Mumbai, (earlier Bombay) the city conjures a zillion images to the mind. From the vibrant, ever busy people, crowded trains and dabbahwallahs, Bollywood posters looming large, to the hawkers selling street food, push carts laden with mangoes and the iconic Red bus and black and yellow taxis, Mumbai has the stench, squalor and zest and pride!
Mumbai is a living, breathing city! A city whose people make it all happen.
To feed its millions of people, the city boasts of hawkers at every nook. Food sold at street kiosks is more convenient than a tight space at an Irani restaurant for the Mumbaikars. Its cheaper, tastier and fresh. Eating out is almost a culture – first are the early morning white-capped Vasai wallahs, train commuters and beach side joggers who satisfy hunger with a quick bite of vada pav or maska omelette. As the sun sets and crowds gather at the three beaches (Chowpaty, Juhu and Versova),dozens of street peddlers and hawkers get busy, preparing and instantly serving the hungry young crowds.
Vada Pav, Bhel Puri, Paani Puri, Jhunka Bhakr, Kanda Bhajji, Papdi chaat and Sev… tantalising treats for the taste buds as you walk the crowded streets. Braving the summer heat and a weak stomach, I decided to plunge headlong into a trip down memory lane to satiate my taste buds.
Vada Pav at Dadar
This is a MUST TRY! A top favourite with Mumbaikars, this simple, substantial dish is popular as ‘on the go breakfast’ by the train commuters and the Vasai wallahs who come into Mumbai suburbs in search of various work at factories, offices and container ports.
Sivaji Park and Gokhale Road, Dadar, are the best places to indulge into the buttery iconic Vada Pav, a Potato savoury dumpling sandwiched between soft, fluffy buttered bread. A spicy, fried carbohydrate rush!
Bhel Puri, Sev Puri near Versova Beach and Juhu Beach
Care for a tangy chutney spiced with fresh coriander chutney and spoonfulls of fine sev (fried gram flour vermicelli)? Head to Mumbai’s beaches at sundown. Along with the amateur football players and kite fliers, these are the best places intown to taste Bhel Puri, Paani Puri, Sev Puri. For a healthy drink ask for fresh tender coconut water from adjacent hawkers. Loaded with plenty of mineral goodness, coconut water is a refreshing drink and contamination free.
Most of these tangy snacks are eaten for their taste, rather than nutrition. Indians, by large also like to eat with their families or friends, so an outing to enjoy the sea breeze will mostly end up savouring some street snacks.
Cutting Chai and Makhan Toast
Even I, as a Mumbaikar stumbled off guard, when the stall owner asked me ‘Madam, cutting chai ? Ya poora cup?’ Well, it only meant whether I wanted my tea strong and cut by half, as consumed here. The small glass reminded me of a vodka shot glass. Large aluminium tea kettle, strewn paper cups thrown into a nearby dirty, plastic bucket and the smell of strong boiled tea leaves and a hint of ginger completed the street picture. Cutting chai can be taken more often, as one cup is divided / cut into 2 or 3 portions.
Falooda, Kebabs and Ramazan Treats at Haji Ali and Bandra Mosque
Mumbai is a cosmopolitan and very liberal city, a home to many communities like Jews, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs along the very vernacular Marathi speaking man and the outer Mumbai rural population. Thus festivals, cultural programmes and food are all laced with a tinge of communal harmony.
Come Ramzan (Ramadan) the popular Mohammed Ali road, Haji Ali Dargah, Byculla, Crawford market witness a change of food scene. In preparation for Iftar ( breaking of fast at sun set), streets are laden with fresh fruit cuts – watermelon, mango and kharbuja. Meat balls on sticks are wood fired on makeshift gas burners or charcoal bhatti.
Hawkers outside Colleges and train stations.
Indulging in chai discussions, preparatory talks for exams, women meeting outside the same train station every day is a common practice. Where else to relax with friends and food? Right on the streets outside most colleges ( SNDT, Mithibai, Parle, Ruia, KEM medical) dozens of hawkers set up semi permanent stands, mostly by day. Profit is counted only after the ‘hafta’ or bribe payment is given to the police watchmen, the area’s kingpin and municipal workers who make their regular rounds at the sites. The unwritten law goes ‘Live and let live’…Mumbai is a city for all.
The rich man, common man and beggar on street.
Food is for all. Come stand and savour it with the warm and simple Mumbaikar.
What is your favourite street food in Mumbai? Where did you eat?
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