The streets of Mumbai are like no other city I have travelled: the sights, smells and sounds are remarkable. For any visitor, the simultaneous rawness and ripeness of the first moments in this city are undoubtedly etched into your memory forever. The food scene is what I am most intrigued by; there are more dishes to savour and indulge in than I will ever have time for. Roads are packed with street carts, fast food joints and a healthy multitude of mid-range restaurants. Elite restaurant bars happily nestle among the cheap and cheerful, all stitched together by the rhythm of rickshaw horns and buzzing motorbikes.
Getting to know Mumbai
Mumbai is India’s contribution to the class of cities that are always on the go. Most distinctly, no matter what the time of day, in most parts you will find street food within walking distance. I love spending my time in Mumbai’s leafy northwestern suburbia of Bandra — secured peacefully away from the downtown traffic. Strolling the popular coastal promenade at Carter Road, you watch Mumbaikars of all ages taking in the thick staunch sea breeze. And, dotted along the roadside are street carts overflowing with street food delicacies, including fresh oval coconuts — a perfect anecdote for the daytime heat.
Eating corn on the cob in the evening
The evening time is a personal favourite because you get a faint waft of roasting cornhusks. If you follow those alluring scents you will be led to smoking hot embers gently charring corn on the cob.Accompanying are small tin tubs filled with freshly chopped limes and a mixture of salt and red hot chilli powder. The well-loved je ne sais quoi spice mix — known as chaat masala — does something extraordinary to street food, adding its distinctive pungent flavour. It happily sits basking in the heat from the fire, waiting to be sprinkled in the final moments of preparation. Every now and again you will hear corns popping, letting out fiery bursts, which quickly fade as sounds return of rushing rickshaws and nearby laughter. When the corn is charred it is then ready to be smothered in lime, salt and chilli and a generous smattering of chaat masala — the taste is unforgettable.
Indian style corn on the cob is full flavoured and loved by all that are lucky enough to have tried it. The addictive salty sour Chaat Masala spices set it apart from Mexico’s roasting corns covered in Cotija cheese, chilli and coriander. At British BBQ’s they prefer to keep it simple – charred kernels are layered with a knob of butter and a sprinkling of sea salt, much like the US, where it is boiled rather than roasted. The new addition to Japanese menus is the Miso roast corn, which is utterly delicious smothered in umami rich miso, a flavour that marries perfectly with the nutty kernels. But (for me) there is nothing quite like Mumbai’s corn on the cob.
A city with stories
If cities could tell a story through food, Mumbai would tell it from her streets. Street food comes in a banquet worthy selection of shapes and sizes around Mumbai; each local will have a favourite dish and a favourite place which they frequent.They’ll often explore new spots for street food as they travel the city, but many remain seasoned loyalists returning habitually to their one spot.It doesn’t have to be fancy in presentation, nor does it need to be organised in it service. As long as it tastes incredible it will always leave a lasting impression.
I’ve tried many street food places, some of which fare high on my list, but Carter Road provides my most memorable Indian-style corn on the cob. Whenever I near the lively promenade, I quickly pick out those roasting husks and hear those corns popping away. My Mumbai street food hotspot will forever be Carter’s corn on the cob.
Anjali Pathak is a presenter, author and Indian food expert. As a young child she discovered her passion for creating aromatic dishes. A champion of the exotic, Anjali, loves colourful ingredients, experimenting with different flavours and sultry aromas that tantalise the taste buds!
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