Our last days from our trip in India brought us to Mumbai. From there our plane left for Sri Lanka, but first we had a couple of days to explore the busiest city of India. Mumbai, better known under the name 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 really wanted to contribute to. Moreover, the Indian cuisine is my favorite. This tour gave us the opportunity to taste the best Indian street food in Mumbai. In this post I’ll show what we ate on our first night in Mumbai.
Snacking at Chowpatty Beach
After the meet-up at the busy Churchgate station the tour started at Chowpatty Beach near the famous Marine Drive. The afternoon was almost over and evening was about to start. We immediately noticed that the beach culture in Mumbai is a bit 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 beaches are empty during the day, but fill up in the evening. 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. I liked this snack very much!
Must try in Mumbai: Pani Puri & Pav
But this is not the only version of Pani Puri. This dish comes in several options: cold, warm, dry, wet, with or without sauce. The next snack was a plate of Dahi Batat Puri. The same crispy shells, only this time served with herbs, spices and yoghurt. 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 sixteenth and seventeenth century 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 my favorite ingredient of all time: sweet condensed milk. Everything is better with this stuff!
Buzzling Mohammed Ali Road
From Chowpatty Beach we took a taxi to a different side of town. The next stop was the Khau Galli at Mohammed Ali Road. Khau Galli means food or snack lane 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 for a vegetarian like me: a spicy egg wrap. I was still quite full from the beach tastings, so I was happy with only dish. My boyfriend was also quite full, but he was offered three meat dishes to try. We were the only two participants in this tour, so he could not share it with anyone. And 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 desert. 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 could compare a jalebi with a fried donut dipped in sugar water. Our version was brown, but I hav 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 icecream came from Taj Icecream which opened in 1887 and has a owner with the name Mr. Icecreamwala. The jalebi came from J.J. Jalebi which opened in 1947. The men that served the snack here were perfect photo material.
Indian street food tour: yes or no?
A definite yes! I liked tasting all the different varieties of street food in Mumbai and the tour was a safe way to do this without getting sick. I would recommend starting this tour with an empty belly, because you are going to eat a lot. For us, it was a bit too much, but everything we tasted was good. Moreover, this tour was also a perfect opportunity to learn more about daily 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 while, until they decided to break the ties with their parents and live together. For us this showed how challenging free love can be in other cultures.
Do you like street food tours?