MUMBAI: EATING ON THE STREET

“I am ready to take on the biggest city in India. Welcome to Mumbai, formerly Bombay. It’s a place where the super-rich live in close proximity to the destitute poor—but life here is more complex than that. Everyone knows about Bollywood, the center of the Indian film industry, being located here, but the shipping, financial, and information technology sectors have done a lot more to create and sustain this economy. I kept waiting for streets full of network administrators and accountants to start singing and dancing, but it never happened.”


BHENDI BAZAAR: “EATING STREET”

“Mumbai is a city rich in culture and history, and I know a lot of people would devote their first trip here to visiting museums, viewing the architecture, and sucking up local color like a vacuum cleaner from hell. I have my own agenda. Tonight, we’re on a mission to the Muslim section called Bhendi Bazaar. Specifically, Khau Galli, which translates as ‘Eating Street’ or ‘Food Street.’ ”

As he wandered Khau Galli in search of lamb brains, Tony was sidetracked by endless temptations, including spiced and grilled kidney and lung kebabs, tandoori chicken, minced lamb skewers, creamy goat brain curry with tomatoes, various freshly baked breads, and “beida roti—kind of like an Egg McMuffin, only good: mincemeat and eggs fried up in chapati.

“It may seem to some people that I spend an inordinate amount of time eating guts and brains and lungs, things a lot of people might call ‘gross.’ I won’t deny taking a savage pleasure in shaking people’s assumptions about food. But these neglected parts of the animals we eat are more than just nutritious. They’re really good. If you’re lucky enough to travel to places like India or, for that matter, France, get out of the hotel and try a few local specialties. Finding a new food you like is one of the great things about traveling.

Finding a new food you like is one of the great things about traveling.

“I don’t know if it’s because of the prohibition on alcohol or what, but Muslim cooks have some serious desserts and dessert drinks to offer. At the Taj Mahal Cold Drink House they call this the falooda. The ingredients are fresh coriander seeds, rosewater, noodles—in this case arrowroot, to add a texture somewhat like vermicelli—homemade ice cream in one version, and milk in all versions… I could easily become addicted to this.”

Note: Bhendi Bazaar, a market district first established by the colonial government in 1893 as a center for migrant male workers, is now home to over 1,200 shops and some 2,500 increasingly dilapidated residences. Bhendi Bazaar is on the cusp of a massive redevelopment plan, meant in part to shore up unsafe conditions, funded by a community trust. One likely result is that some of the street food vendors Tony visited will have been relocated or closed, so you’d be advised to check with local media and those in the know about where best to find the street foods you’re seeking in Mumbai.

This excerpt is taken from World Travel: An Irreverent Guide written by Anthony Bourdain with Laurie Woolever published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

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