Mumbai Street Food: 5 of the best street foods in Mumbai
Mumbai Street Food: Which is the best? Where to Eat the best street food in Mumbai, like a local? Check out Abby’s top picks: 5 of the best street foods in Mumbai, or Bombay, and the places where to eat the best street food in Mumbai like a local and be super happy.
Street food, the true taste of India. If you want to learn a city’s culture, eat their food. Or more so, eat their street food! And if you’re going to India, you’ll be amazed at the variety of street food you find, from the bhel to the pani puri, from the sev puri to the dahi puri, from the ragda pattice to the pay bhaji, from the samosa to the vada pav, from the medu wada to the dosa… Should I go on? There’s such a diverse assortment of street food here, you could actually live on that alone. Nay! I’m not kidding. Add to that, every city has its own favorite street food or a particular local style of creating a famous street snack. But today, let’s talk about the street food in, Bombay.
Bhel Puri or Bhel
Bombay Bhel Puri, that’s the most common name of a lot of food vendors. Common belief is that bhel (or bhel puri or Bhelpuri) originated in Bombay or Mumbai. It is famous in Western India as a snack that can be eaten anytime and anywhere.
The base of this dish is puffed rice to which an assortment of sev, onions, tomatoes, chilies, chutneys, and more is added. There are two types of bhel – dry bhel and wet bhel. Dry bhel is a hand-tossed mixture of puffed rice, sev, chopped onions, potatoes and tomatoes, chopped chilies and coriander and a dash of lemon juice. (Sev is the fine yellow stuff you can see in the picture, and is usually made off of a fried paste of gram flour.) Wet bhel, on the other hand, contains all of these ingredients and is also covered with generous amounts of meetha or khatta chutney. Meetha chutney, which I love, is a sweet chutney made of dates, jaggery, and tamarind; while khatta chutney is a tangy and spicy chutney made of mint, coriander, lemon, jaggery and plenty of chilies. Sev is sprinkled on top of the bhel along with a handful of roasted peanuts. The most frequent method bhel is served by the street vendors’ is in a handmade paper cone, although some street stalls nowadays serve you bhel in plates. It can be eaten with spoons, but is traditionally eaten with the puris it’s served with. Puris are small flat savoury discs of deep fried flour. Bhel can cost anywhere from INR 12 in on the streets to ten times that in a good restaurant. Of course, prices differ in different suburbs of the city as well. But does it really matter that much, given that one Rupee or INR 1 is equal to USD 0.016 or GBP 0.012?
Bhel by itself is more than enough to get your taste buds going crazy, but let’s talk about a dabeli. Dabeli, also known as Kutchi Dabeli is supposedly the invention of Keshavji Gabha Chudasama from the Kutch region of Gujarat in India somewhere in the 1960’s. ‘Dabeli’ in the Gujarati language actually means ‘pressed’, which is what the snack is.
It’s simply a mix of boiled potatoes mashed with a spicy masala filled into a pav and served with different chutneys, pomegranate seeds, and masala roasted peanuts. (A pav is similar to a bun but is made using a mix of whole and fine wheat flour using traditional methods and yeast.) Modern variations of the dabeli use sweet or tangy chutneys, or spicy dry garlic chutneys that give you a kick. The chutneys are usually prepared ahead of time and kept ready by the street vendors.
Once you order a dabeli, the vendor slices the pav, adds butter and heats it on a hot tawa.( A tawa is a large flat concave shaped iron pan used to heat food in many Asian countries.) He then slaps on the dabeli mix, chutneys, pomegranate seeds and peanuts, and you’re good to go. Nope, you don’t generally get a plate, you just hold it in your hands and eat it straight up most of the time. And yes, the saying is true. No one can eat just one. Drool! Of course, my Uncle Jude can say the same thing about the East Indian Sorpotel Pav. Although, it’s not as easily available in Bombay; just in a few parts of the city. Anyways, the average cost for a dabeli in Mumbai is around INR 15.
Another favorite that originates Bombay is Dahi Puri. A plate of dahi puri usually contains six puris or golgappas and is quite similar to pani puri. Just so you don’t get confused, these golgappas aka puris are different than the small hard flat puris you eat in bhel or the large soft puris you eat with puri bhaji. They’re puris too. But you just have to know your different puris in India. Remind me to write a blog about that one day. But for now let me tell you that the puris in a dahi puri are the shape and size of a small round golf ball, except they’re hollow inside. Yes, they’re the same puris that are used in a pani puri.
The top portion of the puri is broken with your thumb. You can use fingers too. But there’s a technique to it for using your thumb when you’re breaking open just the tops of hundreds of puris at a time. The puris are then filled with a mashed potato paste that usually contains salt and chili powder. This is then covered with some sprouted moong beans. (Moong beans are a type of green gram particularly found in Asia.) This is covered with boondi, sweet tamarind chutney, spicy chutney, followed by curd and finally sev. And don’t forget the sprinkling of chili powder and coriander leaves for effect and taste. My favorite place to eat dahi puri is Elco Pani Puri Centre on Hill Road, Bandra. They’ve been around for ages and are quite reasonable for INR 120. If you were eating dahi puri at a street stall, you might get it for as little as INR 30.
India is probably the only country where you can fill your stomach for just INR 5. That’s about 8 cents or 6 pence. Okay, maybe in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and other parts of Asia too. 😉 With what you ask? With a samosa or a vada.
A samosa is a triangular deep-fried snack that is filled with a savory mix and eaten with a chutney. Yes, we Indians love our chutney. The dough of the samosa is generally a thin flaky crust. India is a largely vegetarian country, so the most common filling is a mixture of potatoes, peas, onions, and spices. There are quite a few variations on the fillings. For example, the chicken or mutton samosa that’s usually made at home, but sometimes available as street food during the month of Ramadan. These naturally are made with spicy chicken and mutton fillings. Then there’s the Punjabi samosa that’s richer than regular samosas since it also has cashews and raisins thrown in the mix.
And did you hear about the Chinese Samosa? No, it’s not really Chinese. Some smart-brained Indian invented it and it caught on like wildfire. Tastes awesome too! The filling in this instance is a mix of shredded or finely sliced carrots, French beans, cabbage and spring onions, boiled noodles, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, and sugar. I like it when there’s a lesser amount of noodles though. I also love the version where the noodles are replaced with stale dokhla mix, like the Chinese Samosas from Jains in Kandivali. Yumtastic!
A vada pav or wada pav is quite similar to the samosa pav in the potato filling, but it’s not the same. It cannot be. No Indian would allow it. The potato filling of the vada pav is a mix of mashed potato, spices, turmeric, garlic, mustard seeds, asafoetida and green chilies deep fried in a gram flour batter. It does not have as much variety as the samosa, but then it is the poor man’s food. Served in a pav with garlic chutney and deep fried green chilies it definitely adds punch to a bite. Vada pavs are available for as little as INR 5, and of course, cost more depending on the locality. The same goes for samosas, and costs increase depending on the locality and the variety of the samosa. I wanted to tell you about masala dosas, pav bhaji, and wada sambar too. But maybe next time? For now, tell me, have you tried any of this street Indian food? Which one is your favorite?
[This post has been written by Abby, the author of The Winged Fork. She also owns the rights to all the pictures on this post. For more info on how and where to eat and drink like a local while traveling, click HERE. If you want to write about food in your place, get in touch with me by email]