When you think of South American food, the first thing that comes to your mind is juicy meat topped with some melting cheese, oh yum! But what if I told you this South American Table is purely vegetarian? Yes, that is exactly what Rachana Shah Sony, the founder of catering brand Second Helping had in store for us, diners this past weekend.
Being a hardcore non-vegetarian this was a challenge that I accepted. The only vegetarian food I eat is paneer, potatoes and few pulses so imagine having to go through an entire vegetarian meal. Scary, right? And in a country that is obsessed with Indianising even the fast food industry giants like McDonald's and KFC, every Indian knows that paneer is the substitute for chicken (Chicken samajh ke khaa le na!). So like any other Indian mom who knows how fussy their child can get over food, my mother said to me, 'There will be paneer beta'. Having seen the menu I knew there was going to be no paneer to save me!
The event was to start at 7:30 pm, so, I reached the place at 7:15 and to my surprise, it was at a lovely home! I was the first one of the diners to reach the event and this is when I met Rachana who welcomed me in. We sat down and chatted for a while about what made Rachana explore this cuisine and how a graphic designer became a chef. I also met her husband Pawan, sister Sonal and nephew Yash so it felt like you were invited by your friend or relative for a meal at their place and it was lovely. By 8 pm, the other diners joined us and we soon sat down to gorge on some delicious South American food.
The diners included a newly-married Bengali couple, a married couple with a college going son, a family of three and this harcore non-vegetarian. So you have nine people belonging to different parts of India living in various parts of Mumbai gathered at a table in Churchgate to experience South American food. It does not get better than this. But will this non-veg lover survive this all-veg meal? Read more to find out.
The meal started with a refreshing drink called Pina Menta Agua Fresca which was made from fresh Pineapple and refreshing mint. It was a perfect drink for the Mumbai weather. Next came in the appetizers.1) We were served Empanadas first which are traditionally filled up with meat but here the empanadas were filled up with minced vegetables, ancho chillies and mild cheddar. They were served with this delicious guava sauce that was loved by every diner. The empanadas were beautifully made and were a delight to eat.
2) Arepas were the next appetizer to be served. These are corn griddle sandwiches which are popular in Venezuela and Colombia. They were served with fried plantain chips that were mildly spicy. These thin and crispy chips were so good that you cannot stop yourself from eating them. The Arepas were served with a dip and they tasted real good.
3) Tacos, yes, tacos were the third appetizer. Unlike the traditional taco which is rolled up, Rachana served us a flat taco which made sure it didn't get messy as we eat them. The taco was loaded with spicy beans and fresh lettuce. A salsa sauce was served with the tacos and it was simply amazing.
A special mention needs to be made of Rachana's nephew Yash, a seventh grader who was super excited about serving every diner and Rachana refers to him as her Sous chef.
By now you may have realised that this non-veg lover may have just become a vegetarian food lover.
As we kept eating, the conversations kept flowing and the topic of discussion was just about everything from food to movies to critics! Rachana also told us that she has been trying to grow some chillies at her place and hopefully soon she won't have to import them from outside.Next was time for some main course. First up was Ocopa Arequipena which is a part of the Peruvian cuisine. It was served with some tortillas. It is essentially a potato bake with fresh cheese and walnut sauce. I was a fan of the fresh cheese and walnut sauce for sure but sadly not so much of the potato bake.
The second and the last of the main course was the Sweet Potato and Queso Fresco Steak which was served with mole and Argentinian Barbeque salsa. Beautifully grilled, the steak was a sure winner. The mole was made of dark chocolate, almond, cashews and cinnamon, spicy and chocolaty for sure! The argentinian barbecue salsa is made with fresh tomatoes, onions, parsley and red wine vinegar.
Now that we were done with the main course it was time for some desserts.The first dessert to be served was the Jamaican Fruit Trifle which was a mix of cream topped with toasted almonds and shredded coconut and tropical fruits which included mangoes, papayas and pineapple. It was a perfectly light dessert with fresh elements that was loved by all.
The last one of the meal was the Tres Leches Cake which is butter cake soaked in three kinds of milk (condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream) and served with fresh fruits.
By now every diner, including me, was pretty full and left the pop-up with a huge smile on our faces. You would have guessed by now that I for sure had started to love vegetarian cuisine that was not Indian and didn't include paneer.
For those who missed it this time around, they will be conducting another Pop-up in June and you should not miss this one! And don't forget to check out and follow MyHungerPangs on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.