Mumbai – street food experiences

When I’m on a work tour I have to be a bit careful about eating street food because if I become unwell it can affect my job quite badly, so I don’t often eat it. However, if it’s the weekend, or I’m on holiday, I’ll happily tuck into whatever is on offer. The best bet I think is to choose popular places with a high turnover and only eat food that has been cooked in front of you.

Please don’t think of this as a guide, it’s just a record of my personal experiences. There are more kinds of streetfood than I could try in a lifetime on the streets of Mumbai! My map is here.

One of my favourite street foods is the Samosa. Typically samosas are filled with mashed boiled potato, onions, green peas, lentils, spices and green chilli and encased in a crust of all-purpose flour before being deep-fried in vegetable oil.

They’re usually eaten with a fresh green chutney made from either mint, coriander, or tamarind. In this case they come with some fried garlic and chillis.

Here we have Misal (a Marathi word meaning “mixture”) which is a very popular spicy dish in Maharashtra. The ingredients are a combination of Usal, a curry made from beans (mung or moth beans, or dried peas) and Tarri, a spicy gravy.

It’s usually a small one-dish meal, but is served here as Misal Pav; with a bread bun akin to a burger bun and with some chutney alongside.

‘Pav’ I believe is a corruption of ‘pau’ the Portuguese word for bread.

At the same shop I also had Wada Usal, potato balls served in the same Tarri sauce.

Then there is Panipuri, where a hollow puri is filled with a mixture of flavored water (imli pani), tamarind chutney, chilli, chaat masala, potato, onion or chickpeas.

Chaat by the way is a whole genre to itself. There are hundreds of varieties but typical ingredients include dahi (yogurt), chopped onions, coriander, sev (thin dried yellow salty noodles) and chaat masala. The photos I took of mine came out too blurry to put up sorry.

Another favourite of mine are Vadas (also known as wada, vade, vadai, wadeh or bara); deep-fried fritters usually made with legumes of some kind, usually lentils.

These lovely examples were made for breakfast by my friend Vishaal who is a fantastic cook. He puts holes in the middle to increase the surface area which helps them cook more thoroughly.

In 2018 my friend Kiran took me on a food crawl in her local neighbourhood, Chembur. We begain with the famous Vada Pav at a street stall near the Chembur Post office on DK Sandu Street in Chembur East.

You’ll be able to work out which stall it is by the sizable crowd gathered around it.

The vadas here are shaped like balls and served with pav and some green chutney on the side.

For dessert we went to Jhama Sweets at CG Rd, Sindhi Camp, also in Chembur.

I’m a sucker for Gulab Jamuns (deep-fried balls of condensed milk served in sugar syrup) and they are renowned for them here.

A delicious new experience for me here was tasting Kharvas (also known as Barli) which is a sweet made from the first milk of a cow or buffalo (colostrum) after she has calved.

It’s mixed with plain milk, jaggery or sugar, and possibly cardamom, saffron, nutmeg or sesame to add flavour before being steamed. Mine seemed quite plain but with a very delicate milky flavour.

By the way, the Sindhis were Hindus who were relocated in camps in several Indian cities after the partition of India. They originate from Sindh, the land around the Indus River which is now in Pakistan. This area has one of the oldest civilizations in human history so the Sindhis have a very rich cultural heritage.

Other sweets you’ll often see being cooked on the street are Jalebis; sweets made from a dough of all-purpose flour and shaped into pretzel or circular shapes which are then deep-fried and soaked in sugar syrup.

Again, only something for those very sweet of tooth.

In the downtown you will see a lot of street stalls selling Ganna; sugar cane juice.

The cane is put through a crusher a couple of times to squeeze out all the juice. Video here. Then it’s strained and watered down to your taste. Video here. Warning, this drink is super sweet! I like it but its not for everyone.

That’s all for street food for now however I’ll definitely be adding to this post next time I’m in Mumbai.

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