Mumbai, known worldwide as the epicenter of the Indian film industry, is also the country’s financial capital, and one of the most interesting multi-cultural cities you will ever visit.
However, shadowed by its stars and lights, many travelers overlook the fact that Mumbai is an incredible culinary destination where you will find delicious preparations influenced by various cuisines around every corner.
A light tea-time snack, brun maska, is about enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Now, brun maska is different from bun maska, and while the concept is the same, there are notable differences between a bun and a brun.
Compared to a bun, the brun has a hint of sweetness, a moderately crunchy exterior, but a super soft inside. Cut in half; you can spread butter or jam on it, or do as some locals do and sprinkle some sugar. Popular in Irani cafes of Mumbai, you then dip the brun maska into a hot Iranian chai and eat it for a fantastic feeling.
The quintessential Mumbaiya food, you’ll find vada pav everywhere in the city. However, the best place to have it is from one of the famous Chowpatty beach food stalls. An Indianised burger, vada pav, is simply a potato patty inside a soft bun.
You’ll find vada pav in different parts of the country, but there’s nothing like the softness of the bun they have in Mumbai. Adding to the vada pav’s essence are a dry peanut and garlic chutney, coriander chutney, and a whole green chilly placed inside it or separately.
A sandwich named after Bombay has to be exceptional in some way. In fact, the regional take on the classic comfort food is a healthy alternative to snacking on junk food.
At the base of the Bombay sandwich is butter on one side and green coriander mint chutney on the other. In-between, there are slices of potatoes, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, and sometimes beetroot, topped with zesty chaat masala. Cheese either goes inside, or some vendors grate it on top of the sandwich. Best eaten fresh, you can also grill the sandwich for a hot bite.
Succulent, meaty, and oh-so-yummy, you’ll find all kinds of kebabs in Mumbai. Available through street stalls or in restaurants, the right combination of kebabs can lead to a gastronomically satisfying experience.
So, there’s mutton kebab, tunday kebab, chicken tikka, boti kebab, galouti kebab, or soya chaap for vegetarians to be had, particularly as a midnight snack after a night out. Remember to compliment your kebab with either a tandoori roti, parantha, or the napkin thin roomali roti.
Bombay Duck Fry
Regionally known as Bombil, this is not a duck dish, to put any misconception at rest. The Bombay duck is actually a lizardfish that is an integral part of Mumbai cuisine, available in every restaurant serving seafood. Bombil is a fleshy fish with soft bones, cooked in a curry, or better yet, fried.
The Bombay duck fry typically includes removing the prominent bone of the fish, drying out any extra moisture, and then deep-frying it until its exterior is a beautiful golden brown color, hinting to its crispiness. You can then munch on it as a starter or eat it with rice.
Misal pav is an earthy breakfast dish, one that is also eaten as a snack by Maharashtrians. The primary component of the misal is moth beans cooked into a gravy with potatoes, onions, and ginger paste.
There is an enticing spiciness to the dish, which is why it is served with a buttered bun (pav). Even though it is quite filling, misal pav is healthy and proteins rich. Misal also gets a lot of flavor from the various spices used during cooking and its garnishing, including freshly chopped onions, farsan, lemon, and coriander.
Fish or Prawn Curry
A city by the sea, Mumbai has some of the best seafood you’ll find in the country. A fish or prawn curry is thus a must-have. Opt for Bombil curry for a local taste, but you can readily find kingfish and mackerel curry also. The fish curry uses plenty of Indian spices, coconut, and goes best with rice.
To be a Mumbai visitor and not indulge in Parsi cuisine is the biggest culinary sin you’ll ever commit. The city is home to a select few authentic Parsi cafes that serve some of the most distinctly tasteful preparations.
The one essential eat at a Parsi restaurant in Mumbai is dhansak, made by cooking three types of lentils, vegetables, and mutton or chicken. The consistency, unlike other dals, tends to be almost runny. The taste, though, is accentuated further by a special “dhansak masala.” As one of the best foods to have in Mumbai, you should pair dhansak with berry pulao and finish your meal with the Parsi rendition of an English custard, known as Lagan nu Custard.
A special sweet treat you have to have when in Mumbai, Modak, is popular during Ganesh Chaturthi, one of the most important festivals celebrated in the state.
Modak is supposed to be Lord Ganesha’s favorite sweet, made using rice or wheat flour dough, shaped like a water drop, and filled with coconut and jaggery. Modak is then either steamed or fried and sold at all sweet shops in Mumbai.
The most decadent dessert to have when eating in Mumbai is the falooda – think Indian “freak shake” with a difference. It’s not only a tummy filler but the ultimate refreshment to have during the humid summer months.
While different ingredients go into a falooda, some remain consistent. There are vermicelli noodles, dollops of ice cream, chia seeds, milk, jelly, syrup (rose or khas), nuts, and the rest are up to your falooda maker. Crazy as it might seem, a falooda is a guaranteed mood enhancer and the perfect way to end your Mumbai food tour.