Too Much, But Never Enough: A Street Food Tour Of Mumbai
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There are few places in the world as rich in culture and cuisine as Mumbai. India’s most vibrant city by some distance (though some other cities might demur), Mumbai pulsates with life, and can be a bit overwhelming at first. But spend some time exploring it, and you’ll soon discover that it is a city with a rich tapestry like no other in this country. That diversity has left an indelible mark on the food culture of the city. After all, when talking about street food, there is perhaps no greater variety than can be found in the streets and lanes of Mumbai. There are so many interesting restaurants and vendors serving such a a range of mouth watering delicacies that one could go without visiting the same joint for the best part of a year! From simple dosas and vadais, to wonderfully decadent pedas, Mumbaikars sure know their stuff when it comes to making great street food! 

The primary appeal of Mumbai's street food is affordability. Most street food staples sell for under 30 rupees. You'd be hard pressed to find a hawker who sells vada pav for over 12 rupees. Several types of chaat, namely sevpuri, dahipuri, panipuri, bhel puri et al are evening staples for most Mumbaikars. Vada Pav, a ball of deep fried battered, spiced, mashed potato (batata vada) sandwiched between a bread bun (pav), served with two different types of chutney, and a trademark fried green chilli is the street food that’s most associated with the city. if you feel like having something more indulghent, try the famous pav bhaji, or ragda pattice. These are different from the traditional varities found elsehere because Mumbai’s street vendors often have their own creative takes on them. How about a generous helping of cheese on all of those dishes? Trust me, it tastes way more delicious than it reads on paper. Blasphemy, you say? Or are you just afraid of new things? We can also have them with dofferent types of sauces. There are a variety of beverages on offer as well, from sugarcane juice, lemon juice, aam ras, chaas, and lassi, to various sharbats, with each vendor innovating in various ways to create  a new taste. 

Chaats are commonly sold at upscale locations. It;s not uncommon for 5-star hotels in Mumbai to have a chaat counter as a part of the buffet. Upscale restaurants have long capitalised on the street food phenomenon, having limited-run menus focused on the city’s iconic street food. For instance, The Bombay Sweet Shop, a venture by Hunger Inc, of Bombay Canteen and O Pedro fame, has a dedicated ‘Chaat Cart’ which celebrates chaat, an integral part of the city’s street food culture. This is a uniqely Mumbai phenomenon – the love of the city cuts across class and geography.  

The food gets even more interesting when one steps outside Mumbai’s ‘town’. One sees several south indian preparations, the most popular of the lot being idlis and dosas. You can see several interesting innovatons while walking down a Khau Gully, i.e a food lane, paths lined with street food stalls. Khau Gullies may also specialise in niche items, like the ice bhels served by vendors in Panch Rasta. Dosas are a perennial favourite, vendors usually prepare the dosas on hot iron griddles, pouring out a simple white dosa batter. In Mumbai’s streets, dosas will be rolled with stuffing, usually continental based, with variants ranging from schezwan to even dessert dosas filled with ice cream. No, I’m not making that up.  

Sandwich joints are archetypal to most Khau Gullies. Most vendors prioritise size and taste over quality, typically with inexpensive and filling ingredients like processed cheese and vegetables, as most patrons consume these sandwiches as a full meal. This resonates with vendors selling other food items as well, as street food makes up a good fraction of the average Mumbaikar's diet.  

It is nearly inmpossible to index every good dish that Mumbai offers, especially the sheer number of delightful vegetarian options that make up the majority. There are an estimated 400 distinct non-vegetarian options, largely sold by immigrants. These include kebabs, pakoras, omelette pavs, rolls, and a variety of indo-continental dishes. There is no shortage of desserts either, the most common offerings being kulfi, falooda and various dishes made using inexpensive ice cream. 

It may sound cliched, but Mumbai’s street food culture is embraced by the vast majority of the city's denizens, from school kids to college students, and from daily wage workers to townies. It’s just really that good.