In December 2018, as I took a break from blogging, I travelled to India. Returning to the home of my ancestors after 15 years was magnificent! We spent a couple of days in Mumbai, shopping and mostly eating. Then, we headed to Goa for a big, fat Indian wedding, before going back to Mumbai for a few more days. I’ll be recounting all my food and travel adventures in Jaini’s Indian Journey, a new series on my trip to India, so stay tuned.
For the longest time now, I’d been yearning to go to India just to eat their famous street food. I mean, who wouldn’t when you hear about all the glorious food!
Mumbai, a melting pot of cultures, communities and culinary influences, is best represented by its vibrant street food scene. People from all economic and social classes in the city relish the variety of street foods, almost around the clock. The street food culture is very prominent and it’s more of a ‘stop for a bite’ culture so the portions aren’t huge because they don’t eat a lot at once but rather at multiple times, allowing them to enjoy a range of dishes.
So, when we visited Mumbai for a couple of days, of course, I had to indulge in all my food fantasies. And this was just a start to my foodie adventures in the city by the bay. Please note that is really a non-comprehensive list of what to eat in Mumbai and rather a list of what I just managed to try on this visit.
- Sandwiches at Sandwizzaa
One of the local favorite Mumbai street foods is the Bombay street food is the Bombay sandwich. A vegetarian sandwich built on buttered white bread topped with cilantro and mint chutney, thinly sliced beetroot, onion, cucumber, tomato and a layer of masala potatoes, followed by shredded cheese and a sprinkle of chaat masala (a mix of Indian spices). And one of the best places to get it is at Sandwizzaa highly recommended to me, especially by my physio.
Well, I got to indulge it on my first day in the city. Having gone shopping in Santacruz, I came across, what I later found out to be the original stand, Sandwizzaa. Excited and thrilled to see throngs of people by the stand, we quickly grabbed a sandwich before heading to the stores to shop.
The Sandwizzaa menu consisted of toasted, untoasted and grilled sandwich versions of various vegetable concoctions available in white or brown bread. They also had the simple cheese sandwich and jam sandwich for the pickiest of eaters and a cheese pineapple sandwich for the adventurous ones. There was something for everyone. Watching them make these sandwiches as they hacked the bread was an experience.
While Diva and I opted to share a Veggie Mayo Toast sandwich with finitely diced fresh vegetables, mayonnaise and cheese with the Spicezzaa sandwich masala on white bread, Mom opted for the Spinach Corn Toast sandwich. This was an onion and spinach corn stuffing with cheese, mayonnaise and Spicezzaa sandwich masala on toasted brown bread. It was almost like an Italian twist to our veggie sandwich. Meanwhile, Dad opted for the classic jam sandwich of plain white bread with butter and jam.
These sandwiches were moreish and flavorsome. In fact, I asked Mom and Dad to get me another one when they were in the area later on another day.
Started in 1986 by Omprakash Sharma & his brother’s from Santacruz (W), Sandwizzaa gained a reputation for serving up delicious Bombay sandwiches. After years of perfecting the art of making chutneys, stuffing and assembling sandwiches, three young men approached Omprakash Sharma in 2007 wanting to take the concept a notch higher. So then, Swastik Foodmart Pvt Ltd was formed, whereby Sandwizzaa grew with several outlets across India and a line of bottled Spicezzaa masalas sold across these branches.
- Cutting Chai everywhere
When in India, you have to try the sweet cutting chai. Not just a mere cup of tea, cutting chai is a hot soothing brew of strong Indian tea made with plenty of creamy milk and plenty of spices and sugar. After indulging in some Sandwizzaa, drinking hot cups of cutting chai with a Parle G biscuit on the side of the streets of Mumbai was a great way to cool down in the heat and an absolute must after hours of shopping.
- Pani Puri on the streets
Right after enjoying my Sandwizzaa and some shopping, I tried the pani puri from a roadside stall. Pani puri are little hollow balls of crisp fried puri filled with cooked potato and mung beans, and then topped with a mix of spicy water and tamarind sauce. You can get it ‘teekha’ – super spicy or ‘meetha’ – a sweet, tangier version with the addition of tamarind sauce. The mix of spicy and sweet is truly amazing and as soon as the vendor hands you one, you’ve got to eat it on spot immediately.
Try the streetside pani puri at least once! However, since it does contain water, do be cautious where you eat it and that the pani puri spot is popular and busy which implies it should be good.
- Chaat at Girgaon Chowpatty
Speaking of pani puri, I had some of the best at the Girgaon Chowpatty, one of Mumbai’s popular beaches, right along Marine Drive. It is popularly known for its Ganesh Visarjan celebrations to celebrate the end of Ganesh Chaturthi (celebrating the birth of Lord Ganesh) when thousands of people from all over Mumbai and Pune come to immerse the idols of Lord Ganesh in the Arabian Sea.
DID YOU KNOW?
The word Chowpatty is derived from chau-pati (four channels or four creeks).
During the day, the beach is a retreat from the routine of the day-to-day city life, while at night it is lit up with several food vendors who’ve set up colorful stalls there.
Girgaon Chowpatty offers a fun frenzy of yummy delights at cheap rates. You can find anything from dosas and pav bhaji to pani puri, sev puri, dahi puri and bhel here to traditional Indian desserts such as kulfi and gola. We opted to enjoy fresh pani puri from one of the vendors, followed by steaming hot plates of pav bhaji.The pani puris were little flavor bombs exploding in my mouth and we couldn’t get enough!
Pav bhaji is a fast food dish made with a thick mashed vegetable gravy fried in butter and/or ghee and then served in a pan-fried soft bread roll, ‘pav’. Originated in the 1850s, the dish became a quick lunchtime meal for textile mill workers in Mumbai.
Ours was served with a spoonful of butter and it was delightful as we lapped up the spicy mashed vegetable curry with the soft white bread. It was simply decadent!
For dessert, we wrapped it up with kulfi and gola. The kulfi, a creamy Indian ice cream flavored with saffron, was rich, velvety and topped with almonds and pistachios.
Diva and I opted to share a kala kata gola, a shaved ice lolly drizzled in a sweet, tangy blackberry syrup. Ooh, it was incredible!
- And since it was India, we had cups of sweet cutting chai to wrap up our street food exploit.
OTHER HONORARY MENTIONS:
Due to time constraints, we didn’t manage to try these but they are highly recommended.
- Vada Pav outside Mithibai College
The Anand Vada Pav, right across from the Mithibai College, serves up some of the best Vada Pav, according to the residents of Mumbai. Termed as Mumbai’s version of the vegetarian burger, a Vada Pav consists of a spiced mashed potato mixture, which is deep-fried into a patty, packed into a white fluffy bun, and garnished with a variety of different chutneys and spices for seasoning. We’ve even attempted to make miniature versions of this scrumptious treat once for Diwali at home.
- Pani Puri at Elco Centre
I had already gotten my fill of pani puri at Girgaon Chowpatty, so I decided to skip this one but If you want street-style pani puri but don’t want to risk a sick stomach, then try the tangy cold pani puri and other chaats at Elco Centre.
Photos by Hitesh & Diva Shah