Mumbai Feature

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Street-Food Favorites

Unlike most other Indian cities that start snoozing as early as 8 pm, Mumbai buzzes around the clock. Food carts appear every few yards serving chaats (Indian street snacks), and even the simplest food is transformed into something impressive. The choices are enormous—there are hot, spicy vegetable sandwiches, slices of green mango peppered with masala, sizzling kebabs, Chinese noodles with vegetables, fresh strawberry milk shakes, carrot juice, kulfi (cream-based Indian ice cream), fresh-sliced mango with creamed, spicy boiled chickpeas, fried fish, potato turnovers, masala peanuts, coconut water, green-chilli omelets in buns, and an almost endless array of exotic snacks associated with Mumbai.

Much of this snack food is created right at the side of the road on open grills and stoves and then assembled in front of you. As you would imagine, the hygiene may be a little suspect. But don't let that deter you, or you may miss out on some carnival-like happenings and some excellent local food. If you sample any of these street-side treats, follow some rules. Try food served hot on the spot. If the plates don't look clean, ask that food be either served or packed in a disposable container (a fresh plastic bag, a cup created from leaves, a paper plate, or newspaper) or bring your own container. Carry your own spoon and paper or plastic cup, if you want. And don't worry—the vendors usually understand enough English to see the process through. Finally, those vendors who attract the biggest crowds and fame are likely to be safer than those who are ignored.

Mumbai's Street-Food Classics

Bhel puri: Puffed rice tossed with cubes of boiled potatoes, slices of tomatoes, peanuts, tamarind sauce, chopped onion, and sev (a savory, deep-fried treat made of chickpea flour).

Dahi puri: Tiny, flat, white-flour puris (deep-fried bread) layered with boiled potatoes, three types of chutney made from tamarind, dates, and cilantro, plus mung-bean sprouts and topped with curd and chopped cilantro leaves.

Sev puri: The same white-flour puris, or crackers, layered with boiled potatoes, three types of chutney made from tamarind, dates, and cilantro.

Pani puri: Deep-fried, globular puris, also known as golgappas, that have been cracked open and filled with date water, tamarind sauce, mung-bean sprouts, and potatoes.

Ragda pattice: Spiced and mashed potatoes shaped into cutlets and fried on a griddle. These are served with hot white-pea curry and a few sauces.

Dahi bada: Large flat dumplings of white lentils, which are deep-fried to make badas, and are then dipped in water to soak out the oil. The badas are broken into pieces and served spiced with a variety of masala powders, tamarind sauce, cilantro chutney, and yogurt.

Pav bhaji: Mashed potatoes that are fried on a hot griddle for an hour with peas, tomatoes, and butter—until it's become a juicy, spicy, potato mash. It's then served with sliced onions, lemons, and butter-fried buns called pavs.

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