There is no question that Mumbai is the street food capital of India. And there is one street food in particular that really became a favourite of mine…
In my short time in Mumbai, I was never going to spend too many days doing the usual touristy things (although I did do some, obviously). I wanted to visit Mumbai mainly for the amazing street food and street vibes that the city is known for. Mumbaikas are lucky to live in a city where some of the most famous Indian street food was created, such as Bhelpuri, Pav Bhaji, Ragda-Pattice, and last but not least, the Vada Pav.
I don’t know why I like the vada pav so much, maybe it is because I became bored eating simple snacks in Delhi and Agra, and I wanted to experiment with a new kind of fast food, and preferably a burger! When I later visited Mumbai, I found what I had been looking for in the vada pav!
Mashed and spiced potato balls are dipped a chick pea flavoured batter and then fried to make the “vada”. Not all vendors on the streets of Mumbai may use chick pea flavouring, but the one I went to behind the Taj hotel did (this area, btw, is also home to the city’s best chicken tikka!).
I got to watch the whole cooking and preparation process in very humble surroundings, and although the Indian guys did not use gloves, things still looked quite hygienic to me, and there were many people pushing around me waiting for their vada pav, too (no such thing as an orderly queue in Mumbai).
On a grill, the “pav” (which is a bun) is lined up to the side, whereas the main part of the grill (more like a skillet) is covered in sauce of some kind. It didn’t taste like chilli sauce to me, maybe it was just a chutney. Still, the pav is hand-wiped over the warm sauce that is bubbling on the grill so that both the top and bottom sides are covered in it.
Into the same batter that the vada was cooking in are thrown some green chillies, and these are served with the vada pav if you require. I had a few of these chillies, although I was very wary as I didn’t know how spicy they would be!
When everything is cooked, the vada are placed inside the pav and the battered chillies are thrown in too, just for good measure! I can testify that these awesome Mumbai-style burgers are delicious! One of the best street foods in the world – and they are a Mumbai invention!
Vada pav are really handy to eat on the move as you try to negotiate the busy streets of Mumbai at Colaba or by the waterfront. However, if you can find a small table beside the road, then try to sit down and enjoy the vada pav and chillies in the chaotic surroundings of where you just watched it being cooked. It all adds to the atmosphere – and atmosphere is key when you’re eating Mumbai street food!