Travel

Eating in Mumbai

05/12/2011

Last month I visited India for the second time in my life. My fiancé is originally from Mumbai, so we try to go once a year to visit the family. This year it was a special occasion for us, as we celebrated our engagement with a hindu ceremony  and the whole family reunited at the Swaminarayan temple!

Food is such an important part of the Indian way of life! It’s a blend of different cultures and Mumbai is the perfect example of this mix of influences. The city also has its distinctive food: you can’t leave Mumbai without trying “pav bhaji” from a street vendor!

Pav Bhaji is a fast food dish that originated in Marathi cuisine and is popular in most metropolitan areas in India.

My recommendation is to visit Juhu beach in the late afternoon to watch the sun setting over the Indian ocean. The beach comes to life at dusk, when the heat cools off a bit, street vendors pop up, men of all ages play cricket and families stroll up and down the beach relaxing and eating.

The best way to cool down in the humid and sticky Indian evenings is to eat “gola”, a block of ice on a stick, traditionally poured with Kala Khatta syrup. It’s very sour, but you can always order your gola with different syrups if you prefer something sweet!

A big part of my days in Mumbai is spent at the market; our local one is  near Santacruz station. At any time of the day, the market is bursting with people, stalls, dogs, cows, cars, rickshaws and buses. The sun is shining and the fruits and vegetables have the most incredible colours and names! I like discovering new vegetables, like “okra” (ladyfinger) and “karela” (bitter melon).

I love the colour of fresh turmeric!

Santacruz Market also has many sweet shops, selling boxes of cashew butter sweets and bags of snacks and nuts. They will let you try anything so don’t be afraid to ask!

This is ghughra, a sweet filled with dry fruit that resembles an Argentinian empanada. Around it you can see different snacks, like fafda, sev and puri.

The best meals you will ever have in India are of course home-made (they are also the spiciest)! You will be introduced to various traditions of India, depending on the cultural background of your host. My “Indian family” is originally from Gujarat and vegetarian. The meal at home (either lunch or dinner) consists of one type of curry with a choice of bread (roti, paratha, chapati, naan, etc.).

Every Indian wife should master the art of roti making! I still haven’t quite got there! ;)

These are two home-made meals cooked by my “Indian mum”:

– Pav Bhaji (Pav is the small bread bun, Bhaji is a vegetable dish);

– Puri (puffed flat bread), mung (green beans), okra (ladyfingers), green chilli, laddoo (a ball-shaped sweet) and badam doodh (almond milk). Savoury and sweet are eaten together, as the sweet will dim the strong spices.

If you are in Mumbai, my recommendation is: don’t be scared to try street food (especially pav bhaji, frankie, sev puri)! Drink fresh fruit juices whenever you see a stall on the road (sugar kane is my favourite).

And if you are really desperate for a western meal, you can always eat a burger (strictly chicken or veggie, never beef!) or pasta at the famous Leopold Cafe. But look at this photo and you will know what to expect…I won’t vouch for it! ;)

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