Mouth-watering foodstuff of Mumbai

Mouth-watering foodstuff of Mumbai

Iconic places like Marine Drive and Gateway of India, local trains and Dabbawallahs are associated with Mumbai. Vada pav, the most popular street food of Mumbai, is also equally famous in the financial capital of India. The popularity of the poor man’s burger is slowly catching up. No wonder, vada pav is growing in demand and popularity as the foodstuff will turn 50 this year!  Interestingly, it has crossed the shores and slowly making waves in the US and the UK.

The liking for vada pav actually cuts across class and generations as it is savoured by common man to celebrities. And the story of Mumbai is incomplete without vada pav, its signature dish. Celebrities have endorsed vada pav as their best fast food. Seeing a vada pav being made is one of the finest aromatic experience. Vada Pav is fresh, available 24x7 and a fast-moving food item.

Batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar's love for vada pav has been well documented and he had narrated how he used to eat it at Shivaji Park-Dadar, where he got the lessons of cricketing.  “I and my son (Arjun) love to eat vada pav at Shivaji Park Gymkhana and there is nothing that can beat this snack, laced with chutney,” he once said, talking about one of his favourite snacks.

In fact, on August 23 every year, the Vada Pav Day is celebrated. Most of the well-known travel and cuisine writers have covered widely about vada pav.

It's not very clear as to who and when vada pav was first sold. But most believe that it was sold first in public somewhere in the mill heartland of Mumbai in the mid-60s, catering to the workers of what was earlier known as Girangaon, where at one point of time there were over 100 textile mills. Subsequently it spread to other parts of Mumbai and soon became a hit. Another version is that it started at a small stall owned by Ashok Vaidya outside the platform No 1 of the Dadar station. “My father started it around 1966-67 and slowly it evolved,” said his son Narendra.

Most of the cafes and restaurants serve vada pav in Mumbai and there are several stories and tales attached to vada pav and anecdotes of celebrities.  Aaram, the iconic restaurant located at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, gives Aaram vada pav. A stall outside Dadar’s Kirti College, has been attracting customers and is popular among celebrities. This is very popular among the celebrities.

Among office goers of the Fort-Flora Fountain area, one of the famous places, is the CTO vada pav located near the Central Telegraph Office. There are several stalls along the maidans of Mumbai-- Shivaji Park, Oval, Azad, Cross Maidan, among others and these are fast food for the players.

One of popular vada pav stalls was the khidki vada pav in Kalyan in Thane district, which was started in the late 1960s by the Vaze family, who used to sell vada pav from a window of their house facing the road. The Jai Maharashtra stall at Azad Nagar is another such place. Gajanan vada pav in Thane sticks to the traditional vada pav but what makes it different is their chutney.

The vada pavs in inter-city trains like Deccan Queen (Mumbai-Pune), Flying Ranee (Mumbai-Surat) too have their own importance. “Trains and food go hand in hand...and for trains arriving and departing from Mumbai it is about the taste of vada pav and how it changes from station to station,” said foodie and independent journalist Ajit Joshi, one of the experts on Mumbai's business history. “Vada pav in railway stations like Thane, Igatpuri, Karjat, Kasara, Khopoli and Virar are famous and people prefer it during their journeys as they go out of the city limits of Mumbai,” added Joshi.

The price ranges between Rs 10 and Rs 20 in street stalls and fast food joints. 

“Vada pav has been part of the culture of this metropolis. People of Mumbai love it and it has now spread to most of the important cities of India,” says veteran tourist guide Raj Suri, who also publishes tour guides and maps of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

“Nowhere across the world such a food item has been so popular," said Sanjeev Sabde, veteran culinary expert and food writer. “The taste of vada pav also varies from stall to stall and shop to shop, restaurant to restaurant....the vada pav of Kirti College would be different from Aram vada pav,” he said.

If fact, there are aspects of social and political colour to it as well. “The Shiv Sena used vada pav stalls and haath-gaadis (push carts)to promote itself,” said Prakash Akolkar, who has penned  “Shiv Sena – Jai Maharashtra”. “When a factory or a mill laid-off workers, the Shiv Sena would help the jobless to set up vada pav stands outside the factory,” he said.

The party, of late, had been encouraging the Shiv vada pav stalls. However, some organisations have challenged the Sena taking advantage of food stuff in the Bombay High Court.

The Marathi compound word batata vada means potato fritter. Pav which is a variant of Portuguese pão is sweetened bread. As far as calories are concerned, it is close to a meal. “A 200 gram vada pav would have 290 calories, 25 gram fat, 25 gram carbohydrates and 5 gram protein,” said chef Hiralal Patel. “The ingredients in a vada pav allows you to keep on working for hours,” he said.

“There was a serious need for a filling, light, nutritious, easy-to-carry snack for the morchas of millworkers, shipping unions, Shiv Sena rallies,” said  Ashok Thakur of Kirti College vada pav.
Today vada pav selling has become an organised business. Chains like Jumbo King and Goli Vada Pav are catering to not only Mumbaikars but also people in different parts of India. Vada pav is available in some places in the US and the UK.  Now, there are samosa-pavs, bhajia-pavs, usal-pavs, misal-pavs, variants which are also equally popular, especially among youngsters.

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