Bombay: Fast Food/ Street Food/ Local Must-Eats

The Must-Eat specialties of Bombay, all for less than $2 !

Bombay, now known as Mumbai, is where the food has something interesting to satiate almost every taste bud. A medley of cuisines and a rich variety in local street foods is what makes Mumbai a place for ardent food lovers.

The street food also known as fast food goes well with the fast paced lifestyle of Bombay without compromising on the flavor and spices. You may be able to find these foods in other parts of the world (thanks to the number of Indians settled abroad) but nothing comes close to how it tastes on the streets of Bombay.

Paani-Puri/Pani-Poori

Paani Puri

Bombay’s favorite, most popular street-side snack is this plate of thin spherical shells (puri) filled with sprouts or boondhi (balls of fried chickpea flour), boiled potato and mix of chilled sweet and tangy water (paani).It is an explosion of flavors in a single bite. It can be found at almost any street corner but most likely around the beaches (Chowpatty or Juhu beach). They can cost anywhere between Rs. 10 to 35 which is still less than 1$ and you’d get 6 in a plate. Some thellas (Indian for stalls) set you up with a bowl made from dried leaves (talk about being green) and have around 6-7 customers line up, while the fellow quickly whips up a pani poori for each bowl.

You can customize your pani puri by telling the ‘bhaiya’ (which literally means brother in Hindi and a common way to address the ‘thella-wallahas’ (stall fellows), rickshaw and cab drivers etc. whether you’d like it hotter (teekha), sweeter (meetha) or balanced (mix). You’ll be amazed at the speed at which he caters to all of his customers while keeping in mind each one’s preferences.

These days a lot of stalls serve paani poori in steel plates and the primmer and proper restaurants, serve you all six puris upfront with the rest of the ingredients, for you to mix on your own. But street foods are best eaten on the streets.

Once you are done with your round of pani-puri, you may request the ‘bhaiya’ for a dry (sookhee) poori or some more of that mint or tamarind water. He will happily serve your request without any extra charge.

Paani pooris are meant to be eaten in a single bite so enjoy that full sphere of mixed flavors in one go and you will keep longing for more.

Pav Bhaaji

Pav Bhaaji

Another one of those mad blends of ingredients and flavors, Pav Bhaaji is not only found at the beach-side stalls, but many Indian fast food restaurants serve this pure vegetarian delight to all those who love bread (pav, pronounced as pow or paa-aa-oh) soaked in butter along with some hot veggie mish mash (bhaaji) lying underneath a pool of melting butter.

The Bhaaji is usually made of up tomatoes, potatoes and lots of vegetables like cauliflower, green beans, cabbage, peas, carrots, beets, bell pepper etc. all blended together with unique mix of almost 20 spices. It is this combination of spices that gives the bhaaji its exclusive flavor that is simply unbeatable.

You can spot a Pav bhaaji stall from almost half a mile away because they smartly position their huge hot iron-pan (tava) right at the entrance of their eatery. The steaming hot bhaaji, clunking sound of the potato masher and the aroma of butter melting on that pan is a treat to all the senses.

Considering this is a fast-selling food item in Bombay, you never have to wait too long for your plate to arrive. A plate of Pav-Bhaaji can cost anywhere between 55-80 Rs. (less than $2) and the plate of extra pav for Rs 10-18. The best places to try out Pav bhaji have to be at Sukh Sagar (near chowpatty) and Shiv Sagar near Juhu beach.

So sprinkle that finely chopped onion on the bhaaji, squeeze in the lime juice and dig in till your hearts content.

Vada Paav

Vada Pav

More often than not you would see someone explaining a foreign tourist how the vada pav could be compared to the American burger. I am not too sure how good that comparison is but yes there is a bun (pav) and a patty (vada) that is common to both.

This simple, common-man’s meal, is a bun split to hold a deep-fried ball of simply spiced (ginger, turmeric, tampered with curry leaves & mustard seeds) potatoes, jazzed up with some lasoon (garlic) chutney. Its one of the least expensive street food items one can find in Bombay (around Rs. 10-15, almost 20-25 cents).

The best places to find Vada Pav would be near college canteens, offices or railway stations. Because it is so cheap it’s a staple with students on a budget and workers living on meager means, but a strike for everyone looking for that quick, cheap and filling meal.

The stall near Mithabai College, Vile Parle, butters the bread along with some green mint chutney before adding the traditional vada and lasoon chutney, thus making this place even more special for Vada Pav.

Jumbo King, at Dadar, is the only Burger King kind off place for Vada Pav’s. It serves many variations of the vada pav for an affordable price and is a reasonable attempt of trying to take this food from the streets to sit-down fast food joint.

Vada Pav, a simple yet delectable dish, is a must try for anyone who visits Mumbai.

Tibbs Frankie

Tibb's Frankie

This Mediterranean-wrap inspired snack is one of those food finds not discussed enough to match its taste, innovation and wholeness as a meal. It’s a flat bread (roti/naan), with one side heavily brushed with egg, to form the wrap that will b stuffed with shredded chicken/mutton/cottage-cheese, finely chopped onions and Tibb’s secret spices. All slid into a thin polythene pocket to hold the masala that drips when you bite into this mouthwatering Frankie. There are many Frankie stalls but Tibbs is hands down one of the best out there. A Tibbs Frankie would cost around Rs 45-60 ($1 -1.5) and is truly worth its price.

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