Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in December 2016.
Mumbai's street food is called "chaat"
Popular snacks include veggie burgers, chutney sandwiches and pani puri
Like New Delhi, Mumbai is famous for its street food, called “chaat” – from the Hindi word chaatna, meaning “to lick.” It’s an apt description considering these snacks indeed will leave you licking your fingers.
Ready to start eating? Here’s our list of the best snacks in Mumbai.
We’ve thrown in a few extra videos from our recent Culinary Journeys trip to Mumbai to further whet appetites. And for those who fear the dreaded “Delhi Belly” – or should we say “Mumbai Malady?” – we’ve included some safe recommendations on where to try them.
This homegrown version of the veggie burger has been giving McDonald’s a run for its money.
Easy on the wallet and available everywhere, it’s probably Mumbai’s favorite street snack. Vada pav is a delightful melange of tastes and textures. A plump and warm fried vada (potato patty), crisp on the outside and mushy in the middle, is placed inside a pav (a thick bun) that’s been sliced open and smeared with fiery garlic and chili chutney.
For extra punch, semi-fried green chilies are served whole on the side.
Where to try it: Aram Batata Vada, Capital Cinema Building, Opposite CST Station
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Mumbai’s love affair with pav continues with this thick red curry of mashed vegetables (don’t worry, the red mostly comes from the copious amount of tomatoes that go in, not chili).
Pav came into Mumbai via the neighboring state of Goa, which actually acquired it from the pao (bread) of the Portuguese when they colonized the region several centuries ago. Substantial amounts of butter go into both the bread during the toasting process and the curry right before it’s served. Add in a squeeze of lemon and a dash of raw onion, and you’ve got heaven on a plate.
Where to try it: Sardar’s, 166-A Tardeo Road Junction, Tulsiwadi, near Tardeo bus depot
With this dish, Mumbai adds its own twist to the basic white bread sandwich.
The secret ingredient is a generous smearing of green chutney made with fresh coriander, green chili and garlic. Fresh veggies such as tomato and cucumber, boiled potatoes and even crumbled cottage cheese find their way into this sandwich, grilled to golden perfection on a small hand-held toaster.
We recommend skipping the vile tomato sauce the vendor will offer as a topping.
Where to try it: Bachelorr’s, Chowpatty Sea Face, opposite Birla Krida Kendra
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Easy to make, the bhel puri is one of few healthy foods found on Indian streets. Even boiled sprouts and green peas have made their way into more recent renditions.
It’s found across India, but the ingredients are what give each version its own regional taste. Half a dozen tastes, flavors and textures are all mixed together.
Mumbai’s bhel puri is made of puffed rice, sev (a thin and crisp fried snack made of chickpea flour), boiled potato, raw mango and onions, topped with fresh coriander and two or three chutneys (think sweet, spicy and sour).
For a chaat novice, the bhel puri is possibly the safest dish to start with spice-wise.
Where to try it: Swati Snacks, 248, Karai Estate, Opposite Bhatia Hospital, Tardeo Road
This is another street dish that has several regional variants – each claiming to be the first and best.
There’s pani puri in Mumbai, phuchka in Kolkata and golgappa in Delhi. The pani puri is a hollow fried ball made of refined flour. Punch a tiny hole in it and fill it with the stuffing of your choice then dip it in spiced water (first savory and then sweet).
Mumbai goes with boiled potatoes mixed with benign masala powders for its filling. Pop it whole into your mouth and wait for the flavors to hit.
Where to try it: Elco Market, 46 Hill Road, Bandra West
Ragda pattice is a quintessential Mumbai chaat, found at all self-respecting snack shacks.
Potato patties are shallow fried on a massive flat pan and served with a mild curry of white peas known as ragda. The garnish of sweet and spicy sauces, along with finely chopped onion and coriander, gives the dish its final kick.
Where to try it: Guru Kripa, Plot 40, Road 24, Near SIES College, Sion
Once you’ve tried all of the above, it’s time for dessert. Served in a tall glass, falooda is made up of vermicelli noodles, dried fruit and nuts, rose syrup and sabja seeds (sweet basil seeds).
For added sweetness opt for the kulfi falooda, which comes with a blob of rich local ice cream known as kulfi.
Where to try it: Haji Ali Juice Center, Breach Candy, Cumballa Hill
Charukesi Ramadurai is a freelance journalist and author from India.