The best Bangkok treats right here in Mumbai
Thai food comes in fourth after Chinese, Italian and Lebanese as the most popular foreign cuisine to be integrated into India's big cities. But those top three countries don't offer much else by way of cultural exports. Thai culture on the other hand has infiltrated big time, especially in Mumbai. From chanting to catering, foot spas to furniture and fashion, this is the best of Bangkok to be found in Mumbai.
Buddha no bar at Lakshmi Estate
We wanted to bar Buddhas in every shape and size from Mumbai homes after lifestyle stores across the city started stocking shiny mass-produced versions in all sizes. But then, we discovered the treasure of furniture stores locked up inside Lakshmi Industrial Estate, where Buddhas (and other Thai imports) are treated with more respect. At Petals, our favorite among these shops, you can buy intricately carved, seriously neat Asian furniture, from Thailand as well as Vietnam and Indonesia instead of drooling all day at Good Earth.
Petals, Lakshmi Industrial Estate, next to Fun Republic, Andheri (W), tel. +91 (0) 22 2636 4681
Fad Thai buys at the Kink boutique in Bandra
Gautam Hinduja developed designs on the Thai capital eight years ago when he first hit Bangkok’s Pratunam shopping district as a tourist. He instantly believed that the styles would be a hit in Mumbai, being comparitively trendier and cheaper than the local alternatives. So in 2003 he set up Kink, a store that sold Thailand-sourced fashion. It wasn’t long before others were following in his air miles. Today, Mumbai boutique owners, fashion stylists and shoppers are all part of the Bangkok gold rush. Other cool Thai buys include rompers from Izzo and tops from Candy Village.
Kink, 209, Kashikunj Building, Waterfield Road, Bandra (W), tel. +91 (0) 22 6677 8093; Candy Village, 94, Adarsh Building, Walkeshwar, tel. +91 (0) 22 6518 2418; Izzo, 4 Pankaj, Dr Ambedkar Road, next to Sarvodaya, Khar (W), tel. +91 919819804144.
Flesh fish fetish at Bamboo Tree in Bandra
Thailand’s fish fetish has recently swum over to Mumbai. Ubiquitous in Bangkok, but totally novel here, Dr Fish pedicures that employ the services of the dead-skin nibbling Garra Rufa species can now be tried and tested at Bambooo Tree All Day Spaa. This beauty-by-the-beasts treatment costs a reasonable Rs 550 for 45 minutes, but is still being eyed suspiciously by spa goers. If they absolutely had to pick something from Thailand’s shores, we suspect Mumbaikars would prefer the Thai fish curry any day.
Bambooo Tree All Day Spaa, 752 Merchant House, in the lane opposite Bagel Shop, New Kantwadi Road, Bandra (W), +91 (0) 22 32221861 or +91 9930142067
Speaking of Thai curry...
As you know, Thai food is extremely popular in Mumbai and the city has several stellar kitchens preparing this cuisine. Buzzing restaurants include Joss in Kala Ghoda, Thai Pavilion at the Taj President Hotel, East in Fort and Thai Ban in Pali Naka. Nachiket Shetye, ex-Nobu chef and owner of East restaurant that serves a mean Lamb Sate and Thai basil rice, believes Indians like Thai food because of the familiar flavors -- sweet, salty and spicy, with plenty of coconut. But how authentic is the Thai food in India we wanted to know? "I would say at best about 80 to 90 percent, because we often have to substitute out staples of Thai cooking, like fish sauce and shrimp paste for vegetarians," he explains. He also reveals the best place to find Thai ingredients is, unexpectedly, the Dadar vegetable market, where you can find fresh galangal, turmeric and small aubergines.
Catering to the party people
Did you know you can get great homemade Thai food for parties as well? Radhika Khanna runs Lotus Blossom, providing Thai food for parties of ten and more. The basil prawn and the whole crispy fish with sweet and spicy sauce have a scrumptious home-made taste.
Joss, 30, Kalaghoda, opposite Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, tel. +91 (0) 22 6635 6908; Thai Pavilion, Taj President Hotel, Cuffe Parade, tel. +91 (0) 22 6665 0808; East, 76, August Kranti Marg, Kemps Corner, tel. +91 (0) 22 2381 1010; Thai Ban, Shop no. 9, Gaspar Enclave, Junction of St. John's & Pali Road, Pali Naka, Bandra (West), tel. +91 (0) 22 2645 9775; Lotus Blossom, call Radhika Khanna on +91 9967624034, starts at Rs 350 per person.
In search of a true Thai massage
Among the myriad massage parlours and day spas burgeoning in this workaholic city, the year-and-a-half old CosmicMandala15 is the cream of the crop when it comes to feeling kneady, Thai style. A host of extra long massages by expertly trained Thai therapists are on offer because owner Heymal Kampani tries to keep her rituals as authentic as possible. When in Thailand, she visits the Chiva Som spa in Hua Hin, and when in Mumbai, she gets the next best thing. A Thai herbal hot compression treatment at CosmicMandala15. In winter, Kampani recommends a massage under the stars on the spa terrace with pretty views of leafy, old world Colaba and its art deco architecture. But we know, we know, who has the time? If it's a Bangkok style quickie you need, try a 30 minute foot reflexology by visually-impaired masseurs at Metta Reflexology Spa or the Sawadee Express foot rub at Aroma Thai outlets around the city.
CosmicMandala15, C-5, Amarchand Mansion, Madame Cama Road, Colaba, tel. +91 (0) 22 22043737, Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000; Metta Foot Reflexology Spa, 53, Suravi House, Pali Village, Bandra (W), tel. +91 9870719923, Rs 200; Aroma Thai outlets at Bandra, Lower Parel, Breach Candy and Malad, tel. +91 (0) 2353 6601, Rs 490.
Been looking for a Buddhist chanting session?
Nam myoho renge kyo is Mumbai’s new mantra. This Buddhist hymn, also known as the Lotus Sutra, is sending good vibrations through different neighborhoods as chanting groups spring up all over the city. Sonal Ahuja, Buddhist chanter, yoga instructor and Young Women’s Division Leader from the Indian chapter of the Soka Gakkai, believes that the increasing stress and negativity in Mumbai accounts for the popularity of this ancient ritual. "We meet in fellow members’ homes, chant, cleanse our karmas and study Buddhist philosophy. Anyone can join in," Ahuja says. Chanting sessions are also held at Nipponzan Myohoji, Mumbai’s oldest Buddhist temple at Worli. Peace out.
Call Sonal Ahuja on +91 9820938560 or log on to www.bharatsokagakkai.org; Nipponzan Myohoji, diagonally opposite City Bakery, Worli