OPINION

Mumbai Street Food: Meet The Puris

May 25, 2006
Nyayapati Gautam

Eating out has developed into a passion with me. Of course the fact that I stay alone and cannot cook to save my life has helped me immensely in developing this passion.

My eating out has ranged from 5 Star restaurants to the boutique restaurants that have sprung up of late. However the most uniquely satisfying, divinely tasty and totally unhygienic indulgence is the street food in Mumbai.

Those of you who have not tasted it are really missing something good.

Where do I start? Hmmmmm, Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, Pani Puri, Dahi Puri, Pav Bhaji and the ubiquitous Vada Pav. How can I play favourites here? My favourite is undoubtedly the Puri clan.

Chowpatty in South Mumbai and the Juhu beach in the north are supposed to be the best in business for this. But frankly I think they are overrated. The best that I have had is near the Ramakrishna Mission in Khar, Mumbai. (Actually it is on the Santa Cruz side but that is of minor importance).

Woof! It be good. I especially like the Dahi Puri there. Boiled potatoes are chopped and then stuffed into the puri (6 per plate) and then half a spoonful each of theekha (hot & spicy) chutney and meetha (sweet) chutney is added to the puri. On it are sprinkled the various masalas. Then comes a liberal (one of the privileges of being a long standing customer) hand of dahi poured over the puris. The puris are then garnished with a masala that consists of chopped coriander, raw mango, boiled black gram and moong. Needless to add they are served with a flourish even as the dude wipes the sweat off his brow.

Eating into it is wonderful too. The crisp puris (you need to eat them quickly, else the puris lose their crispness.) the stuffing inside and the Dahi. Not to forget the garnish. They all combine to make the dish divine.

I was once rhapsodizing about the food there and someone, a cousin I suspect, asked me to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 on hygiene. Hygiene?

Well! How daft! Obviously this ranked 0 on that particular scale. For those who are finicky about absurd things like hygiene, cleanliness etc. please treat this as a statutory warning and go no further. For those of you who are a bit more accommodating and who don't mind an occasional bout of illness this is the place to eat Dahi Puri.

I am just another average 30+ chap with a view on everything around me. Politics, women, sports, work, travel, India and its place on the world stage - you name it and I have a point of view. And I would like to share it with as many people as possible.
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#1
Kamla
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May 27, 2006
04:40 AM

Great post about the street foods of Bombay. Enjoyed reading it..Curious to know why you did not mention Elco Chaat off of Linking Road? That is a great place.

Kamla

#2
Kim
URL
May 27, 2006
05:56 AM

Elco is too sanitised : ) Never get the feel that I'm eating chaat. But yeah its the most tasty "hygenic" chaat around.
Suprisingly the best bhel I've had was not in Bombay but in Alibagh. First guy on the right at the beach entry point when you are facing the beach. He grinds all the chutneys himself which results in some absolutely OUTSTANDING chaat. He's been there since the last 25 years.

#3
Gautam
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May 28, 2006
06:02 AM

Hi! Kamla,

Interestingly though I had stayed in Santa Cruz for almost a decade I visited Elco only once. And somehow did not quite like it. Maybe I was expecting a bit too much as my friend had raved & raved about it.

Ciao
Gautam

#4
Righta
URL
May 28, 2006
09:21 AM

Hygiene in Hotels are not seen, so you accept that as a given, well think again. In the street its all there to see, in closed kitchens its all in your sense of security. Since most of the street food is made fresh/hot and the invetory never lies around to see another day, its hygeinic that way.

You can see the inventory turnover rate and 'tac time' if you visit Bade Miya near Gateway of India. The Rumali rotis are flicked on to red hot inverted tawas and the chef flings another rumali-in-waiting in the air, inverts the roti on the tawa and so on. This production line is perfectly balanced, even if theres a slight delay in attending to the roti on the red hot tawa it chars because its evidently red hot and accuracy is the key.

The other aspect is that your hunger increases as you see the rotis being chugged out of this production line with finnesse.

#5
Alex
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March 21, 2007
12:47 PM

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#6
dr
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May 25, 2007
10:33 AM
#7
Aditi Nadkarni
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May 25, 2007
02:28 PM

You got me all nostalgic Gautam! :) I absolutely LOVE Bombay street food. I've yet to taste the flavor of Bombay's ragda patties (which you left out I think) and dahi batata puri anywhere else. YUMMM. I don't mind the ocassional tummy cramps much to the horror of my parents. Heehee. I've been meaning to write a post about Potatoes and Bombay. Has anybody noticed that literally ALL Bombay street food has potatoes in it (except maybe pani puris)

#8
Shanti
May 25, 2007
11:23 PM

Gautam, are you a feminist. My dad is a feminist.

#9
der
URL
June 1, 2007
04:39 AM

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#10
theitinerantindian
URL
July 10, 2007
12:08 PM

Street Food! Yummy! I laughed a lot on reading about Elco being too sterile to be tasty. But Elco's panipuri is TOPS.

Just as well i am traveling to india this coming weekend. Once you get me started on pani puri i get desperate......

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