No article about Bombay-centric food can start without pani-puri.These fried spheres of goodness are stuffed with spiced potatoes and lentils, dipped in a sweet tamarind paste, and finished with a spicy green liquid concoction, before being served to you one at a time. It sounds complicated and messy, and you’re pretty likely to choke at some point of the other, but it’s all worth it when the first one breaks inside your mouth. The ultimate Bambaiyya bliss.
2. Pav Bhaaji
Soft buttery bread, crisped to perfection with copious amounts of butter. Spicy potato-y goodness, with extra butter and cheese on top. Little pieces of onion. A lemon wedge. Fresh coriander on top…
Is that the nearest Shiv Sagar you’re speed-dialling? I thought so.
Created by Firoz Erani in 1963, this dish is essentially an intricate puzzle of food on a small, scorching hot wrought-iron plate. I’m sure that even Joey Tribbiani would have to share his food to actually finish one of these - it’s that much food. I mean, fries? Good. Veggies? Good. Meat? Good. Good. Gravy on top? Cheese on top? GOOD.
And not just this, someone managed to apply this idea to dessert too, which spread through Mumbai’s restaurants like a forest fire! Sizzling brownie anyone?
4. The Veg-Cheese-Grill
Yes, it really is pronounced as one word. These sandwiches can be found outside every college in the city, and is probably tastier than the food at most international food-chains. Usually eaten with green chutney or ketchup, this delicious concoction is often shared between people because of it’s size.
5. Vada Pav
Often called “The Indian Burger”, this delectable treat is the go-to food for any road trip, even if it is to Thane. It’s made of spicy potatoes fried in gram flour batter, and is eaten with spicy garlic chutney and a steaming cup of chai. And of course, it’s cheap as can be. How can one possibly top this?
Pioneered and perfected by Tibb’s, these rolls are heaven, paradise, and everything in between. A beautiful, thick roti/naan is buttered and grilled to a crisp, which is then slathered in Mumbai’s favourite spicy Schezwan sauce, and then piled up with any of spiced meat, curried potatoes or eggs. Before being rolled up and given to you in one of Tibb’s infamous striped paper envelopes, one adds onions, lemon juice, the magic brown spice nobody can identify, and in my case, a ton of cheese.
Imma give you a minute to process.
Ever heard of a chowmein dosa with cheese? No? That’s probably because nobody but a true Mumbaikar will be able to tell you what it is, and where you can get the best one in the city. Mumbai’s dosawaalas are known for the crazy combinations of ingredients that they serve with a dosa, and there’s no boundaries to how far they can go. From spicy potatoes to mixed veggies to noodles, these things can probably be eaten with ANYTHING. And I’m not complaining at all. But, one thing remains unchanged through this madness - the giant spoon of butter the bhaiyya will put on your dosa before anything else.
8. Street Hawker’s Food
The ultimate after school snack, these hawkers will provide you with the best eats for the bus ride home, with pocket money to spare. From chana jor garam (roasted black gram tossed in lemon juice and spices), to kairi (raw mango slices, with chilli powder and lemon juice) to roasted peanuts, these hawkers were the Gordon Ramsay’s of every Mumbaikar’s childhood; they knew the recipe for heaven on a plate.
Kala Khatta. Nimbu. Orange. Even chocolate, of late. Eating a gola of one of these classic flavours while meandering the city with your friends, is a memory I’m sure most Mumbaikars cherish deeply. Not so much for the sentiment, but more because they’re so damn good! So good, in fact, that every populated or tourist location in the city is consistently swamped with carts holding colourful bottles and giant blocks of ice, rain shine or (ha!) snow. AND - you can pick and choose how much of what flavoured/coloured syrup you want on yours.
Ultimate self expression? I think so.
10. Indian Chinese
And last, but by no means the least, is this unique cuisine that one can now find across the globe, but still want to come to Bombay for the best of. From midnight snacks, to order-in dinners to hangover cures, a plate of Shezwan fried rice and manchurian is the ultimate fix to life’s nuisances. Keep in mind that the shadier the location of an Indo-Chinese (Or as we call it - regular Chinese) restaurant, the better the food.
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