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Travel to Mumbai (Bombay)


Sharmajee's, Mumbai

20 February 2017

Mumbai’s street food culture is revered and imitated throughout the world, but if you want to truly eat like a Mumbaikar, there’s only one place to go.

Mumbai’s Chowpatty Beach is crowded at the best of times. It’s a place for festivals and celebrations, or just for somewhere to walk away from the bustle of the city.

Anybody who’s been there, however, soon realises that this is just background noise when compared to the real draw: the food stalls that line the shore. Here, at number 22, you’ll find Sharmajee’s. Something of a legend within the food stall community so prevalent in the city, any Mumbaikar worth his salt knows that this is where you’ll find the best bhel puri in the world.

Sweetly tangy and spicy, bhel puri is one of the most famous street food dishes in India. Made out of puffed rice and mixed with numerous chutneys such as tamarind, green chillies and dates, it’s then garnished with finely chopped tomatoes, potatoes, onions, coriander, sev (similar to crunchy noodles), chaat masala, fried lentils and some lime juice. It’s a dish bursting with flavour, but it has its restrictions. This is not a meal to take your time over. The puffed rice means bhel puri can get soggy, fast, so if you’re with friends, eat, then talk.

Sev puri is a great dish to share with friends and family. The sev is like a crunchy noodle, while the puri translates into a round deep fried wheat disc. Individually loaded with potatoes, onions, tomatoes, coriander, chutneys, green chillies and garlic, it then gets boosted by raw mango, coriander, lemon juice, chaat masala and some fried lentils. One plate – costing roughly US60c – will get you about six fully loaded puris.

Finally, no trip to Sharmajee’s would be complete without pani puri. These fried balls of bread are stuffed with boiled potato, chickpea and coriander. You then dunk them into tangy tamarind and date chutney, before double-dunking into spicy mint flavoured water.

While the global appropriation of Mumbai street food continues apace – many is the high-end restaurant that attempts to recreate it’s most famous dishes – it’s reassuring to note that the best place to eat it remains away from the table, and firmly on the street.

Words: Andrew Nagy / Images: Mitali Vyas