Every January, a large ground in Versova fishing village in Andheri West is cordoned off for feasting. A string of stalls is erected, a massive stage is put up, and for three days only, Koli mummies and grand-mummies dish out over 20 varieties of fish (not to mention crabs, lobster and shrimp) from dusk to midnight. It’s often crowded and as loud as a fish market, but the community festival is a rare chance to sample the kind of traditional cuisine that never makes it to restaurant menus. And since the Kolis are traditionally fisherfolk, the catch is always fresh.
This year’s edition runs from Fri January 26-Sun January 28, 2018. Catch the sunset over the coastline en route to the large, enclosed ground at Ganesh Mandir on Church Road in Versova, Andheri. When you get there, join the most popular queues, and wait it out with a friend or by watching the Koli dancers and folk musicians performing onstage. There’s much to choose from: bombil pakodas, grilled king crabs, fish curries, prawn biryani, even a simple bangda (mackerel) fish fry can be delicious. Order what everyone else is having, or ask the brisk but friendly Koli ladies in colourful saris for a recommendation. Best of all, it’s affordable fare, with a full meal coming up to a few hundreds at most. Wash it all down with beer or a tumbler of tart sol kadi, a drink made with coconut milk and the purple kokum fruit.
The no-frills festival draws locals from Andheri and across the suburbs, so the crowds can be daunting. It’s best to go early, when there’s still breathing room, and before the best dishes run out. Pro tip: Carry a melamine or plastic plate with you. The foil plates at the festival can be quite flimsy, making it hard to eat food like crab and bony fish.
What: Versova Koli Seafood Festival
Where: Ganesh Mandir, Church Road, Versova Village, Andheri (W), Mumbai. Google map link here.
When: Fri January 26-Sat January 28, 2017, 6p.m.-midnight
Details: Get festival updates on the Versova Village Facebook page.