What to Order At Any Irani Cafe | Foolproof

By Madhura Rao August 31, 2016
Our favorite Irani treats. Image: theguardian.com

When boasting about Bombay’s distinctive food culture, one can’t leave out our good old Irani cafés. These quaint little eateries that dot the map of south Bombay have an old time charm to them with their checkered table cloths, high ceilings and irate yet beloved ‘bawajis’ behind the cash counter.

If you’ve ever been to an Irani cafe, you’ll know the place gets packed to the brim pretty fast. To add to the chaos, the menu is extensive, and your waiter doesn’t seem too keen on waiting on you or making any suggestions!

The good news is that we’ve got you covered: Team Mumbai Foodie has put together a little cheat sheet for you. Think of this as the Greatest Hits of the Irani Cafe world, so that you stop peering at their menus over that glass top table.

Irani Chai
What sets an Irani chai apart is the addition of mint (i.e. pudina). So make sure you stick to the Irani chai instead of going for the usual masala variant. Khari biscuits, jeera butter, and maska pav are mandatory with the chai. Make sure you dunk them real good even if your server is very visibly annoyed.


B. Merwan & Co., Grant Road. Image: Zomato

Chicken Puffs
Flaky, buttery, and that drool worthy filling! You do get mutton and a vegetable puffs too but there’s a comforting, nostalgic magic about the chicken puff that’ll make you want to order a second plate. It’s probably the classic and versatile combination of chicken and potatoes, enveloped in the mild spices they use. These are best had at Sassanian.

Fish Cutlet
The fish cutlets are a tad bit oily but we give them a 10 for how lovely they taste. You’re in luck if you arrive when a fresh batch has just been fried. The fish used is pomfret and is usually in a hearty, fresh condition. Sliced bread acts as a fantastic foil for their flaky, crumbling texture with a delightfully consistent flavour.


Kheema Pav at Kyani & Co, Marine Lines. Image: Zomato

Kheema Pav
Unlike Mughlai Kheema, the Irani Kheema is a more balanced combination of spices. The pav that comes along with it is baked in-house at most of the cafes. So, if you’re a kheema person, we’d definitely recommend ordering this one at an Irani cafe. They may even give your money back if it isn’t good. The softest meat with the gentlest spice can b found at Cafe Irani Chaii.

Berry Pulao
Made using Iranian barberries, fragrant basmati rice, and sweetened with caramelised onions, the berry pulao pairs up effortlessly with almost any main course from an Irani cafe menu. You could go for the chicken variant if you’re an all-meat person but even the plain one is just as delicious. This iconic dish is significant to what makes Britannia a Bombay classic, although even the one at SodaBottleOpenerWala is excellent.

Ah, the sweet matrimony between Iranian and Gujarati cuisine! Succulent mutton (or chicken) cooked with a variety of lentils. If you like your curries mildly flavoured, this one is for you. Most of the Irani cafes pride themselves on making stellar dhansak. Pairs better with the Parsi ‘rotli’ than it does with rice, but that’s just according to me. Be prepared for confused stares if you ask for a vegetarian version.


Salli Boti

Salli Boti. Image: sausagesandsamosas.wordpress.com

Salli Boti
Chunks of lamb meat in a gravy sweetened with apricots, topped off with fried potato sticks! I mean, what’s not to like? The lamb is slow cooked and results in melt-in-the-mouth kind of a texture. You’ll love this if you like a dish to have a variety of textures, especially when they contrast well with each other. *insert heart eyed emoji*

Mawa Cakes

Mawa Cakes. Image: notoutofthebox.in

Mawa Cakes

These sell like hot cakes! (Seriously, that’s not a pun. We’re allergic to puns anyway). If you’re lucky enough get yourself a piece, grab it and do not let go! You can think of it as the love child of mithai and cake, this one cake can make your tea time fit for royalty. Mawa cakes too are consistent enough to ask for your money back if you find a bad one.

Lagan nu Custard 

This rose scented caramel pudding is an absolute Bombay classic and no one does it as well as the bawas do! The smooth, bouncy texture is absolutely impeccable. The dessert disappears before you know that it has arrived at your table (typically at a Parsi wedding). A great way to have one is ordering from the Bawi Bride.

Bread Pudding

As juvenile as it sounds, the bread pudding is a gorgeous study in simplicity. It’s sweet yet subtle, soft, and comes in a simple foil box you can discard after eating on the go with a disposable spoon. Bread Pudding – 1, Cupcakes – 0.

BRB, we’re finding a nearby Irani so we can take a hungry friend along! What would you eat at an Irani? Tell us in the comments below!