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Kheema pav sits right up with vada pav, pav bhaji and now missal pav as Mumbai’s iconic dishes.
Kheema is a minced meat dish. A must try for all non-vegetarians in the city, it has been made popular by the Irani cafés of Mumbai, some of which are run by Zoroastrians and some by Muslims. Being a no-fuss, economical meat dish which can be enjoyed for both lunch and dinner, this masala-packed pav has become a universal favourite.
The meat used in the kheema could vary from mutton (goat meat) to beef (water buffalo) in smaller Muslim-run places. Although you may find chicken kheema in meat shops nowadays for health conscious folks prepare themselves, it’s not easily available in restaurants yet.
One of the best places to try kheema is a Muslim-run restaurant called Olympia, opposite Leopold, in Colaba. They only serve the kheema in the morning. Kheema with pao (soft local buns) or even chapatti (flat bread) at Olympia is one of the most legendary breakfasts that you can have in the city. They have an air-conditioned section on the first floor but that’s not open in the morning, so you have to sit on the ground floor which has a very heritage feel to it. You might have to share a table with strangers as it is always busy here. The mood is electric as you are surrounded by people eating with grim determination, getting ready to tackle what the day throws at them. You will rarely be rushed though, if you want to sit back and enjoy your kheema and follow it with a hot masala chai.
Another great place to go to for kheema is Café Military at Fort near the Bombay Stock Exchange. This is a sleepy Irani restaurant where you get kheema through the day. Ask for the kheema ghotala where they scramble an egg into the kheema. It tastes delicious. If you want, you can wash this down with a chilled beer. Do not leave Military Café without having the delectable caramel custard here.
The most famous place in the suburbs for kheema is Good Luck Café at Bandra near Mehboob Studio but it lacks consistency.
Mumbai’s favourite foodie, Kunal Vijayakar along with my octogenarian Parsi family friend, Jamshed uncle, advised that I visit Grant House at the base of J J Flyover near the CST station. After trying the kheema there I agree that it is the best I have had in a Mumbai restaurant so far. Grant House is also called Police Canteen by regulars as it was originally a stall set up beside a nearby police station. The restaurant came up later. Ironically, Grant house which serves one of the loveliest versions of Mumbai’s Irani café favourite, is run by a Hindu family that moved to Mumbai from Hyderabad.
Well, that’s the spirit of Mumbai. If you have a dream, this is the place to live it.
Photo Credits: Kalyan Karmakar
Follow Kalyan Karmakar @ Finelychopped
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.