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Mumbai is a wonderful city whether you live here or you are just visiting. There is plenty to see, experience and, most importantly, eat! From some superb fine-dining to tasty and trendy street food, there is enough to choose from. While we always talk about the restaurants you should visit and the fancy things they are reinventing, it would be a shame to not highlight a few dishes that are iconic to this city. If we list them all out, there will be tons, so we thought of making it shorter without losing out on the real gems. If you are in Mumbai and want to eat things that the locals relish, then these five dishes are a good place to start.
Vada Pao – It is probably the first dish you think of when it comes to local Mumbai dishes. This soft bread and fried potato patty with spices and chutney is the best snack when you are on the go. It is difficult to say where you get the very best as many neighbourhoods have their favourite, but a really popular one is Ashok Vada Pav located in Dadar near Kirti college. It has been a hit with people for nearly 35 years, and even famous names like Madhuri Dixit and Jackie Shroff swear by the vada pav.
Akuri with Toast – This dish is the Parsi version of scrambled eggs or anda bhurji. This version is runny, spicy and, dare we say, more delicious. It is made with garlic, ginger, chilli, onions, turmeric and tomato, and is best eaten with a crisp piece of toast. All Parsi or Irani café serves this dish but Ideal Corner or Jimmy Boy are probably your best bet.
The Bombay Sandwich – It is impossible to imagine a sandwich named after a city, but the Bombay sandwich or what is locally called the ‘rasta sandwich’ is a veggie delight. Sold on almost every street corner, usually right next to a chaat vendor, these sandwiches are made in toasties (a smaller grill) over hot coal and are filled with butter, tomato, onions, potato, beetroot (sometimes capsicum), salt and pepper and an insane amount of grated local Amul cheese. Once it is popped out of the grill, it gets another layer of chutney and some tomato ketchup and is served to you on a paper sheet. It is delicious and wholesome; it is a meal in itself and worth a try. There are variations to this sandwich and now vendors use bigger grills and locals like to customise their sandwich (no beetroot, no onions, etc.) but the essence of the sandwich is still the same.
Bun Maska and Chai – Irani Cafés are beautiful and there are still a few that have remained intact exactly as they were many, many decades ago. While their menu serves everything from biscuits to full fully fledged meals, the main thing they are famous for is their bun maska along with a cup of chai. Literally, as the name suggests, it is a bread bun, soft and usually sweetened with little tutti frutti berries, slathered with butter and, if you request for it, then even some jam. It is a simple, humble snack, the perfect accompaniment with tea and quintessentially local to Mumbai.
Pav Bhaji – A dish that was invented by mill workers in the city has, over the years, become one of the most popular street food items. This mashed mixture of vegetables and spice (lots of potato and tomato) with generous servings of butter served with buttered pao (local bread) is filling and everyone’s favourite. Different places have their own version of the dish, usually with cheese liberally added in and more butter, but people love it. Sardar Pav Bhaji at Tardeo is extremely famous for this dish, mostly because it swims in butter, but Cannon Pav Bhaji at CST and Sukh Sagar at Chowpatty are also well known. Once again, it is one of those dishes that is served everywhere and you can almost never go wrong with it.
Follow Roxanne @The Tiny Taster
Better known as the Tiny Taster, Roxanne is an internationally respected blogger and expert on the Mumbai food scene. She has hosted many events, including the Upper Crust Food & Wine Show and travels the world, sharing her knowledge and gaining more experience.