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Some dishes that are iconic today often came from humble beginnings. Mumbai’s favourite street food snack, pav bhaji, was a measly mixture of mashed vegetables cooked in spices and moped up with a soft buttery bread. A simple vegetable dish that was invented for the sole purpose of feeding hungry mill workers in the late 1900s is today the most talked about dish and a universal favourite. Some folks prefer to make this in the comfort of their home but if you do not have the patience or time to cook, it is best eaten at a few of these places.
Sardar Refreshments – What started out as a small hole-in-the-wall roadside stall has now morphed into a fully furnished restaurant. When you think of pav bhaji in Mumbai, the first name that comes to mind is Sardar Pav Bhaji. Not only is his preparation tasty, but his biggest USP is that he drowns his bhaji in oodles of butter. Some find this a tad bit over the top but most love this buttery overload and, no matter what time of day, there is always a crowd of hungry regulars attacking their pav bhaji.
Amar Juice Center – Students studying in Mithibai College flock to this gem of a restaurant for its incredible street food. One of the most popular dishes on their menu is the pav bhaji and their special variation of the cheese pav bhaji, where a hefty amount of cheese is added to the buttery bhaji. Amar Juice Center is a household name and one of the very few places in the city that stays open till the wee hours of the morning, dishing out plate after plate of pav bhaji.
Cannon Pav Bhaji – Much like Sadar, Cannon is practically a connoisseur of pav bhaji. These guys have been serving plate after plate of this buttery delight for years and patrons just cannot get enough of it. There is no seating arrangement; this is a roadside stall where you wait in line and stand and eat, but no one is complaining because the food is worth the effort. The menu has a few additions such as poha, gajar ka halwa and sabudana khichadi but it is the pav bhaji that has patrons lining up every day.
Maruti Pav Bhaji – What was once Vile Parle’s best kept secret is now frequented regularly by food enthusiasts. The place only opens post 7 pm and is operational till stocks last, as the demand often outweighs the supply here. It is a small street stall but here the bhaji is distinctly different and looks almost black in colour. This is a far cry from the traditional more orange or red coloured bhaji, and this is due to the excess use of butter and black pepper. Their own unique version is spicy and tastes different from the usual bhajis, but since most high-end restaurants are trying their hand at this ‘black’ bhaji, it would seem that Maruti Pav Bhaji must be doing something right.
Girgaum Chowpatty and Juhu Beach – Both areas are popular beach stretches in the southern and northern parts of the city. Both beaches have an incredible variety of food stalls and the pav bhaji dishes at both places are what locals swear by. Skip the fancy restaurants and watch these guys cook the vegetables on an open tava and serve you in minutes. If you are still not convinced, look at the hordes of people lining up, waiting to feast. They are some of the tastiest stalls serving pav bhaji across the city.
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.