It’s probably an understatement to say that it’s hot in Mumbai. The heat can be so intense that within a few minutes of walking around the city, you’ll feel your shirt sticking to your back, and rivulets of sweat will be trickling down your face. If you thought the climate is scorching, wait ‘til you get a taste of the food.
Indian cuisine is best known for its spices, and to the uninitiated, some of them are so hot that you’ll be tempted to stick your mouth under a faucet to relieve the burning sensation in your mouth. If you want to ease into Indian cuisine, you should definitely look into trying the snacks first. Most Indian snacks are subtly spiced, cheap yet filling at the same time.
The streets of Mumbai are filled with stalls and little eateries where one may eat his or her fill of snacks without experiencing spice overload. Here are some of the most popular local eats that you should snack on while in Mumbai.
These can probably be found all over the world. A samosa is a triangular pastry fried in oil and filled with spiced vegetables or meat. It’s an ideal snack on a cold and rainy day, and it’s best eaten while still hot. A well-made samosa shouldn’t be too oily and fried to a crisp golden brown.
Red and green chutney are the traditional options for serving with samosas. If you like less heat, go for the red chutney because it’s sweet and just a touch spicy. If you like it hot, go for the green chutney which is usually very spicy.
Pooris are little discs of whole wheat dough that are deep fried in hot oil or ghee (clarified butter), and as they fill up with steam they puff up like little balloons. It is usually accompanied by a side dish such as vegetables or some other kind of meat dish, and the poori could be plain or spiced.
Personally, I like to eat my poori lightly dusted with brown sugar and with a cup of sweetened yoghurt to dip it in. It goes so well with coffee or tea, so I usually have this as a midmorning or afternoon snack.
If you thought scrambled eggs were boring, wait ‘til you get a taste of akuri. This is not scrambled eggs like your mama used to make. Acknowledged to be one of the best Parsi dishes, this is a variation on scrambled eggs that’s great for breakfast or a hearty snack. Akuri can easily be done at home by scrambling some eggs with onions, tomatoes, mangoes, red chili powder, green chili pepper and fresh coriander. Some people like to add milk, cumin powder, curry leaves and ginger or garlic paste for that extra kick. It’s great with toast or some roti or naan.
4. Paav Bhaaji
For some people, this is more than just a snack—it’s a complete meal that can be grabbed on the go. The fact that it’s so portable makes this an ideal snack or meal for the busy individual. This is a spicy blend of vegetables cooked in thick tomato gravy served atop a bun called pav. The spice level varies, so have a bottle of fruit juice ready just in case. A lot of vendors sell this treat in the streets of Mumbai, and it’s considered to be one of the most popular street foods in the city.
5. Batata vada
Craving for something starchy? Have a batata vada. Literally, it means potato fritters. Ideal for breakfast or a snack, this is made by mashing boiled potatoes with green chilies, ginger, lime juice, turmeric and fresh coriander. The mash is formed into balls then coated with chick pea flour before deep frying. Eat this with red or green chutney, or with some green chillies or ketchup if you’re tired of chutney. If you’re on a carb craze, try placing it inside a pav or a bun, which is how most people from Mumbai prefer to eat it.
6. The Bombay Sandwich or Mumbai Masala Toast
Call it by any name, but one thing’s for sure, this sandwich is the bomb. Lavishly buttered white bread is filled with thin slices of beetroot, cucumbers, boiled potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion rings and mint chutney. Eat it as it is, or have it toasted. It’s a great snack, especially if you’re looking for something vegetarian.
This is an adaptation of a Persian dessert. For beating the oppressive heat of Mumbai, nothing comes close to a glass of Falooda. What is it anyway? Basically it’s a milkshake, but much richer than your average milkshake. Vermicelli is mixed with milk, almonds, pistachios, rose syrup and basil seeds, then it’s topped with two scoops of ice cream. Creamy, rosy, refreshing, and a lovely cold treat, it can be consumed as a dessert—perfect for cooling the palate after all the spicy fare you’ve had.
This is a delicious Indian wrap created by Amarjit Tibbs, a native of Mumbai. On a stopover in Beirut he happened to try a Lebanese pita wrap and upon returning home, recreated it and added a decidedly Indian twist to the dish. The roll is named after Tibbs’ favorite cricket player Frank Worrell, hence Frankie.
From this dish, the popular food chain Tibbs Frankie was born, and people flock to the establishment to have a taste of this snack food. A Frankie is naan bread with an egg coating, stuffed with mutton or chicken, rolled up and sprinkled with masala. Vegetarian options are available too.
9. Vada Pav
This snack has an iconic status in India. It used to be called poor man’s food, but nowadays even the rich and famous may be spotted eating the famous treat at Mumbai’s food stalls. The recipe is hard to duplicate because each stall owner has his or her own secret ingredient, but the constant elements of the dish include mashed potatoes combined with fresh coriander, green chili, ginger and garlic. The mash is rolled into palm-size balls and dredged in chick pea flour and fried until golden. The crisp potato balls are then stuffed inside a pao which has been brushed with green chutney and garlic crush.
10. Roshogolla and Sondesh
Roshgolla is a traditional Bengali sweet. It’s made of chenna, an Indian cottage cheese, and flour rolled into a ball. The ball is cooked in a sugary syrup and flavored with a bit of rose water. It’s best eaten when cold and saturated in the sweet syrup.
Sondesh is very similar to Roshgolla, only sugar is added to the cottage cheese and flour before forming it into a ball. It’s not too sweet because it doesn’t have any syrup in it.
11. Mishti Doi
This is a sweetened, thick yoghurt. Made from milk, caramelized sugar and a few tablespoons of yoghurt that has been left to ferment overnight in an earthenware pot, it’s cool, sweet and delicious. It’s far healthier than a cup of ice cream and is best eaten after a spicy meal.
Payesh is a Bengali rice pudding made by cooking rice in a sweet milk-based sauce. Some versions have raisins or nuts in them. This treat is usually made during special occasions such as festivals or birthdays. The pudding can be very thick and is best enjoyed with a cup of coffee.
There you have it, the top snacks to try in Mumbai. Most of these can be found all over stalls in the city, so feel free to walk around and enjoy different versions of each dish until you find your favorite. If you’re worried that the street food might be unsafe to eat, choose freshly cooked fare. Any food that comes in contact with hot oil will have most of its bacteria burned off. If you have a sensitive tummy, you can always eat in eateries or restaurants which also make most of the food on this list.