The Food of Bombay (Mumbai) Tells a Story!
You search the word food, and you will have a plethora of results right in the palm of your hands. Food is such an important part of us as humans, especially when it comes to our cultures, histories, and most importantly, us.
Food has the power to depict time, place, and person through its flavors, colors, and presentation. It is such a fascinating thing, because most of the time, we won’t go deeper into what it all means because admittedly, the smell and flavor take over, and at that point, it’s over for us all. This is partially the reason why I’m sitting here, without a plate of food writing the article about what it embodies, cause otherwise, this article would remain unfinished!
But that is what I want to speak about, the food and its connection to the city we (The Sheeples) were born in, namely Mumbai! While I could go into the deeper history of it all, I want to talk about something a bit more personal, while mentioning the connection of the food of Bombay to its city, I would also like to add its connection to me. The food that I have grown up with and the food that is unique in its flavorings with this city.
Now I might miss out on all the different foods that are a part of this city’s cuisine, but then again, its a melting pot of cultures and I highly doubt I’d be able to hit all the marks anyway so please do forgive me if I don’t talk about your favorite dishes.
Now, all this time you might have noticed that I have been saying the ‘Food of Bombay’ and then later mentioning the city by calling Mumbai. Now the reason for that is actually quite simple, and it is the fact that while Mumbai is a city, Bombay is a feeling!
The funny thing here is if you ask other Mumbaikars this question, they would give you similar answers, and the reason for it being so is that Mumbai might be a city, but it is the people that together form its spirit, and when I say that it is a veritable mix of cultures, I am not joking cause people from all across this country reside here and hustle to make their living each and every day.
It is this hustle that connects us, each having their own kind. But it is that spirit to make something more of ourselves that forms a part of the spirit that is Bombay and it is that hustle that is represented in the food that is consumed in this city!
So, if I were to ask you, when you think of Mumbai, what kind of foods come to your mind? The first answer would most likely be Pav Bhaji. The iconic Pav with butter slathered over it, ready to be consumed with a plate of Bhaji on the side which also has a melting stick of butter on it!
Each bite is filled with a burst of flavor and when freshly made, is hot enough to make you feel the heat on your tongue but you don’t care cause you just want to have the next bite and re-live the burst of flavor you got a second ago!
It was originally created by mill workers where after a hard day’s work they used to mash all their leftovers together to make the Bhaji and use the bread they had left as a way to transport it into the mouth. This was what started it all, and if you really think about it, you will find a kind of pattern in the food made and sold on the Mumbai streets.
It was a way for these workers to get a meal quickly without wasting any extra resources and making use of the time they got instead of trying to cook up a meal which would take much longer to make.
Similarly, when you think about Vada Pav, Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, Misal Pav, Dabeli, Sandwiches in the street-side stalls, Momos, Kalakhattas (Shaved Ice which is Flavored) and so on, you realize that all these foods are made for you to be able to eat while on the go. They are foods that respect the spirit of this city and know what its residents need.
A small but quick burst of flavor that is not only delicious but also very fulfilling. These dishes, while they may look simple, are filled with complex flavors and the reason for it all is that all these dishes have elements of different cultures filled in them. They were created by different communities that came to reside within the city and who wanted to introduce their own flavors to their fellow Mumbaikars.
That is what makes this food so iconic to us, it’s not a simple dish, rather it is Bombay in all its glory.
As a person who has grown up in this city, I have tried many of these dishes, each at different points in my life and each holding different memories.
Pav Bhaji holds memories of going to Juhu Beach for the first time and trying it there in the hustle and bustle of the crowd, sitting together on small mats tasting each and every bite on summer nights, ending it all with a Kalakhatta that just left a sweet and sour flavor in your mouth
I remember the first time I ever tried Bhel Puri was with my mom, we were just on our way home from school (mom picked me up), and we ended up stopping at this street vendor who had his stall set up on the side of the street. It was the first time I got to know what Pani Puri (my moms favorite dish) and Bhel Puri were, and I have been a fan ever since!
Vada Pav represents the days I spent in college while the filter coffees and chais (tea) on the street side represent all the stupid conversations I’ve had with my friends while we were in a hurry to make it to our classes on time.
The food of Bombay holds a lot of meaning for a lot of different people, and that is why it’s so close to our hearts!
If you want to hear us talk about the foods of Bombay from the past as well as the present, join us on our podcast where we, along with a special guest talk about the different restaurants in Mumbai and the food that we have grown up eating here!
You can listen to the podcast here: https://bit.ly/food-of-bombay
It was a lot of fun recording this episode and what made it even more special was the fact that we were joined by a pastry chef in training who is also a fellow Mumbai resident!
Hormaz Bomanji is his name and we assure you, he is someone you should keep your eye on!
He has an amazing page on Instagram by the name of @baker.bawa. Do check him out, he makes some really cool desserts and the photography will surely get your mouthwatering :D
Well, on that note, I shall be taking my leave! 1000Minus7 signing out, and I shall see you on the podcast!