Today, our ‘Gourmet Traveller’ blog series is focusing on the flavourful delicacies and traditional dishes that await us in Mumbai – one of our favourite Asian destinations. Food and travel go hand in hand and one of the great pleasures of visiting a new city or country is sampling local culinary favourites. In India, of course, there is an abundance of vegetarian and seafood dishes, and we’re going to look at some of the most popular ones that you must try during your visit.
Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city known for its hustle, bustle, historical and religious sites and of course, its food. Many dishes are vegetarian and those that aren’t are unlikely to contain beef. In Hinduism, the cow is seen as a sacred animal and in the majority of Indian states it is illegal to eat beef. Vegetables and seafood are usually the key ingredients and contrary to popular belief, not all Indian dishes are packed with taste bud blowing chillies – many flavours are subtle and incredibly mild, but you can have the heat if you’d prefer. A lot of the staple foods consumed by locals in Mumbai include rice, Indian breads, fish curries, vegetable curries and sweet desserts.
These are some of our favourite recommendations and you’ll notice that the majority of dishes can’t be found at your favourite Indian restaurant at home. Indian food as we know it is completely different to that which is found in India. You’re in for a real culinary treat.
Bombay Duck (also known as Bombil Fry)
Bombil, or Bombay Duck, is a favourite in Mumbai, but it’s not actually a Duck, it’s a fish. There are numerous ways to enjoy this delicacy, including hanging the fish to dry on racks along the beach and adding it as a main protein to spicy curries, but one of the most popular ways to enjoy it in Mumbai is by dipping it in a spice-filled batter and then frying it. The fish is then crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside.
This dish originated in the 1850s and people from all over India still flock to Mumbai to try it. There are many variations of the dish, but usually it is a spiced mixture of steamed vegetables (bhaji) in a thick gravy (to give a curry like texture) which is served with a soft, fried bread roll (pav) and a side of onions. It’s classed as a fast food (chaat) and can be found all over the city.
This is a savoury snack that can often be found on Chowpatty beach. It’s a type of chaat that is made of vegetables, puffed rice and tamarind sauce. It’s believed by some to have originated in a restaurant near Victoria Terminus, but others believe it was the city’s Gujaratis who made it. Regardless of its origins, it is now found across India, where it has been changed to suit local food availability. For example, the Kolkata variant of this dish is called Jhalmuri which simply means spicy puffed rice.
Butter Garlic Crab
This is one for the shellfish lovers out there and it is quite possibly one of the most delicious crab recipes on the planet. It’s simple but delicious and the name says it all. A large amount of garlic and butter are simmered in a large pot before the crab is added – usually a mud crab. There is a restaurant in Mumbai named Trishna’s which is famous for this dish.
Puran Poli is a sweet flatbread that is believed to have originated in the 14th century. It’s made from split yellow gram, plain flour, jaggery, cardamom powder, ghee and water. It’s delicious and even more so when drizzled with melted ghee.
Mumbai’s take on a burger, Vada Pav, or the Poor Man’s Burger, is a bread bun (pav) and fritter (vada) stuffed with fried mashed potato and served with a range of chutney’s (often spicy) and chillies. It’s one of the most popular street food dishes in Mumbai and it’s believed to have been invented in 1966 by a Mumbaikar, Ashok Vaidya, who opened the first vada pav stall opposite the Dadar train station. It’s simple yet delicious and if you have the chance to try it, you must. An extra large chilli is often added for those that like the spicy heat.
Akuri on Toast
This is a popular breakfast meal and we’re quite sure that you’ll have never tasted eggs like this before – unless you’ve been to India. The eggs are scrambled with onions, tomatoes, red chillies and green chillies before being served on toasted bread. There are many variations of the dish and some people may also add other ingredients such as curry leaves and cumin powder.
Traditional Indian Thali
A Thali is basically a round platter that is used to serve food and the Thali style serving is incredibly popular in India. There are many restaurants in Mumbai that serve Thali and the offerings usually change quite regularly. The idea behind a Thali is to offer all the 6 different flavours of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy on one single plate, and you’ll generally be offered 2 or 3 curry options (one of which is usually quite sweet), various breads, rice, chutney’s, small bites, a dhal and a dessert. All of this goes well with a cold glass of butternut milk. It’s one set price for the Thali and in some restaurants, you can eat as much as you like. If you get the chance to try one (most are vegetarian), then please do. One of Mumbai’s most famous Thali restaurants is Shree Thaker Bhojanalay. Locals will eat the food with their fingers – using the bread to scoop up the curry – but you can ask for a spoon if you’d prefer.
This is another simple Mumbai dish, but it’s one that everyone will enjoy. Toor dal is cooked until soft with ghee, cumin powder and turmeric. It’s often served over rice and with various Indian flatbreads. This is a great choice for those that prefer less heat as it’s not spicy at all. A typical Indian comfort food, it’s filling and a great meal option during the summer months in India.
Aegean Odyssey will visit Mumbai on several sailings this winter, most of which depart in December 2018. All itineraries can be viewed on our website, along with detailed information on shore excursions and our dedicated land programmes. Let ‘Incredible India’ enchant you this winter.