B**F tongue roast isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s an acquired taste, even for many seasoned carnivores. It isn’t juicy like a medium-rare steak is. Nor does it have the fall-off-the-bone feel of a well-made mutton curry. But the problem, essentially, lies in the mind. The idea of eating an animal’s tongue or, for that matter, its heart or trotters just doesn’t sit well with the general junta in this country.

That’s a shame, because this mind block means they are missing out on the tongue roast (‘300) from Zita’s Kitchen. These are succulently dry pieces of meat that are flavoured with a subtle blend of East Indian masalas. In case you didn’t know, the East Indian bottle masala is as integral to this community as rasam is to a true-blue Tamil who slurps it off his fingers after mixing it with rice. Anything between 20 and even 60 ingredients reportedly go into it depending on the family recipe, including unusual ones like a plant called mugwort and stone flower, a type of lichen. Chilli powder is a constant, whether of the Resham Patti or Kashmiri varieties.

B**f khudi
B**f khudi

But that doesn’t mean that it’s so spicy that your stomach will catch fire. This is because East Indian bottle masalas are tempered with a continental influence of the Portuguese first, and then the British. It’s a unique blend that reflects the indigenous Indian community’s multicultural influences. You can travel all over the world with a pit-stop at Timbuktu and still won’t find it outside the extended Konkan coast, which is where most East Indians reside even to this day.

Zita’s menu celebrates this history. We try her tongue roast with a bottle of beer and it beats chakna hollow (if only her dish entered the city’s dive-bar menus). But it’s the khudi (‘300) — again made with b**f — that truly encapsulates the magic of her bottle masala. The discernible taste of grated coconut subdues the already-tempered masala even further. You can have copious amounts of it either with pao or steamed rice, and your belly will still be fine the next morning. Let’s not forget that this is the reason why we were colonised as a country. Historically, Indian spices constitute our boon as well as our bane. And it’s this particular community that struck a balance between the West and the East. So, give Zita’s Kitchen a shot even if you are a carnivore who is squeamish about the idea of a tongue roast. Open up your mind.

Trust us. You won’t regret it.

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Let’s cut to the chase. What we are trying to establish here is that unless you are a vegetarian, a well-made tongue dish can be a thing of beauty. Zita’s roast is a lip-smackingly good starter. But the tongue chilli fry (‘400) at Snyder’s Bistro in Malad is a full meal — it’s like the 500-page novel equivalent of Zita’s short story. But the name of the dish is a misnomer. The ‘chilli fry’ tag fooled us into thinking that we’d need to keep a bottle of water handy. What we tasted instead is a recipe with onions, tomatoes and potatoes that lent a discernible sweetness to it. A blend of spices preferred in East Indian cooking kept that flavour profile intact. It went on to reinforce how this hybrid community of our own country people catered to the taste buds of both, the West and the East.

Pork sorpotel pao
Pork sorpotel pao

We also tried a pork sorpotel pao (’75). But the pork samosa (’25) symbolises this hybrid nature the best. Think about it. The pastry originated in Persia. It then travelled back in the day all the way to India, where all sorts of vegetarian fillings including cauliflower and potatoes were stuffed in it. Sure, there was chicken and mutton as well. But, pork? Really? What’s next? B**f tongue? Why not. Who’s stopping us? Let’s evade that question.

Instead, let’s celebrate our diversity. East Indians are an integral part of this city’s cultural fabric and, let’s face it, they don’t get what is their due. They live in the shadows like minorities here are wont to do. But the truth is, some people eat b**f. Others don’t. Some people like the texture of tongue. Others don’t. Who cares either way? Let’s not forget that at the end of the day, it’s just food.

Tongue chilli fry
Tongue chilli fry

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The fry sticks out its tongue to the roast

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