with seating which ensures that you don’t feel too ‘at home.’ The classic Indian restaurant format of yore. It is not air-conditioned. Its high ceiling, thick walls and fans whirling ponderously ensure that you do not miss this.
Diagonally opposite it is Yazdani Bakery. It was once a fixture of mine when I went to Fort. I’d stop there for a cup of chai, bun maska and chitchat with the owners son/ nephew (depending on whom you are talking about). The cafe section of the bakery is now shut. There is a counter from which they retail their breads. The two senior owners have both passed away during the pandemic. I am told that my friend is unwell and doesn’t come to work anymore. There are many rumours to do with Yazdani. All I want is a return to the innocent ‘bun maska dipped in chai while reflecting on life experiences’ days’, rumour mongers be damned.
Channa Bhatoore


I first noticed Moti Halwai many moons back when I worked out of Laxmi Building in Fort. I walked past it one afternoon after a not-so-exciting lunch at Ankur, when I saw a short thin gentleman with an equally thin moustache making lassi. He was surrounded by a posse of lawyers, waiting patiently with thick folders in their hands for their glass of lassi.
I joined the crowd and had a glass of lassi myself and was hooked forever. I checked the name of the shop. Moti Halwai.
I’d stop there subsequently during my food walks and the lassi would hypnotise my guests, local or international. 
The thin gentleman disappeared after some time and was replaced by a much younger man but the lassi remains ageless.
While the lassi man has disappeared, there is a waiter who recognises and welcomes me each time. 
After so many visits, I now have the pleasure of knowing Mr Sunil Sehgal, the soft spoken, cap wearing, IHM Mumbai grad, 2nd generation owner of Punjabi Moti Halwai Karachiwala. During a recent visit, he sat with me for close to an hour and told me the story of his father, Moti Halwai, who had founded the sweet shop after he came to Mumbai from Karachi post the partition. Sunilji’s biggest source of pride? His dahi which is so thick and pure that it does not fall out even if the bowl in which it is set is turned over. 
I skip the lassi these days. Too much sugar for someone who is diabetic. 
I order a channa bhature when there. I am seldom alone and hence share the calories. 
I was rather naughty the last time I went there. I ordered a plate of samosas and had both by myself… with all the maida, alu, and transfats that cane with them. 

There are times when a man needs to live a little. 

If you are me, then that’s rather often!

Gulab jamun at Moti Halwai


Ps: Mr Sehgal is very proud of the gulab jamuns at his shop. I shared one with the director of my upcoming show on tea during the samosa visit. She packed six more for home. Mr Sehgal clearly is not a man to make tall claims!


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