10 OF THE BEST STREET FOODS IN MUMBAI
PAV BHAJI @ SARDAR’S
A five-minute walk from Mumbai Central station, Sardar’s Refreshments specialises in straight-from-the-streets, finger-licking pav bhaji. It’s hidden behind white barriers, but mutter “Pav bhaji?” to any passerby and they will point you in the right direction. Two metal plates arrive within minutes: one containing thick vegetable masala straddled by a slab of butter, the other with fluffy rolls so well buttered the bread’s yellow. Squeeze some lemon on top of the cholesterol laden goodness and tuck in, wiping the plate clean with the bread provided. Sardar's, 166- A tardeo Road Junction,
Tulsiwadi, near Tardeo bus depot, Open noon-2am
KEBABS @ SARVI
Mohammed Ali Road is the benchmark for skewered kebabs, which hang from smoking stalls like sizzling curtains. But towards the north end, veer left on to Dimtimkar Road and head to Sarvi. It’s been around for 90 years, has no sign, looks fire damaged, and grills the most tender seekh kebabs in the city. Crisp on the outside and melting in the middle, with a hint of mint – rumour has it they grind papaya into the meat. Get there early evening, as they sell out fast. Sarvi was a hangout for the underworld in the 90s, and it would be a crime to not try its bheja masala fry (brain fried with spices in a subtle gravy). Other dangerous dinners include the masoor (lentil) pulao which hides generous amounts of spiced kheema.
Sarvi, 184/196 Dimtimkar Road, opposite Nagpada Police Station, Byculla West, Rs 100 for four kebabs. Open 9.30am-11.30pm
While the kebab per se may not be unique to Mumbai or the region, a few varieties that emerged from the Bohri Muslim community are truly unique. Gurda (kidney) and kaleji (liver) top this list. Charcoal grilled, they go great with freshly sliced onions and a squeeze of lime. Try it at Ayubs, on the street behind Rhythm House, Kala Ghoda, open only in the evenings. For outstanding north west frontier style Kebabs, go to Peshawari, ITC Grand Maratha, Sahar Road, Andheri (E).
KHEEMA PAV @ OLYMPIA COFFEE HOUSE
Minced mutton cooked with onions, garlic, tomatoes, chillies and spices takes on many avatars here. In its original form, it is refereed to as plain Kheema. Topped with a crisply fried sunny side up egg, it is called kheema single fry. And scrambled with eggs, it is called ghotala. And all three are best eaten with Mumbai’s signature pao bread bun. Traditionally a
breakfast dish, it is mainly available in the mornings. Forget trawling Colaba’s tourist spots for delicacies and try lunch here the way the locals do it – with a plate of paya, Reshmi kabab or tandoori chicken, famous chicken biryani and a serving from the mutton handi. Bang opposite the infamous Leopold’s, where you get an array of more Western style dishes, Olympia also does a variety of snacks like kheema ghotala and savouries like omelette pao, and desserts like Caramel Custard. Try a plate of the delicious bheja fry bhurji with pav, bun maska and fresh lime water. And don’t forget, this is a coffee house, so top it all off with a milky, sweet cup of Irani Chai. Their tandoori pomfret fish is also delicious. Olympia is a local Muslim haunt teeming with male visitors, but female visitors are made to feel equally welcome.
Olympia Coffee House, Rahim Mansion, 1 SB Singh Rd, Colaba, Open 7am-midnight.
VADA PAV @ ANAND
It’s every Mumbaikar’s grab-and-go snack. Your arteries will tighten at the sight, but your stomach will thank you. Potato patties mashed with garlic, chillies and coriander are dipped in chickpea flour, fried golden, then laid in “pav” – springy white bap that’s well buttered, spread with coriander chutney and sprinkled with garlic and chilli powder. Everyone from students to businessmen flock to the Anand stall, under a purple and green awning, which whips up more than a thousand a day. An added touch is a plate of rock-salted fried green chillies, which aren’t nearly as fiery as you might think. Cool off with mini bottles of sweet lassi from the nearby stall.
Anand, opp Mithibai College, Gulmohar Road, Vile Parle West. Open 7.30am-11pm
PANI PURI @ ELCO PANI PURI CENTRE
The craft of it is part of the fun: vendors poke a thumb into a crisp fried puri, fill it with potato, chickpeas, onion and sprouted lentils, then dunk it into a sweet and sour mix of tamarind and jaggery, and also a liquid blend of coriander, mint and garam masala (made with mineral water). They also serve chaats and sizzling hot ragda pattice, as well as dosas and flavoured faloodas. Share the pavement with Bandra’s locals, and famous Bollywood actors.
Elco Pani Puri, 2/A Elco Market, 46 Hill Rd, Bandra West, Open 10 am-11.30pm
CHICKEN TIKKA ROLLS @ BADEMIYA
No Mumbaikar seems to have been to Bademiya before 3am – a testament to the late-night allure of its charcoaled, meaty goodness. A glorified open-air kitchen on wheels, Bademiya sits in a backstreet directly behind the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Waiters in red aprons appear from a cloud of smoke and hand over plastic menus. The chicken tikka rolls are the best option. Slid off skewers, the meat is wrapped in a steaming roomali roti – as thin and soft as a handkerchief – and topped with strips of fried onion. No sauce required, juices are enough. Mughlai dishes like murg musallam and shahi tukda are on offer.
Bademiya, Tulloch Rd, Apollo Bunder, Colaba, Rs 150 a roll. Open 5pm-4am.
BHEL PURI @ SHARMAJEE’S AND
Bhel puri is one of the most common all-day snacks: a crunchy, cold, sweetand-sour mix of puffed rice, sev, chopped onion and potato, and tamarind chutney. It has to be mixed and eaten on the spot, and most vendors will concoct their own variations. Chowpatty Beach is the home of bhel puri, where it should be eaten while strolling along the shore. Try Sharmajee’s (No 22) or Badshah’s (No 11), amid the cluster of stalls opposite the Levi’s Store, where rugs are spread out and bhel puri “touts” will bring it over to you.
Sharmajee’s and Badshah’s, Chowpatty Beach, Charni Road station, Open all day
CHANNA BHATURA @ CREAM CENTRE
As a rule, restaurants with laminated menus showing photos of their food aren’t to be trusted. Cream Centre is an exception. It does a version of channa bhatura that’s a bit on the oily side, but it’s rated the best in Mumbai by the hordes of students, families and workers on breaks. Sit tight in your booth and enjoy the sea breeze as a football-sized, deep-fried puri arrives, alongside a bowl of creamy masala chickpeas, diced potatoes and onions. Poke a finger in the top and watch the puri deflate slowly. A variety of other cocktail snacks are on offer, like chilli cheese toast, club sandwich, nachos, pizza and sizzlers.
Cream Centre, Fulchand Niwas 25/B Chowpatty Sea Face, Open noon-11.30pm.
CRAB @ MAHESH LUNCH HOME
Strictly not street food, but it’s a sin to come to Mumbai and not eat crab. Trishna is excellent, but full of expats and tourists, so try Mahesh, around the corner from the Mocambo Café, in Fort. Order the jumbo butter garlic pepper crab with a roomali roti to wipe up the crunchy bits of garlic and chilli. If you’re unsure about portions, waiters will happily bring your crab to the table to wave a leg at you. There’s only one way to eat it – with a bib and both hands, making as much mess as you like. Other Mangalorean seafood dishes on offer are Surmai curry. fish tawa fry and Gassi.
Mahesh Lunch Home, 8-B Cawasji Patel Street, Fort
JUICES & SHAKES @ BACHELORR’S
Bachelorr’s (yes, they’ve added an extra “r”), is the definitive hangout for smoothies, shakes and juices. It’s been in business since the 1940s and has generated a loyal following, who gather by the roadside kiosk during warm evenings, perched on car bonnets and in open boots. The cream-andstrawberry milkshake is a classic, but it also churns out numerous chocolate variations – from Classic Chocolate and Black Gold Premium to Liquid Marble – along with lassi, smoothies and a host of fresh lime, coconut water and lychee juices.
Bachelorr’s, Chowpatty Sea Face, opposite Birla Krida Kendra, near Charni Rd station, Open 3pm-11pm
Elco Paani Puri Centre
Kebabs @ Sarvi
Pav Bhaji @ Sardar’s
Butter Garlic Crab at Mahesh Lunch Home