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Bun Maska to Kheema Pav: 15 Lip-Smacking Dishes That Aamchi Mumbai Swears By!

Writing about the food that the people in this city cannot live without will perhaps result in a 40,000-worded novella, but following is a list of 15 of those culinary delights that every Mumbaikar loves to devour!

It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is—six in the morning or twelve at night. If you are on the streets of Mumbai, then be prepared to be assailed by the aroma of piping hot and delicious treats.

Whether it is the savoury, fluffy idli & medu vada doused in mouth-watering sambar and coconut chutney or the fiery kebabs and shawarmas sold alongside Mohammad Ali Road, Mumbaikars take pride in the food they eat.
And thanks to the diverse cultures that form the fabric of the city’s social life, our palates are accustomed to food from different parts of the country, and the dishes that  distinctly belong to Aamchi Mumbai.
Writing about the food that the people in this city cannot live without will perhaps result in a 40,000-worded novella, but following is a list of 15 of those culinary delights that every Mumbaikar loves to devour!

1.    Akuri

The Parsi version of the scrambled egg. Photo Credits: Instagram/@karanfoodfanataic
Before you exclaim—yeh to anda bhurji hai!—let me stop you right there! Yes, Akuri is one version of spicy scrambled eggs, but the style of cooking and the taste are different! A part of the Indian Parsi cuisine, akuri is cooked until the egg is almost runny, but never overcooked. The other flavouring ingredients include fried onions and spices like ginger, coriander, chopped chillies and black pepper. Enjoy it with pav or double roti.
Another lesser-known version of akuri on toast is the Bharuchi akuri. Enriched with nuts and dry fruits, it derives its name from the city of Bharuch in Gujarat, where the dish is said to have originated.

2. Idli, Medu Vada, or basically, all the South Indian breakfast items that the Anna on the cycle serves

South Indian breakfast items. Photo Credit: Instagram/ @samyriana
One of the most relished breakfast items, idlis and medu vadas form an essential part of the diet for most on-the-job individuals who have no time to make breakfast. Any anna, who serves a mixed plate of the savoury rice cake and South Indian fritter, is our saviour. Idlis are made of batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) urad dal and rice. Several variations of idli like rava idli (made from semolina), sanna (fluffy Konkani version of the dish) among others, are served too.
Medu vada is a deep-fried item (made from black lentil or urad dal), and is more like a savoury doughnut, with a crispy exterior and soft interior. More than the idli or the vada, the highlight of these snacks that can make or break them is the chutney and sambar served with them!

3. Vada pav

The Bombay Burger. Photo Credit: Instagram/@hungrytrippers
Known as the poor man’s burger or Bombay burger, it is a vegetarian snack native to Maharashtra. A patty made of spices and mashed potato and dipped in a batter of gram flour (besan), vada is deep-fried and placed in a bread bun (pav) sliced through the middle. Served with a mix of spicy green and sometimes sweet chutney, it is a favourite street food served on thelas (carts) and even big restaurants.
It may look like a run-of-the-mill version of a burger, but is definitely more pocket-friendly, and for us Mumbaikars, more delicious!

4. Varan bhaat

Varan bhaat. Photo credit: Instagram/@yourhungrypal
This is the quintessential Maharashtrian thali. A homely preparation where boiled rice is served with a lentil curry of toor dal (split pigeon peas), the dish can only be complete with a dollop of sajuk tup (homemade ghee) left to seep through the steaming hot varan bhaat. The sidekicks of this desi treat include a lemon wedge, a little chutney and pickle. Most Maharashtrian homes consider the naivedhyam thali, which is an offering to the God on Ganesh Chaturthi, incomplete without varan bhaat.

5. Zhunka bhakar

Zhunka Bhakar. Photo Credit: Instagram/@bhukhabhalu
Zhunkar Bhakar serving stalls used to be quite the crowd pullers in Mumbai once upon a time. But with time, many of these disappeared due to competition. But the humble dish continues to be special for many.

This traditional dish is essentially a chickpea flour porridge, also known as pithla. Prepared by mixing gram flour (besan) and water to form a semi-solid paste which is then sautéed in oil with green chillies, red chilly powder, turmeric, salt, fried onions, mustard seeds, ginger-garlic, cumin seeds, coriander leaves etc, zhunka bhakar is served traditionally with jowar bhakri. The dish was restricted to the peasants of Maharashtra. It is also served with thecha, a spicy condiment made from chilli peppers (green or red), garlic, cumin, sesame seeds, asafoetida, cloves and grated coconut.


6. Brun maska

Brun Maska with kadak Irani chai. Photo credit @chetanshetty1
Mumbaikars love their bun/brun maska and kadak chai (strong tea). The combination is a ritual for most of us. The pocket-friendly tea-time dish gained popularity in the city with the dawn of Irani cafes in the 1800s-1900s.
While in bun maska, the bun is soft, cut into half and coated with layers of butter, in brun maska, the bun is a bit crusty. Either way, the best technique of devouring it is dipping the bun/brun into hot tea and biting into its soggy sweetness.

7. Chaat

Chaat Photo Credit: Instagram/@foodies1564

Bhelpuri, geela bhel, chinese bhel, panipuri, ragda pattice, sev puri, dahi puri, masala puri, ragda puri—there isn’t a variation of the much-loved chaat that Mumbaikars don’t seem to love.

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What is crucial to all of these dishes is the blend of sweet and spicy chutneys and additional ingredients that are unique to each of them. From bhel wallahs in local trains to chaat stall-owners at every nook and corner of most streets, most Mumbaikars find their favourites close to home or office. Eating different chaat variations on different days is a routine we religiously follow.

8. Falooda

Falooda Photo credit: Instagram/@thefoodpunch

Aerated drinks? No, thanks. What better than a cold falooda topped with ice-cream and dry fruits on a summer day (well, any day). This cold dessert is made from a mixture of rose syrup vermicelli, sweet basil (sabza/takmaria) seeds and milk. The vermicelli is made from wheat, arrowroot and corn starch, or sago. The soaked sabza not only adds richness to the drink but also has a cooling effect on the body.

9. Khaman/Dhokla

Khaman Photo Credit: Instagram/@savorytales
This Gujarati item made from a fermented batter of rice and split chickpeas is a popular evening snack for Mumbaikars. While Dhokla made with rice gram is white, Khaman which is yellow, is another variation made with chickpeas. Many people easily mistake Khaman for Dhokla.

10. Frankie

Frankie. Photo Credit: Instagram/@suburbmumbai_food

Over the last decade, Frankie stalls have cropped up in several parts of the city. From varieties of vegetarian Frankie rolls to those prepared with meat and topped with different sauces, the quick, lip-smacking delight is quite the crowd favourite. Stuffed with mutton or chicken and sprinkled with spices, the non-vegetarian variety of Frankie is often a lot juicier than the vegetarian rolls stuffed with potatoes or paneer (cottage cheese).


11. Kheema pav

Kheema Pav. Photo Credit: Instagram/@mumbaifoodie/@thewickedsoul

To put it simply, the Kheema Pav is a must have dish if you walk into an Irani cafe in Mumbai. Minced chicken or lamb is cooked with onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and many spices and kheema, at times, comes with an egg, sunny-side up. Another version of it is ghotala, where the kheema is served with a scrambled egg.

This dish is served with buns or pav, coated in butter and toasted on the tava or flat griddle. For die-hard Mumbaikars, any hour could be eat-kheema-pao’clock!

12. Kebabs

 

Kebab. Photo Credit Instagram/@khuhlyeats
From seekh kebabs to chicken tikka, gurda (kidney) or kaleji (liver)—charcoal grilled meat cooked on skewers served with freshly sliced onions and a squeeze of lime is an all-time favourite.

13. Kande pohe

Kande pohe. Photo Credit: Instagram/@sychedelic3
A Maharashtrian snack, it is sometimes served with a spicy curry called tarri. More popularly consumed as is, this easy-to-make dish is prepared using processed flattened rice and is sautéed with chilies, onions, mustard and cumin seeds and curry leaves. Peanuts and sometimes cashews are added for flavour! The best way to eat kande pohe is to squeeze some lemon on it before diving right in!

14. Misal pav

Misal Pav. Photo Credit Instagram/@rohanvsfood
This Marathi dish consists of a spicy curry or ‘misal’ made of moth beans or matki, other sprouts or lentils. It is served with farsan, sev or chivda on top and is garnished with onion and lemon for a slightly tangy flavour. Relished with pav, it can be eaten at all times!

15. Pav bhaji

Pav Bhaji. Photo Credi: Instagram/@thefooddestiation
Pav Bhaji originated in the 1850s as a quick lunchtime dish for textile mill-workers in Mumbai and then moved on to be served at eateries throughout the city. From handcarts to famous restaurants, this dish can be found almost everywhere in India and abroad. The dish is served with different twists in ingredients and garnishing. Bhaji is a spiced mixture of mashed vegetables (majorly potatoes, peas, tomatoes or bananas for Jains). It is usually cooked on a flat griddle (tava) into a thick gravy and served hot with the soft Mumbaiyya pav coated with even more butter! Also, don’t forget to add some onion and lemon before taking a bite!
Are you drooling, yet? Think we have missed any of your favourites? Jot them down in the comment section!
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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Written by Jovita Aranha

A lover of people, cats, food, music, books & films. In that order. Binge-watcher of The Office & several other shows. A storyteller on her journey to document extraordinary stories of ordinary people.