I can’t tell you how many times I was going to tell you guys about my favorite street eats in Mumbai. The city’s street food scene is known for its uniqueness and diversity, and it definitely shouldn’t be ignored on a blog like IndiaPalette. Although I’ve been staying in Mumbai for almost 11 years, I had a feeling I had tasted only a small fraction of the dishes the streets of the city had to offer. So I just needed to get out and explore the possibilities. However, thanks to my procrastination it never went beyond good intentions. That’s why I didn’t have to think twice when the opportunity arose to join a food tour with A Chef’s Tour in Mumbai.
It was my first experience of the sort, and the tour far exceeded my expectations. Shailesh, our knowledgeable guide, took us on a 4-hour trip through some of the most interesting areas of Mumbai. Eating our way through the city, we also got to see its architectural diversity and traveled by three different means of public transportation. By the way, I was meant to come on the tour with my husband, but at the last moment he couldn’t make it, so I was accompanied by my mother-in-law, aka my favorite travel companion 🙂
We started the tour in the Fort area, not far from the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The guide took us to a masala lime soda stall for a glass of refreshing drink. Masala lime soda is one of the most sought-after roadside drinks to beat the Mumbai heat. I used to cowardly go for the “no spices” option, enjoying the simple, familiar from childhood taste of sweet-and-sour lemonade. With time, I learned to appreciate the conflicting blends of tastes in the Indian cuisine, and if you ask me, I would definitely recommend getting your lime soda with spices. The unique combination of flavors is something you won’t forget soon 🙂
Next stop was this Kerala restaurant where we sampled a traditional fish fry along with papad (a thin and crisp appetizer) and sauces. It was the first time I ate a dish served on a banana leaf, by the way.
After that Shailesh took us to this old Irani bakery I read so much about in various travel and food blogs. Established in 1950s, it’s one of the oldest bakeries in Mumbai, run as a family business. Every detail of its interior accentuates on the rich traditions of the place: the vintage bread cutting machine, old-style posters and ancient cupboards speak volumes of this bakery’s history. The place obviously draws a lot of loyal visitors as we could hardly find a place to sit. Shailesh ordered an apple pie, but sadly they were all sold out, so we went for a carrot cake with a cup of Iranian tea. It was delicious. All the breads, buns and cakes in the Yazdani bakery are handmade and baked in diesel ovens. The air around us was filled with gorgeous fragrances of freshly baked products.
On the way to the next point, we stopped at the St. Thomas Cathedral. The Fort Area is studded with architectural gems, and this cathedral is considered to be one of them. For me, its main attractions lie not so much in the exterior, but rather in the countless marble murals located inside the hall. My mother-in-law has never been to this cathedral, so we made sure to peep inside.
Next, we went to this tiny stall where I had a chance to taste.. paan. Surprise! To be honest, I was hesitant to try this, but our guide requested clean preparation without the use of areca nut or tobacco, and finally I decided why not. So my paan was a betel leaf topped coconut shavings, seeds, spices, some syrups, and other ingredients. As you can imagine, this bite size snack was one of the most unusual things I’ve ever tasted! (And speaking of tobacco, here is a less known fact about me – I was a regular smoker for an entire decade, from the age of 16 to 26, and it was oh so difficult to quit this habit.)
Walking towards the Churchgate railway station, we stopped to buy a cone of preserved fruits from a street vendor.
As we were walking past the Oval Maidan, our guide pointed out the beautiful Gothic Revival buildings in teh distance. These were my old favorites – the High Court and the Rajabai tower, also known as Big Ben of Mumbai. On the western side of the Oval Maidan there is an astounding collection of Art Deco buildings, which were added to the list of World Heritage Sites earlier this year as a part of The Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai. I was fortunate to explore these buildings a few weeks ago and will definitely describe them in more detail in one of the upcoming articles.
#DidYouKnow Oval Maidan in #Mumbai offers a spectacular ensemble of Victorian Gothic buildings on its eastern side and Art Deco buildings on its western side. Doesn’t it look absolutely stunning? ?
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Upon reaching the Churchgate Station, we hopped on the local train. The crowd was not very intimidating, although it was close to the rush hour.
After a short train ride, we made our way to the Chowpatty beach – one of the most visited city beaches in Mumbai, located along the Marine Drive.
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Enjoying the sea breeze at the Chowpatty beach ?? is one of the essential Mumbai experiences. This place also holds a lot of sentimental value for me – it was the first city beach I visited in India. At that time I was very worried that I would feel like a fish out of water for not having a swimsuit?. Little I knew, he he 🙂 If you’re wondering what one would go to the beach for if not for swimming ????or sunbathing ?, here is what: ?? to see how the evening sun slowly disappears behind the urban giants of the Queen Necklace; ?? to taste some of the staple Mumbai street eats; ?? to calm your mind while gazing at the glistening water; ?? to indulge in people-watching as you sit back on the sand; ?? to feel the rhythm of the city while being a part of this cheerful crowd. Have you been to the city beach in India? Feel free to add to the list 🙂 . . . . . . . . #mumbaidiaries #mumbai_ig #mumbai_diaries #beach #incredibleindia #mumbai #traveldiaries #travelphotography #travelingram #traveladdict #wanderlust #travelblog #traveltheworld #passionpassport #bestplacestogo #instapassport #theglobewanderer #wanderlust #worlderlust #roamtheplanet #travelpics #indiapalette #mytravelgram #travelblogger #welltravelled #instatravel #travelgram #discoverearth #exploringtheglobe
The food scene of this place is extremely diverse – there are lots of food stalls and street vendors offering the staple dishes of the Mumbai cuisine. We started our little feast at the beach with pav bhaji – a tasty vegetable curry served with buttered buns. The dish originated in the middle of the 19th century as an easy to cook lunchtime meal for textile mill workers. These days it’s one of the most frequently ordered dishes in big and small restaurants throughout the city.
The most mouthwatering pav bhaji was followed by bhel puri, one more popular Mumbai street eat. Its main ingredient is puffed rice mixed with chopped vegetables and tamarind sauce. Bhel puri is often identified with beaches of Mumbai, and it’s definitely a must try.
Doesn’t bhel puri sound like an unusual combination of tastes? But wait until you try pani puri – a very common Indian street snack, which consists of a hollow crisp filled with mashed potatoes and peas, flavored water, spices, and tamarind chutney. You’re supposed to put an entire thing into your mouth and enjoy the explosion of tastes in one go.
From the Chowpatty beach, we took a classic yellow-and-black cab to the Chor Bazaar. Located in the Muslim Quarter of the city, it’s easily one of the largest flea markets in the country. I could hardly battle an uncontrolled desire to buy every single antique we spotted at this market: gramophones, old watches, vintage furniture and wooden toys, cutlery and cute porcelain cups.
The Chor Bazaar literally means the “thieves’ market”, so it’s highly advisable to watch your pockets among the stalls. According to the legend, a precious violin of Queen Victoria was stolen while being unloaded from the ship upon arrival to Bombay, and later it was found for sale at this market. Originally the place was called the Shor Bazaar, which translates as the “noisy market”, but eventually it was changed into “chor” due to the British mispronunciation. When people started noticing the “lost” items finding their way to the market, it really started living up to its new name 🙂 They even go as far as to say that if some of your belongings suddenly go missing in Mumbai, you can always buy them back at the Chor Bazaar.
We started our culinary exploration of the area with the most delicious chicken kebabs. Their tender, smoky taste was accentuated by the lime juice, raw onions, and delicious chutneys.
Next, we tasted a hand-churned ice-cream from a sixth generation family business. Established in 1887, “Taj Icecream” heritage shop has been serving the yummiest ice-cream for more than 130 years, and the technology of its preparation changed very little since then. To churn the ice-cream, they use a contraption called sancha (see the photo below). Here you have a chance of enjoying a genuine taste of lip snacking homemade desserts, which are so unlike the factory prooduced products. I went for the custard apple variety, and my mother-in-law selected strawberry. Both were extremely delicious.
After the ice-cream we sampled a sweet and soft local muffin and phirni – a traditional Indian pudding made of ground rice and milk. That was the end of the food tour, and to say we had a wonderful time is to say nothing.
We came back to the Chattrapahi Shivaji Terminus by bus. It’s mazing how perception changes over the years – a couple of years back I used to find the way it’s lit at night distasteful and gaudy, but now all these pinks and purples looked quite cute. Am I getting old? Or it’s the food tour that put me in particulrly good mood? 🙂
If you’d like to join A Chef’s Tour in Mumbai, too, feel free to book it right away. It’s a great introduction to the city’s street food which allows you to get the feel of Mumbai’s vibrant life. You can check out A Chef’s Tour website, Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter for more info.
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