Blog Spice Market at Lalbaug - a photo-walk

Spice Market at Lalbaug - a photo-walk

Posted by Author on in Blog 49

- By Deepa Krishnan

Some months ago I went exploring the spice and pickle market at Lalbaug.
Lalbaug Market, as seen from the flyover
(click on photo for super-duper large view!)
Apart from spices, there is a bustling vegetable market, a farsan market called Chivda Galli, and a busy fish market in this area. Wedding and religious paraphranelia, shops selling daily needs items, kitchen utensils and provisions, all make for an interesting introduction to to Maharashtrian cuisine and culture.

Here are some photos from my walk. I really haven't been able to do justice to everything I saw, so I've focused mostly on spices in this set. But I hope this will give you some flavour of the area.
Gunny-sacks of coriander, still greenish, being cleaned and dried
Coriander powder is an essential element of Marathi cooking, and is used in a wide assortment of curries and vegetables. It is often combined with cumin and other spices to make masalas. 

The most conspicuous thing in the market are stacks and stacks of red chillies. Several varieties are on sale. 
Kashmiri Mirchi, the non-spicy variety, great for adding red colour to dishes
An extra-spicy variety - packs quite a wallop!
There were women sitting behind the chilli sacks, sorting the chillies by size. None of them had any sort of gloves or protection for the skin. It is not really crazily expensive to get a pair of gloves - so this sort of carelessness is mostly a result of ignorance. It's not just in the spice market - I see this lackadaisical attitude towards safety in many small industries.

Another popular item sold in this market is dried copra. Coconut trees are plentiful in the coastal areas of Maharashtra, so it is used in both fresh as well as dried forms. Copra is ground along with garlic and red chillies to make lasun chutney, a local favourite.
Edible Copra. India is the world's third largest grower of coconuts, after Indonesia and the Philippines
For those who wish to make their own masalas, the stalls offer a range of spices. I've named them in Marathi  below in sequence, starting with the lower row, and I hope you can click on it to see a larger photo. Bottom Row (starting from closest one): kalajira (nigella), methi (fenugreek), dhania (coriander), jeera (cumin), rai of two types (mustard), saunf (fennel), safed til (white sesame), and ajwain (carom).  Top Row (starting from closest one): (anasphal) star anise, two more jeera boxes (cumin), jaiphal (nutmeg), kalimiri (pepper), lavang (clove), dalchini (cinnamon), tirphal (Sichuan pepper) and dagadphool (stone-flower, a lichen) and tamaalpatra (bayleaf).
Spices for sale on the main road, near the Lalbaug flyover.
Above the spices are a set of cans containing lonche (pickles) for sale.
While most of the spices above are familiar to all Indians, tirphal (Sichuan pepper) is not. It is something you see only in Konkani cooking. Tirphal grows in the area around Goa. You can see a recipe here for coconut chutney flavoured with tirphal.

The people who shop in this area are typically Marathi-speaking communities (erstwhile mill-worker families). Although most of the mills are no more, the area continues to remain home to the workers, who have now moved to other occupations. There are also Gujarati-speaking women, but fewer in number.
Maharashtrian women buying chilllies and copra
Gujarati lady entering utensil shop
Once you buy the spices, you can bring them to the grinding mill if you want your own customised spices. This photo shows the inside of a masala shop in Chivda Galli. On the right is a lady who is waiting for her ground chilli powder.
Woman waiting for her turn at the masala shop.
The shop also offers a menu of spices, powders, pickles and papads.
The shop offers Malvani Masala, Sunday Masala, Mix Masala,
Garam Masala,  Goda Masala, Banarsi Masala,
and Ghati Masala. They also sell pickles.
In Chiwda Galli, there are several shops selling different types of farsan. You can also see the workshops where the farsan is made and packed.
Chiwda Galli, Lalbaug
I found a shop that sells the syrupy concoctions that all the gola-stands in Mumbai use. I always wondered where they got their stuff from, and now I know :)
Sai Krupa Sherbet and Cold Drink offers wholesale cans of sherbet in several flavours:  orange, lemon, pineapple, kala-khatta, mango, raw mango, rose, kokum, ginger-lemon, gooseberry, pista, butter-scotch, kesar, elaichi, and strawberry
There are two interesting buildings in Chivda Galli. The first is Hanuman Theatre, which is now a party hall. Hanuman Theater is where, when the mills first started, the mill workers would gather for tamasha shows, bringing the rural culture of Maharashtra into the city of Mumbai. Inside there is a shrine to a lavni artiste, a lady who was said to be possessed by the "devi". Adjacent to it is the dargah of Chand Shah Vali, where a Hindu Gaikwad family have for multiple generations been the caretakers. The dargah was destroyed by Hindu rioters in 92-93, but has been built again. The Gaikwad family continues to officiate here. 
New Hanuman Theatre Mangal Karyalay and Dargah of Chand Shah Vali. The tall building behind is Hilla Towers, built in the compound of a Parsi fire temple. 
I didn't photograph the fish market, the meat market and the pickles and spice market on the main road. Or the shops with tea and groceries and vegetables. Or the interesting chawls. I did of course, photograph the most popular "madka" shop in Lalbaug Industrial Estate :) 
Where there are spices, can the pickle jars be far  behind?
I'm going back there soon for another photo-walk. Anyone who wants to join me is very welcome! :)