When one thinks of Mumbai, one cannot not think of the street food on the various nooks and corners of the city. The street food of Mumbai gives a different punch altogether and is quite appetising in itself. If you are a Mumbaikar, you know it well, and if you are new in the city or are soon going to visit it, you have to hit the streets of Mumbai for its finger licking street food.
Here are five street food places you must definitely try:
1. CTO VADAPAV
Located at a small corner on the bustling streets of Fort, opposite the Central Telegraph Office, you will find Mr. Ashok Satam wearing his round-rimmed glasses and listening to old Hindi songs through his earphones while busy serving his customers one of Mumbai’s finest staples, the Vada Pav. Functioning for more than 49 years, the Vada pav stall was started by his father Manohar Satam, who was employed at the Central Telegraph Office. “My father started this stall as a respite for the mill workers all around here in 1971. Since then, we haven’t changed anything.”
The Vada pav here is famous for its special ‘Ghati masala’. When asked about this special ingredient, Ashok said, “The masala is what gives the Vada pav a unique punch. Made with various masalas, coconut and garlic, often customers ask for more masala.”
The Vada’s crispy hot batter on the outside contrasts well with the melt in the mouth and the goodness of the potato stuffing. The zesty spices and green chillies also give a spice punch to your taste buds.
Every day, Ashok Satam’s Vada Pav stall attracts around 1000-1200 customers. Selling on the road is often a problem due to the BMC clearing out stalls, but that is not a problem for Ashok. After all, Mumbai never lets anyone go hungry. In a city that has something to suit every pocket and palate, a great equaliser has been the humble Vada pav, which has grown from its street food origins to become an iconic must-savour snack.
2. MAMAJI’S SANDWICH
Owned by the roughly 50-year-old Salim Sheikh, Mamaji’s sandwich, a popular street food joint sees students and commercial office goers throng at its doorstep.
Started in 2014, Mamaji’s grilled sandwich initially only served grilled vegetable sandwiches. Over the years they have expanded their base to serve some of the most iconic sandwich flavours you could ever imagine.
As you walk into the small shed at AC market, Tardeo you will first be greeted by stacks of bread all lined up, behind which you will see ‘Mamaji’ himself, the one who makes the delicious sandwich.
“Our speciality is veg cheese grill sandwich and chocolate cheese sandwich”, said Sheikh. Hearing about the chocolate cheese sandwich confused me a little and I asked him how he came up with this combination. “I wanted to try something different. It’s a feeling that came from within. We all love chocolate and we all love cheese. Why not love chocolate and cheese together?”
I went on to try the chocolate cheese sandwich and of course, was not mistaken a bit. Topped with flakes of Hershey’s dark chocolate and dollops of Hershey’s chocolate sauce, this sandwich is a must-try. Cheese is infused between the two slices of bread, with a topping of chocolate sauce.
A trip to Girgaun Chowpatty means devouring the various street foods around. However, one simply cannot miss a trip to Bachelors, an unassuming but popular eatery, which has been a landmark since the 1930s.
Run by the third generation of the Agarwal family, Aditya and his younger brother Himanshu are now at the helm, after their father Arun passed away. It all started when their grandfather, Omprakash Agarwal, with his meagre savings, started a small fruit stall at Chowpatty. His business picked as it was patronized by British officers. Slowly, he could afford storage space on the opposite side of the road and in 1935 the shop selling fruit became Bachelors.
Omprakash practiced Brahminism and he was often known as a ‘Brahmachari’. As he was known, his small store was also called such. The name Bachelors, to which it translates to, was registered by Arun in 1980.
Omprakash initially started by selling orange mosambi and chikoo juice. When Arun took power, he introduced a variety of fruit-based milkshakes. Today, Bachelors has a variety of shakes, juices, ice-creams, and sandwiches. The chocolate shake is a must-try. Topped with chunks of chocolate and a think lather of milk and cream, it is quite filling.
Another speciality of Bachelors is a chilli ice-cream served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and an accompanying green chilli which ties your tongue with the spice. “Chilli ice-cream is just a flavour we tried once and it was a hit, so we continued it. It is just like a normal flavour”, said Shubham, a worker who has been working for Bachelors for over 3 years now.
In the evenings, if you visit this place, you will see flashy cars parked outside with customers being served sandwiches, pizzas, juices, and ice-creams by Bachelor’s staff that always greets you with a warm smile and a menu card.
4. HAJI ALI JUICE CENTRE
They say you’ve never really experienced Mumbai if you haven’t walked down the watery shores of the city and guzzled down a mug of grape juice or devoured a bowl of mix fruit cream at the half a century old Haji Ali Juice Centre while watching the sunset on Worli sea face.
Founded by Fareed Abdul Latif Noorani, this legendary snack bar was set up in the ‘60s to quench the thirst of weary pilgrims visiting the Haji Ali Dargah. In his twenties, he set up this juice centre outside the holy shrine of Mahalaxmi with the help of his sister Aziza.
In a city now brimming with detox juices and vegan diets, Noorani was the first to bring up a spectacular range of faloodas, shakes and fresh juices squeezed out of seasonal fruits. He innovated the menu to add an exotic punch by including various fruits such as New Zealand’s cherries and plums.
A pure vegetarian place, Noorani set up the juice centre keeping in mind the pilgrims for both the Mahalaxmi shrine and the Dargah. However, right opposite the road, he set up café Noorani which catered purely to the meat-eating mass.
Noorani’s daughters, Asma and Alia have now taken over his reigns. Asma looks after the juice centre, Alia after Café Noorani. Javed, an employee in the juice centre recalls, “Asma ma’am is very sweet and she makes sure that the customers always go away happy. She carries on the legacy of her father by providing fresh juices day and night to all the customers.”
Popular by night as much as day, this juice centre has seen the likes of various politicians, artists, local business owners, and actors like Salman Khan who hop in by for a fresh mosambi juice or mix fruit cream.
5. K RUSTOMS
Sandwiched between two wafers, the slices of ice cream in unique flavours have been drawing crowds to K Rustom’s ice creams since 1953. For the scores of tourists visiting Marine Drive every day, the seaside experience is complete only after stopping for ice cream at K Rustom’s.
Started by Khodabux Rustom Irani, the shop at Veer Nariman Road, just a kilometre away from Marine Drive, was not always an ice cream shop.
“It used to be a department store, where we would sell cotton, wool, medicines, among other things. But in 1953, we started selling ice-creams. The sea was close and it attracted a lot of people. So, we had an idea: let’s sell ice cream,” said Rodha Irani, Khodabux Rustom’s elder daughter.
Initially selling only five flavours – Vanilla, Pineapple, Raspberry, Coffee, and Pista for 50 paise to 1 rupee each, to selling around 50 flavours today, this colonial shop has surely kept back its original charm.
Unlike the colourful display, one finds at gelato parlours, ice-creams at K Rustom’s stay put in large steel freezers and emerge only when ordered. One gets the ice-cream sandwiched between two wafer biscuits and a thing butter paper and tissue.
Having retained the classic flavours that they started with, K Rustoms has believed in innovation. They keep creating, tasting, and adding new flavours such as Paan, Ginger Lemon, and Choco Roasted Almond Crunch to their ice-cream list, sometimes courtesy of imagination, sometimes thanks to ever-hungry customers who offer suggestions.
“This is not your usual branded ice cream. We make it here and sell it here,” beamed Irani.
A visitor at K Rustoms who seemed to fancy a Nescafé coffee ice-cream said, “It is surely very tasty. The cherry on the cake is that it is so pocket friendly and has retained the original charm it earlier had. It is definitely worth having a second!”
Whether it is to lap up the ice-cream that is so lovely in its simplicity or to spend a little time on a breezy day with this family that has kept alive its sense of humour and K. Rustom’s legacy, one would surely be coming back to this Mumbai Classic again.
So which one are you planning to visit first?