“You can’t live in this city, this city lives in you.” -Anonymous
Mumbai is home to a dizzying array of dishes, delicacies and dining establishments that will satisfy your every craving, and certainly have you coming back for seconds. Known especially for its cheap and delicious street food, Mumbai is every foodie’s dream. What makes Mumbai’s food scene especially unique however, is that it is truly a melting pot where the diverse culinary traditions and heritages from across India come together, thanks to decades of immgration into the city. From homegrown Mumbai staples like bhel puri to the Maharashtrain pav bhaji, the Parsi akuri to the Gujarati dhokla, and the Udupi kadubbu to the Punjabi chhole bhature, Mumbai has everything your stomach desires. Let’s talk about food!
If you haven’t tried Pav Bhaji, then you probably haven’t been to Mumbai. Originating in the Maharashtra state and initially intended for workers, the thick and scrumptious curry is an incredibly popular dish for both locals and tourists in Mumbai. The pav in Pav Bhaji are the bread rolls, while bhavi means vegetables or a vegetable based dish. The rolls are heated on a large butter-coated griddle, while onions, garlic and ginger paste, chili powder, and tomatoes (and a special Pav Bhaji masala) are sauteed in butter. Add in an assortment of vegetables such as cauliflower, beans, potatoes, carrots, and peas, and there you have it. Some of the best places to find it in Mumbai include Canon Pav Bhaji, Shri Krishna Fast Food, or Sardar Pav Bhaji. Bon appetit!
Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, and Dahi Puri
Chaat describes a whole category of savory Mumbai street food, to include Bhel Puri, Sev Puri and Dahi Puri. Though recipes can differ depending on where you go, Bhel Puri typically consists of puffed rice, sev (tiny crunchy noodles), veggies (such as potatoes and onions), chat masala, and tamarind chutney. Depending on the venue, you might end up eating Bhel Puri on a plate, on flatbread, or even in a paper cone. You can find its cousin Sev Puri in both street stalls and sit-down restaurants. Although similar to Bhel Puri, Sev Puri typically begins with puri (deep-fried round bread) which is topped with potatoes, onions, and tamarind, chili, and garlic (or mint) chutneys. Of course, much like bhel puri, it is finally topped with sev. Dahi Puri is served in tiny puri shells which are stuffed with either chickpeas or potato, and topped with dahi (yogurt), typically one of three chutneys (mint, sweet, or chili), and of course you guessed it – sev. When it’s time to dig in, head over to Chowpatty and Juhu beaches to find some of the best options in town.
Do you like your food on the hotter and spicier side? And do you like meals that can be eaten morning, noon, or night? Perfect! Look no further than the finger-licking delight of the Mumbai street food scene – Misal Pav. Also from Pune in the Maharashtra state, the dish can vary depending on where you order it from, but traditionally it mixes lentils, potato bhaji (potatoes with ginger, garlic, curry leaves), onions, tomato, and spices, topped off with a side of pav. Best place to try it in Mumbai? Check out Aaswad in Dadar, Aram (numerous locations) or Mamledar Misal (numerous locations).
You certainly can’t forget to try Vada Pav while in Mumbai – and if you do forget, you’ll surely regret it! You can imagine Vada Pav like Mumbai’s version of the veggie burger – but deep fried, and even more delicious. What’s inside, you ask? The patty is made up of mashed potatoes and spices. After being deep fried, it’s sandwiched between a bun and topped with chutneys, coriander, chili, and other spices. Make sure to hit up Ashok Vada Pav for a taste experience you won’t soon forget. Khidki Vada and Aaram Vada Pav are also worth checking out too if you can’t make it to Ashok.
Bored of your typical scrambled eggs for breakfast? Then it’s time to spice up your morning routine ASAP! Make sure you try Akuri while in Mumbai – a spicy scrambled egg Parsi dish that will start your day off right. The eggs are mixed with coriander, tomatoes, chilies, black pepper, and onions, and are usually served on toast. Though simple, the flavor combination has made Akuri one of the most well-known Parsi dishes in Mumbai, and a must-eat for both locals and visitors alike. Head over ASAP to Jimmy Boy to get your fill.
Though native to Mumbai, the Frankie was actually inspired by Lebanese style shawarma wraps. Of course, Mumbai’s Frankie has taken on its own character and local flavors, becoming a popular and filling street snack. Made up of a chicken or mutton filling with potatoes, eggs, onions, and sauces, all this goodness is wrapped up into a hearty naan, rolled up for your convenience. Easy to eat on the go, the wrap is a convenient and popular option if you’re in a rush (or just don’t want to sit down to eat). Your best bet for the best Frankies in town is Tibbs (various locations in Mumbai). And if you’re vegetarian, don’t dismay – both Tibbs and Breadkraft offer delicious veggie alternatives.
Craving some more pav (bread rolls) in your diet? Maybe you loved the Pav Bhaji and the Misal Pav, but want to branch out and try something new. If that’s the case, it’s time to explore Kheema Pav – another delectable breakfast dish that can also be eaten for lunch or dinner. Sensing a trend here? (Yes – you can eat nearly everything whenever you want!) The parsi dish is made up of minced meat simmered in spices, served with a side of lemon, onions, and green chilis. Olympia Coffee House, Hotel Grant House, Prithvi Cafe, or Good Luck Bandra are all great options to try some Kheema Pav on your trip.
You must make sure to find your nearest Dhokla shop before leaving Mumbai. With over a dozen different varieties, gujarati Dhoklas are an essential part of many meals. In fact, they are so versatile that they can be eaten at breakfast, as an addition to your main course, as a side, or as an on-the-go snack. The rectangular and bite-size Dhoklas are made by steaming fermented chickpea batter and adding chilies, ginger, mustard seed, and other spices. Usually these delicious bites are served with a coriander chutney on the side. Without a doubt, your absolute best bet for the most authentic dhoklas in Mumbai is Rajubhai Dhoklawala.
Though Dosa is native to southern India, it’s found a home among the locals of Mumbai. With a variety of different flavor combinations, you’ll have a hard time getting bored of this dish. The Dosa itself is a thin crepe-like wrap made of fermented rice, and is then stuffed or smeared with whatever tickles your fancy (and of course topped off with chutney). These days you can get anything from a Pizza Dosa, Chinese Dosa, Italian Dosa, or a Jini Dosa (Mumbai’s take on the classic). Juhu’s Nandu Dosa, Cafe Madras, and Anand Dosa Stall are excellent options to take care of your Dosa fix.
Itching for more deep-fried goodness? Then Batata Vada is calling your name. These balls of mashed potato patties are smothered in chickpea flour and deep-fried, then topped with spices (including salt, chili powder, turmeric, ginger, and coriander) and served with green chutney or green chilies. Ubiquitous in the city, the crispy goodness on the outside is perfectly accompanied by the toasty, soft filling on the inside. Be sure to grab them right after they come out of the deep-fryer though…that’s when they taste their best. A great place to try these fritters is Trushna Batata Wada. But if you can’t make it there don’t worry – you can find these just about anywhere in Mumbai.
Falooda & Chai
We certainly can’t forget about beverages when talking about the best food in Mumbai. Inspired by the Iranian beverage of nearly the same name, Falooda is the Indian twist on a refreshing drink that will keep you cool in the Mumbai heat. The drink is made with vermicelli, rose syrup, sweet basil, milk, and sometimes served with ice cream. Variations include kulfi-topped Faloodas, fruity Faloodas, and bubble-tea style tapioca pearls. The best versions of this perfect summer drink (which is so rich it can basically be a meal on its own) can be found at Baba Falooda, the Haji Ali Juice Center, and Badshah Falooda.
Though not native, per se, to Mumbai, you can’t go anywhere without seeing someone drinking Chai. Milk is added to the strongly brewed tea, and then some masala or cardamom is usually mixed in as well. Cheap (5-15 rupees), warm, and relaxing, you simply can’t go wrong taking a few minutes to enjoy a nice cup of chai while exploring the city of dreams.
Pri is a true believer in the Rule of Three - she lives between Dubai, Bombay and Washington DC, speaks three languages and has 3 kids under 3. She graduated from Connecticut College and has a Masters Degree from New York University. Pri is a licensed Dubai tour guide, travel blogger, art aficionado, foodie and curious to check out all things new in her city. Pri has been part of the Free Tours By Foot team since 2015 and loves to make customized itineraries for her guests.