Mumbai, better known as ‘Bombay’, is the largest city in India and it consists of seven big islands. It was the first time I visited Mumbai and what is the best way to get to know a new city? With the best street food in town. We booked a street food tour with Reality Tours, an organization that invests 80% of its profits back into the local community at Dharavi (slum area). A tour with a good cause, that is something I can get behind. Moreover, Indian cuisine is my favorite. This tour gave us the opportunity to taste the best Indian street food in Mumbai. In this blog post, I’ll show what we ate on this Mumbai street food tour.
Snacking at Chowpatty Beach
The tour started at Chowpatty Beach near the famous Marine Drive. Beach culture in Mumbai is different than in the Netherlands. On a hot day in Holland the beaches are filled up during the day and empty in the evening. In Mumbai (and everywhere else in Asia) it’s the other way around. Entire families come to the beach to relax and eat (not to swim, water is too polluted). At the entrance of Chowpatty Beach, there are a couple of food trucks lined up. For us, this meant tasting our first snacks. We started with Pani Puri, a crispy shell filled with cold water with vegetables. The trick is to put the whole thing into your mouth and taste all the flavors at once. You have to eat pretty fast because you usually order 3 or 5 pieces that are served after each other.
Must try in Mumbai: Pani Puri & Pav
Pani Puri comes in many varieties: cold, warm, dry, wet, with or without sauce. Our next snack was Dahi Batat Puri. The same crispy shells, only this time served with herbs, spices, and yogurt. Because of this last ingredient, I liked this dish even more than the first snack. Our third snack was the Bav Bhaji, a meshed potato and vegetable dish with Portuguese origin: the bun! In the 16th and 17th centuries, Mumbai was a Portuguese colony and the Portuguese introduced the small bun (pav) to eat something else than only rice. I liked the taste, but the bun wasn’t that special. The fourth snack finished up this first round nicely: Kulfi. This dish contains sweet condensed milk. Everything tastes better with that stuff!
Buzzling Mohammed Ali Road
From Chowpatty Beach, we took a taxi to a different part of town. The next stop was Khau Galli at Mohammed Ali Road. Khau Galli means food or snack lanes and you find them everywhere in Mumbai. The one we visited was in a crowded Muslim area and it is known for its meat dishes. Luckily, our guide also offered something vegetarian: a spicy egg wrap. I was still quite full of the beach snacks, so I was happy with only one dish. However, my boyfriend was offered three meat dishes to try. We were the only two participants in this tour, so he could not share it with anyone. Every time he tried to say that he was full, our guide said: nonsense! Men always have plenty of room to eat.
Time for Indian dessert: jalebi
Time for dessert. We were offered home-made icecream and jalebi. Two desserts with a very different taste. The ice was nice and creamy and the jalebi was extremely syrupy. You can compare a jalebi with a fried donut dipped in sugar water. Our version was brown, but I have also seen orange jalebis in Rajasthan. My boyfriend was not a fan of the jalebi, but I liked it. We bought these desserts at shops that have been around for quite some time. The ice cream came from Taj Icecream which opened in 1887 and has an owner with the name Mr. Icecreamwala. The jalebi came from J.J. Jalebi which opened in 1947.
Mumbai street food tour: yes or no?
A definite yes! I liked tasting all the different types of street food in Mumbai and the tour was a safe way to do so this without getting sick. I would recommend starting this tour with an empty belly because you are going to eat a lot. Moreover, the tour was also a good opportunity to learn more about life in India. For example, our guide told us how he and his wife met. In India parents arrange the marriage, only our guide had a crush on a different girl. They secretly met in taxis. They paid the driver to drive around with no destination so that they could be together without being seen by family. This went on for a while, until they decided to break the ties with their parents and live together. It shows how challenging free love can be in some countries.
Do you like street food tours?