8 Mumbai Foods You Need To Try Atleast Once | MF Guide
Back in the day, the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai was a fishing village. Home to the Kolis, a Maharashtrian fishing community, the food culture here was completely different. Cut to present day Mumbai, we have a diaspora of cuisines to explore. The city of migrants has drawn in people from around the world and with them, their food. In this piece, I have broken down the history of special Mumbai dishes that you need to try at least once in your lifetime.
Bombil Fry or Bombay Duck
A few days ago, I corrected my American friend that Bombay Duck is not a duck – it’s a fish! Intrigued by the name, she asked me about the history of the dish. A Maharashtrian speciality, this lizardfish was discovered on the west coast and got its name during the colonial rule in India. Transported in trains that carried mail, it earned the term of Bombay Dak, where dak meant mail. Over time it was referred to as ‘duck’ and then earned the name of Bombay Duck. What’s special about this dish is that it’s a monsoon favourite, a time when most people stay away from seafood. Kolis and East Indians prepare this dish differently, but it tastes best when it’s perfectly fried in butter with a drizzle of lime juice and topped with onions. I personally love having it with solkadi, another Maharashtrian speciality drink that acts like a natural digestive and tastes delicious!
Where to try it: Gajalee has thalis with bombil fry, a delicious fish curry served with rice, appam and solkadi. The perfect Maharashtrian feast.
Known as the Bombay burger, the origins of this dish date back to the late 1960s. Invented by a street vendor, Ashok Vaidya, this dish became a hit across the mill workers in Parel and soon among people of all professions in the city. I have grown up eating this spiced potato burger and would choose this over a fancy, meat-loaded burger any day. No vada pav tastes the same as every stall owner puts in his own secret ingredient in this dish. For me, there’s nothing better than the combination of deep-fried potatoes, smeared with green chutney and fiery red garlic powder, stuffed into a pav.
Where to try it: Try it at Ashok Vada Pav Stall in Prabhadevi and you’ll understand why it’s every Mumbaikars go-to snack.
Bombay Bhel Puri
You may find this dish in many parts of India, but this delicious chaat finds its roots in Mumbai. Some say that it was invented at a restaurant near Victoria Terminus. Made from ‘bhadang’, a spicy Maharashtrian namkeen, it is loaded with potato, onions, tomatoes, garnished with coriander and spiked with some lime juice. It tastes even better with mint chutney.
Where to try it: I swear by Sharma Chaat Bhandar at Vile Parle for my bhel puri fix.
Akuri On Toast
When India became a British colony, and was governed by the East India Company, many Parsis flocked over to Mumbai in search of good business opportunities. Soon enough, our staple breakfast was replaced by the popular Parsi dish: akuri on toast that is made by mixing scrambled eggs with onions, tomatoes, red chilli powder, green chillies and coriander.
Where to try it: Jimmy Boy at Mahim tosses up a mean akuri on toast and even adds a bit of raw mango to their preparation during mango season.
What’s your comfort food? My vote definitely goes to homemade dal-chawal or varan bhaat in Maharashtra. This simple, soulful dish was invented in Maharashtrian households with sada varan and steamed Basmati rice. When in Mumbai, you cannot leave without trying this.
Where to try it: Check out Diva Maharashtracha for this dish.
Brun Maska and Irani Chai
This deadly combination of bread and butter coupled with a cup of milky and sweet tea became super popular, during the second wave of migration in Bombay. A bunch of Irani cafes were set up by the Persians near Gateway of India and had customers flocking in for tea parties at all times of the day.
Where to try it: I am not a big fan of tea but whenever I am at Marine Lines, I stop by Kyani & Co. and enjoy dipping this butter laden bread into the sweet, tannic tea.
During the 1960s, Amarjit Singh Tibb, a national hockey player happened to try a shawarma in Beirut and fell in love with it. After that, he went on to create an Indian version of this and called it Tibbs Frankie. This invention featured an egg-coated naan, which was stuffed with meat marinated with a special masala recipe that gave it a special flavour. He started selling them at a shop in Colaba Causeway and became a hit in no time. Frankies have now become synonymous with Tibbs for millions of Mumbaikars.
Where to try it: Tibbs Frankie has several outposts across the city with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian varieties of the roll.
Mumbai is home to several dishes that have pav as the hero. During the days of the civil war in 1860s, there was a high demand for cotton. The mill workers at Bombay Cotton Exchange worked hard to meet the demand of the traders. A result of this was that they were left tired and hungry often. They decided to solve this problem by collecting leftover bread and vegetables from Jesuit priests, mash up vegetables together and therein lies the birth of pav bhaji. Today, this dish is a crowd pleaser and is one of Mumbai’s favourite street foods. Several places in the city have come up with their own versions of this dish as well.
Where to try it: Sardar Pav Bhaji in Tardeo sells the most authentic and buttery pav bhaji in Mumbai.
Tag us on instagram when you try these dishes out and tell us which dish won your heart!