“You miss Bhel Puri? Then make it at home!”
Really?! I’m sure every Mumbaikar will agree that this is one of the most preposterous recommendations anyone can make. 1: street food is not street food if made at home. 2. Bhel Puri cannot be replicated anywhere other than the streets of Mumbai. No one knows where it originated, but in Mumbai we have a habit of owning up anything that is remotely anaath or najayaz. Pav Bhaji, Bhel-Puri, Pani Puri, Vada Pav, Masala Chana, even the homely sandwich… sab kuch humne hi to banaya hai!
But believe you me, even a simple sandwich can be missed – very badly. I am not even getting into the Premsons wala grilled cheese sandwich! Even the delicious chilli-cheese at the local one-stop-stool-made-into-shop sandwichwala at the galli ka nukkad in Mumbai is unmatched. All the words the judges in MasterChef use to describe and praise the stuff being cooked in that Australian kitchen come to mind when I think of my street food in Mumbai – now that I cannot get it every other day. The scrumptious sev puri, the tangy and crunchy dabeli, the ‘fried to perfection’ bhajji, the bright-red lasun ki chatni in the vada-pav that leaves your mouth watering and the artificial colour infused pav bhaji at Sardar or Shiv Sagar with the ever-melting soft butter! I am so salivating right now.
But you know, though one can get a decent bhaji and vada anywhere… you just CANNOT get the PAV! Mumbai ka pav is inimitable and I am sure that is what makes the bhaji and vada so awesomely unique in the first place. I’ve heard that the word ‘Pav’ came from the fact that feet (paon) were used to knead the dough to make it ultrasoft. Don’t know if it’s true or if it’s still done but in case you are feeling put off by that, try and eat other pavs with street food (misal and usal included) and you would conveniently forget this fact Come on now, have we stopped eating pani-puri just because some idiot somewhere used to piss in it? Heehee. We are incurable.
My passion for this food was mirrored by hundreds of my listeners when I asked them on one of my monsoon special shows to list their favourite street food places (we had a new category every day et al) That one week was a riot on-air! I don’t think our redi-walas realise how much they mean to us! (sob-sob) So from one true Mumbaikar to another, hope you have had your share of raste ka khana today – stop taking it for granted! If you take street junk food away from us, we are only half the Mumbaikars we claim to be.
P.S.: Uncle outside Juhu Sahkari Bhandar, I don’t know if you use the Internet and would ever read this – but I miss your bhel-puri, pani puri, dahi batata puri, sev-puri – even your sukha bhel! If any of you readers visit him, do give him my love (he beats Elco chaat hollow people). And yes, best vada pav – Vile Parle (East), near the market, opposite the municipal garden.
If you claim otherwise – or wish to share your favourite spot and salute them – do share the name and area here!
Image by Santosh Nagwekar, Courtesy: Mid-Day.com
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