The history of the food in Mumbai is closely linked to the growth of this city to a megapolis. As wave after wave of immigrants from all over the country came with dreams of gold in their eyes, they brought their culinary treasures with them. The result? A smorgasbord of cooking styles that’s sure to satiate the most discerning appetite. Here’s a sampling of 40 must-try foods (in alphabetical order) that define Mumbai’s food culture.
1. Akuri on Toast
Move over scrambled eggs, the Parsi version is here. Rated as one of the great Parsi dishes, every Parsi family has its own special way of making this dish. Though variations of the ingredients are vociferously debated, Akuri is usually made by scrambling eggs with onions, tomatoes (or even raw mangoes when in season), chili powder, green chillies and topped with fresh coriander. Others add milk, jeera (cumin) powder, curry leaves and even ginger garlic paste. But there is no debate about one thing – it tastes great!
Try the Akuri on Toast at Jimmy Boy, 11 Bank Street, Vikas Building, Off Horniman Circle, Fort. Tel: +91 22 22662503.
2. Baida Roti
This one is an interesting envelope. That’s right. Spiced meat – it could be chicken or minced mutton, even bheja (brain) – and whipped eggs with masala-fied fried onions is ‘enveloped’ in a square shaped dough and pan fried. Though served with sliced onion rings and green chutney, they’re quite delicious without them.
A lot of people swear by the Baida Roti at Bade Mian, Tullock Road, Behind Taj Mahal Hotel, Apollo Bunder, evenings only. Tel: +91 22 22848038.
3. Batata Vada
Whether it’s for breakfast, teatime, or an anytime bite, one thing is for sure, Mumbaikars can’t live without the Batata Vada. This well-liked fast food dumpling is made by mashing boiled potatoes with green chilies, ginger, garlic, lime juice, turmeric, and fresh coriander, then dipped in a besan (gram flour) batter and deep fried. It’s served either with a green chutney or fried green chillies.
Virtually every street corner will have an outstanding Batata Vada seller but it’s hard to beat the ones made at Shrikrishna – near Chabildas High School, Dadar Market.
4. Bhel Puri
The most commonly sold Chaat on the streets of Mumbai, every ‘Bhel wala’ will have his own matchless blend which will have a considerable fan following. While the ingredients – puffed rice, papadi (small crisp deep fried flour puris), sev, onions, potatoes, raw mango and sweet and sour chutney – remain the same, it is the proportions in which they are used that make the difference.
Bhel Puri is available everywhere. The stalls at Chowpatty and Juhu beaches draw throngs of diehard fans. But if you want a Bhel Puri with ambience, try it at Sea Lounge, Taj Mahal Hotel, Apollo Bunder. Tel: +91 22 66653366.
5. Bombay Sandwich
This street side invention is a combination of the most unlikely ingredients. Lavishly buttered white bread is sandwiched between thin slices of beetroot, boiled potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion rings, and mint chutney. Cut into four triangles so that you can handle all the layers without spilling them, you get the most refreshing taste after a bite. A toasted version steams up the vegetables inside and adds another dimension totally. Truly, there is no other sandwich quite like it.
Though widely available through out the city, try it at Amar Juice Centre, near Cooper Hospital, opp. Juhu Galli. Or the Mafco Stall outside Worli Dairy on Worli Sea Face.
6. Bombil Fry
Bombil, or Bombay Duck, is a fish that is found in plenty in the waters around Mumbai. A fisher folk favourite, Bombils are flattened, then dipped in a spice filled besan (gram flour) batter and fried. This crunchy on the outside and mushy soft on the inside fish dish can be eaten on its own as a starter, or as a main course with chapattis.
Gajalee does a mean Bombil Fry. They have branches at Hanuman Road, Vile Parle (E), Tel: +91 22 26114093. And at Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel, Tel: +91 22 24950667.
7. Bheja Fry
Bheja, or goat brain, sautéed with tomatoes, onions, turmeric, green chillies, spices and garnished with fresh coriander is a staple of those with slightly adventurous carnivorous leanings in the city. And it has a rich Muslim heritage behind it. Eaten with a roti (Indian bread) or pao, this melt in the mouth dish has a huge fan following and you often find that one plate in not enough.
Radio Restaurant, 10, Musafir Khana, Palton Road, Tel: +91 22 22617171, serves up a really good Bheja Fry.
8. Brun Maska
You may wonder how bread and butter can become such an iconic thing. But it’s not merely bread. It’s Brun or Gutli pao – a local bread that is unique to Mumbai – and it’s crisp and hard and crumbly on the outside and soft inside. It is then sliced and lashings of butter are applied. Some even sprinkle a bit of sugar. It is usually accompanied by the sweet Irani chai. Dipping the Brun Maska in the chai is the only way to eat it.
Available at most Irani restaurants, the Brun Maska at Kyani & Co is noteworthy. 657 Jer Mahal Estate, Opp. Metro Cinema, Dhobi Talao, Tel: +91 22 22011492. Also try it at B Merwan, Opp. Grant Road Station (E), Tel: +91 22 23093321.
9. Butter Chicken
This ubiquitous dish traces it roots to the days of the Mughals when calorie counting was a thing of the future. This must-order dish when families go out is made from chunks of chicken, which are marinated overnight in a yoghurt and spice mix that include ginger garlic paste and lime juice. It is then grilled or pan-fried. A rich sauce made with butter, tomato puree, cumin, garam masalas and fresh cream is then poured over it. It’s best had with Indian breads like rotis, naan or parathas. Don’t confuse it with Chicken Tikka Masala, which is completely different.
While available at every kind of eatery, the Butter Chicken at Punjab Grill is worth dying for. Level 3, Palladium Mall, Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel. Tel: +91 22 43473980.
10. Butter Garlic Crab
It doesn’t trace its roots to Chinese, Continental or Indian cuisines. It comes from Butter Land, a borderless place that thrives on the premise that anything tastes great with melted butter. A deliciously simple dish, a big crab is dunked in boiling hot water and cooked for a few minutes. Then it’s drowned in tons of butter garlic sauce that seeps into every nook and cranny and coats every morsel of the flesh. Crack open the crab and take a bite. You’ll know immediately that sweet crabmeat and butter is a combination made by the gods.
The best Butter Garlic Crab can be found at Trishna, Sai Baba Marg, Near Rhythm House, Kala Ghoda, Fort. Tel: +91 22 22703213
11. Chicken Manchurian
Now here’s a dish that even the Chinese over in the mainland haven’t heard about. Snigger, snigger. Yet it’s on the menu of the roadside handcart Chinese food hawker and the fancy five star hotels. Chicken Manchurian, a phrase that has come to be the face of Chinese food, is nothing but deep-fried batter-coated chicken cubes in an onion, green chillies, garlic, vinegar and soy sauce gravy. Eaten with rice, it never fails to get a sigh of contentment from those partaking of this gastronomic oddity.
If you want to taste the real thing, try it where it was created – China Garden, Om Chambers, Kemps Corner. Tel: +91 22 23630841
12. Chicken Mayo Roll
Almost every school or college canteen serves it. Most single screen cinema houses showing English movies display it during the interval. Most bakeries will have their version, neatly wrapped in cellophane, at the counter. Some grocery stores in up market areas stock it along with grain and rice. It’s hard to believe that plain boiled chicken doused in sweet-ish mayonnaise with a celery leaf for dressing, all wrapped up in a bread roll can be so popular in a spice loving city. But it is.
One of the best Chicken Mayo Rolls can be had at Paradise, Sindh Chambers, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba, Tel: +91 22 22832874. Or try it at Candies, Mac Ronells, 5A Pali Hill, St. Andrews Road, Bandra (W). Tel: +91 22 26424125.
13. Dhoklas and Farsan
These popular snacks have such a following among food loving Gujaratis that no meal is complete without them. And when traveling abroad, they don’t leave home without a little parcel tucked away in their luggage. Dhoklas or ‘khummun’ are made from the fermented batter of chickpeas, steamed and then spiced with chillies and ginger and tempered with mustard seed. Farsan, a broad term for savories encompassing Sev and Gathiya are crisp deep-fried spiced gram flour creations in pasta like shapes.
Several stores stock these popular snacks. But try them here – Chedda Dry Fruits & Snacks, 41 Ridge Road, Walkeshwar. Tel: +91 22 23699442. Dave Farsan Mart, 10 Babulnath Road, near Chowpatty. Tel: +91 22 66578311. Go-Go Snacks, Bhavan’s College Lane, Chowpatty. Tel: +91 22 23619968.
This adaptation of a Persian dessert was brought to India by the Mughals. A rich drink, Falooda has vermicelli mixed with milk, almonds, pistachios, a bit of rose syrup and the key ingredient – sabza or basil seeds, topped up with two scoops of ice cream. Refreshing and energizing, it’s a great pick-me-up on a hot day.
Badshah, at 152/156 LT Marg, Opp. Crawford Market. Tel: +91 22 23421943, has a reputation for serving the best Falooda.
15. Fish Curry
This dish is as old as Mumbai itself (remember, this city started off as a fishing village under various kings and sultanates until the Portuguese and English discovered it in 1534 AD). This coconut based light curry can be prepared using a variety of fish. But the most popular curries use surmai (kingfish), pomfret (butter fish), bangda (mackerel) or bombil (Bombay duck). And the only way to truly enjoy it is with par boiled country rice.
For Konkani/Malvani style fish curry – Sadichha, B-5 Gandhi Nagar, Opp. MIG Club, Bandra (E), Tel: +91 22 26510175. For Karwar style fish curry – Fresh Catch, Lt. Kotnis Marg, Near Fire Brigade, Off L J Road, Mahim (W). Tel: +91 22 24448942.
Inspired by the Lebanese pita bread wrap and suitably Indianised, the Frankie, or should I say the Tibbs Frankie, has satiated hordes of the hungry in search of a quick lip-smacking snack. Basically, it’s a juicy Naan (Indian bread) rolled up with an egg coating and stuffed with mutton or chicken and sprinkled with a unique masala that gives it its special flavor. The vegetarian option does not use eggs and the stuffing’s include paneer or potatoes.
Available all over the city. For a Tibbs Frankie closest to you, call +91 22 28214698
17. Gujarati ‘Thalis’
In fast food terms think of this as a large combo platter served on your table in unlimited quantities. So what gets replenished? Three types of Farsan/fried snacky things with a plethora of chutneys. Two kinds of vegetables. Two kinds of lentils. Dal and Kadhi (hot and spicy yoghurt based dish). A basket of different Rotis (Indian breads). Two kinds of Rice. Two desserts. All this for a modest price. Gasp! A note on Gujarati cuisine. Most dishes tend to be on the sweeter side and that makes an interesting combination with the spiciness of the food.
Try Golden Star Thali, 330 Raja Rammohan Roy Road, Opp. Charni Road Station, Girgaum, Tel: +91 22 23631983. Or, Chetana, 34 K Dubash Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort. Tel: +91 22 22844968.
18. Kanda Poha
A wedding breaker in Maharashtrian families, you will rarely find a badly made Kanda Poha dish. This simple, easy to make snack is made with Kanda (onions) and Poha (flaked rice) mixed with chopped potatoes and green chillies, sometimes even peas. Tempered with mustard seeds and garnished with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime, it lights up dull days. And cements marriages.
Try it at Aswad, L J Road, Opp. Shiv Sena Bhavan, Dadar (W). Tel: +91 22 24451871.
While the Kebab per se may not be unique to Bombay or the region, a few varieties that emerged from the Bohri and Muslim street food influence are truly unique. Gurda (kidney) and Kaleji (liver) top this list. Charcoal grilled, they go great with freshly sliced onions and a squeeze of lime. Try it at Ayubs, street behind Rhythm House, Kala Ghoda, open only in the evenings. You get the best beef Kebabs at Sarvi, 184/196 Dimtimkar Road, Opp. Nagpada Police Station, Byculla (W). Tel: +91 9833533305. And for some outstanding north west frontier style Kebabs, go to Peshawari, ITC Grand Maratha, Sahar Road, Andheri (E), Tel: +91 22 28303030.
20. Kheema Pao
Minced mutton cooked with onions, garlic, tomatoes, chillies and spices takes on many avatars here. In it’s original form, it is refereed to as plain Kheema. Topped with a crisply fried sunny side up egg, it is called Kheema Single Fry. And scrambled with eggs, it is called Ghotala. And all three are best eaten with Pao. Traditionally a breakfast dish, it is now eaten at all times of the day or night.
Try it at Stadium Restaurant, IMC Building, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Tel: +91 22 22046819. Or at Olympia, Rahim Mansion, 1 Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba, Tel: +91 22 22021043.
21. Kolhapuri Mutton
The hotter the temperature of a city, the hotter the food. And it’s true of this mutton dish that has its roots in Kolhapur, a city in the south of Maharashtra. It comes in two coconut based gravy variations. The nuclear strength version is called Tambda Rassa (a red chili spiced extravaganza). And the milder version is called Pandhara Rassa (yoghurt, cashew nuts and raisin embellished). Both go well with either rotis or rice.
Taste the heat at Purepur Kolhapur, 1, Aditya Apartments, Parleshwar Road, Parleshwar Mandir, Vile Parle (E). Tel: +91 22 26134569.
22. Misal Pao
Quintessentially from Pune, this rustic dish is made from a mix of curried sprouted lentils, topped with batata (potato) bhaji, poha (rice flakes), chivda, farsan, raw chopped onions and tomato. This hot and spicy dish is eaten with Pao. If you want to cut the fire, add some yogurt.
A good version can be found at Vinay Health Home, 71/83, Jawahar Mansion, Fanaswadi–Thakurdwar Corner, Girgaum. Tel: +91 22 22081211.
It’s a Maharashtrian sweet prepared during the Ganesh festival around August, when it is offered to Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, because it is his favorite sweet. Wheat flour dough kneaded with milk is stuffed with grated coconut mixed with sugar or jaggery, shaped like a teardrop and steamed or fried. Typically 21 are made as an offering and tons more for the rest of the family. It’s a pity that it’s made only once a year.
Some sweet shops do keep Modak during the festival season but it is made of khoya (thickened milk) and is not the real thing. For that, you’ll have to drop into a home that is celebrating the festival.
24. Mutton Dhansak
Representative of Parsi cuisine, the Mutton Dhansak falls in the category of soul satisfying food. It is mutton cooked till tender in a dal laden with spices. And it is eaten with browned rice topped with deep fried onions and garnished with mutton kebabs. And the after effects are usually a sound afternoon nap.
This rich dish, outside of a home, is best had at Ripon Club, 123A MG Road, Opp. Bombay University, Fountain. Find a member to take you there. Failing which, go to Britannia, Wakefield House, 11 Sprott Road, Ballard Estate. Tel: +91 22 22615264.
25. Mutton Sukke
If you want to break out into sweat, try this Malvani style mutton dish. Chunks of mutton on the bone is marinated in a hot Malvani masala and fried with onions and garlic and red chillies until everything browns and the meat is tender. It can be eaten with chapattis or wadé (rice flour pancakes).
Try it at Jai Hind Lunch Home, 6 Mantri Corner, Gokhale Road South, Dadar. Tel: +91 22 24314256.
26. Nalli Nihari
The phrase “breakfast like a king” takes on new meaning when you dig into a plate of Nalli Nihari simply because it can keep you going all day. Made with soft and tender mutton shanks in a rich, greasy gravy filled with marrow and steeped in spices, the flavors explode with delight. A crisp roti (Indian bread) makes for the perfect accompaniment.
The best Nalli Nihari can be had at Noor Mohammadi, 179 Wazir Building, Abdul Hakim Noor Mohammadi Chowk, Bhendi Bazaar. Tel: +91 22 23476188. Just make sure you reach before noon or you may leave disappointed.
27. Pao Bhaji
This specialty dish from the bye lanes of Mumbai has mashed steamed mixed vegetables (mainly potatoes, peas, tomatoes, onions and green pepper) cooked in spices and loads of butter. It is eaten with Pao (soft bun), which is shallow fried in even more butter and served with chopped onions. Sometimes cheese and paneer (cottage cheese) are added.
Though available at virtually every street corner and restaurant, try the sinful Pao Bhaji at Sardar, 166A Tardeo Road Junction, Opp. Bus Depot, Tardeo. Tel: 23530208.
28. Patra Ni Machhi
Another top of the line Parsi dish. Freshly caught Pomfret is marinated in a chutney that includes grated coconut, green chillies, fresh coriander and mint leaves, cumin, sugar, lime and salt. It is then wrapped in banana leaf and steamed for about ten minutes. Gently unwrap and consume quietly, close your eyes and savor the flavors that fill your senses.
A very good Patra Ni Machhi can be had at Ideal Corner, 12/F/G, Hornby View, Gunbow Street, Fort. Tel: +91 22 22621930. Only available on Saturdays.
29. Prawns Koliwada
Contrary to popular belief that this dish originated on the Konkan coast, it is actually a very Mumbai dish and the story goes that it was created in the Sion fishing village, or ‘Koliwada’, by – and here’s the twist – a north Indian immigrant from Punjab! These deep fried prawns marinated in a batter of flour, spices and ginger garlic paste can be identified by their signature red color. And they are crunchy yet deliciously melt in the mouth. Pick the smaller sized prawns, they taste better.
Try the real thing here – Hazara, GTB Nagar, Near the Gurudwara, Sion (W). Tel: +91 22 24092617.
30. Puran Poli
It is a festive dish made by Maharashtrians and Gujaratis especially during Holi (to celebrate the end of the winter season) and Dussehra (to celebrate the triumph of Lord Ram over the demon Ravan). It is made by simmering Chana Dal (yellow gram) with sugar or jaggery (molasses or gur) till it dries up, and then hand-ground to smoothen out. Nutmeg and cardamom powders are the flavorings. Palm sized balls of this paste are stuffed into wheat flour dough and rolled out to be roasted on a tawa with a little ghee (clarified butter). However, do add a lot of ghee when you’re eating them, they taste tops then.
Puran Polis can be found in some grocery stores but they are a poor mass produced version of the real thing. The best ones can only be found in a home. So do get yourself invited.
31. Ragda Pattice
This twin delight is a combination of Ragda, soft spicy rugged flavored chickpeas, and Pattice, mashed potatoes shaped into fat patties and fried. The ideal way is to eat it is to crush the Ragda with the Pattice and pile on the accompaniments – finely chopped onions, tangy tamarind sauce and fiery green chutney. Mash it all up and dig in.
A favourite street food, it is part of the Chaat family and is commonly found all over. A good place to try it is Kailash Parbat, Sheela Mahal, 1st Pasta Lane, Colaba. Tel: +91 22 22841972.
32. Sabudana Vada
For Maharashtrians, Sabudana Vada is the traditional ‘upvas’ or fasting food and the really hardcore ones land up fasting three to four times a week. And that’s good news because the restaurants never fail to oblige with hot crisp Sabudana Vadas for those who don’t have the time to make it at home. Sago is soaked until it puffs up. Crushed boiled potatoes, green chillies, coriander leaves and salt are kneaded in. They are then fashioned into palm-sized patties and deep fried until they turn crisp and golden. And then one bite leads to another and another.
Sabudana Vadas are available at most ‘Udipi’ hotels and roadside stalls. But try the ones at the R K Studio Canteen, Chembur. They are special.
It’s best to bite into a hot one. When you go through the crisp crust, you meet the steaming and savory-with-a-hint-of-sour chunks of spiced potatoes and peas. Lovingly shaped into triangles and deep fried, these calorie busters are worth the one week that you’ll need on the treadmill to work it off.
You can ask for Guru Kripa samosas at many stores across Mumbai. Or go to – Guru Kripa Hotel, 40, Guru Kripa Building, near SIES College, Sion. Tel: +91 22 24071237.
As kids, a sizzler was part of the “growing up in Mumbai” experience. The sight of a Sizzler arriving at your table, like an old steam engine, sizzling and steaming and spluttering to halt in front of you, was exciting and fun. A combination of grilled and steamed meats and vegetables with a side of mashed potatoes or fries, Sizzlers come in several vegetarian options too. Long lines at restaurants are a testimony to its popularity.
Give Sizzlers a try at Kobe 13/14 Sukh Sagar, Hughes Road, Opera House. Tel: +91 22 23632174. Or, Yoko, West View, S V Road, near Akbarally’s, Santacruz (W). Tel: 26492313. Both have branches at several locations.
35. Sorpatel & Vindaloo
These Goan specialties set your taste buds on fire and grandmothers are rumored to pass out Feni shots (a strong Goan brew made from palm or cashew nuts) to douse the flames. The Sorpatel has all parts of the pig, including its blood, in it’s recipe. And the Vindaloo is made with chunks of fatty pork meat cooked with spices, red chillies and lots of vinegar. Ideally, they are eaten the next day, after having spent the night soaking in all the juices and flavors.
Try Sorpatel, Vindaloo and other Goan delicacies at City Kitchen, 301 Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Fort. Tel: +91 22 22610002. Or, New Martin Hotel, 11 Glamour House, Strand Cinema Road, Colaba. Tel: +91 22 22029606.
36. South Indian ‘Meals’
“Meals Ready” is a common sign found outside South Indian restaurants. In front of ‘Udipi’ hotels, a euphemism for all south Indian cuisine, it means vegetarian meals laid out on a ‘Thali’, a stainless steel plate, or on a Banana leaf. It consists of a couple of vegetables, sambar (spicy and sour lentils and vegetables boiled with masalas and spices), rasam (a hot and fiery lentil soup-like dish) and curds (yoghurt) served with heaps of rice and eaten in that order. A non-vegetarian version of the ‘Meals’ can be found in ‘Military’ hotels.
Try the ‘meals’ at this 68-year-old haven – Rama Nayak’s Udipi Shree Krishna Boarding, bang outside the Matunga (E) station. Tel: +91 22 24142422.
37. South Indian ‘Tiffin’ – Idlis & Vadas
What started as ‘Tiffin’ in British India – a light meal that was had between meals – has become the rage all over the country. And here in Mumbai, it is no different. You will find it available every half a kilometer and at any time of day or night. These steamed (Idlis) or fried (Vadas) dumplings made with multi grain lentil batter are best scooped up with coconut chutney or dunked into hot sambar (spicy and sour lentils and vegetables boiled with masalas and spices).
The finest ‘Tiffin’ can be found at Madras Café (+91 22 24014419), Anand Bhavan (+91 22 24015745) and Idli House (+91 22 32460111), all located around King’s Circle, Matunga.
38. Vada Pao
In the fast food world, it’s the tastiest “cutlet in a bun” by a mile. And no, it’s not available at McDonalds. Every ‘Mumbaikars’ favorite “on the go” snack, the Vada Pao satiates millions everyday. And the recipe, hard to duplicate because each stall owner has his own ‘secret’ ingredient, uses a combination of boiled potatoes mashed with fresh coriander, green chillies, a bit of ginger and sometimes garlic, made into palm sized balls and dipped in a chickpea flour batter and deep fried till golden. They are stuffed into a Pao, which has been applied with a layer of spicy green chutney and a fiery red garlic crush. Tastes best when eaten hot.
It’s a crime to eat it anywhere else but on the street. Try Ashok Satam’s Stall, on the Flora Fountain side of the Central Telegraph Office (CTO), Fort.
39. Varan Bhaat
If you wanted to name one truly soul satisfying food of this city, then this would be it. The simple and truly humble dish is made by lightly tempering cooked-till-soft Toor Dal (a lentil) with ghee (clarified butter), turmeric and cumin powder. Served over steaming hot rice, or Bhaat, it assumes magical proportions.
A staple in Maharashtrian homes, that’s really where you should be eating it. But do give Diva Maharashtracha a try. T H Kataria Marg, Mahim. Tel: +91 22 24454433
40. Zhunka Bhakar
This dish has deep roots in the farming and working class communities of interior Maharashtra. Considered the common man’s food, a political decision was made at the highest echelons of government to make it available everywhere. Overnight, thousands of Zhunka Bhakar stalls opened, none pricing it more than Rs 10. Traditionally, the Zhunka is made using chopped onions tempered with mustard seeds and kadipatta leaves mixed with gram flour and is dry. It is eaten with Jowar (millet) Bhakri or roti.
Try the stalls opposite Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (originally called Victoria Terminus) and BMC Headquarters.
This story appeared on CNNGo: