Despite a small smattering of good high-end dining options, the dining scene in Mumbai, India’s financial capital and largest city, lags far behind the capital of Delhi in terms of sophistication—and even behind cities like Bangalore and Chennai in terms of diversity. Yet the city’s cosmopolitan history and democratic culture have also imparted a long tradition of simple ‘canteens’—basic dining halls where food is plentiful, cheap, and delicious. Often served on durable tin plates or simple banana leaves, expect a healthy, hearty mix for the amount you’d pay for a coffee elsewhere. Our picks around town represent the cross-section of regional cuisines that goes well beyond what you might think of simply as ‘Indian Food.’ (more…)
When I want to buy cucumbers, which is often, I don’t need to go more than twenty-five steps from my front door. At the end of my dead-end lane there’s a guy named Pankaj who mans a pushcart loaded with vegetables, one of the 420,000-odd hawkers working the streets of greater Mumbai. From his cart, I can buy cucumbers and bottle gourds and eggplants, sweet limes and carrots and bunches of fresh dill or coriander. I can get bell peppers and string beans and, when I’m lucky, deep purple amaranth to fry with garlic and fresh coconut (ingredients, alas, that I have to buy elsewhere). It’s a quick, easy transaction. I rarely spend more than two hundred rupees in one go (about $3.20 US), or buy more than I’ll use in the course of a day. I don’t need to; I can just come back tomorrow. If I don’t have exact change, I can always bring it back later. Pankaj knows me—he’s my vegetable guy, my subzwalla—and that’s still how these relationships work. (more…)
January 2015 – Colours (in-flight magazine for Garuda Indonesia)
I first fell in love with Mumbai mere moments after arriving here. Stepping off the sleeper train that had brought me from Rajasthan in the north to Mumbai Central, one of the city’s major railheads, I hopped a black and yellow taxi headed toward the historic center, called Fort, where I was to meet a friend who’d moved to India a few months earlier. The taxi cut east past a blur of terra cotta-roofed houses and new concrete highrises toward an elevated highway that wound south over what I would soon come to know as Mohammed Ali Road, the deafening thoroughfare at the heart of the city’s old Muslim quarter.
Until this year, Mumbai didn’t have a single boutique hotel. There was the Taj Palace, with its iconic confectionary grandeur; some characterless, midrange hotels scattered around Colaba, the core of historic South Mumbai; the Oberoi and the Trident in their 1970s concrete boxes. But there was no hotel that captured both the rich visual heritage of historic Bombay and the intense aesthetic energy of contemporary Mumbai. Now, there’s Abode.
Every day at 4 pm, Ramchandra Charosia leaves his home in a seaside shanty with a ten-kilogram aluminum tray balanced on his head. He walks up the hill to Mt. Mary Road, unfolds a lightweight cane stand and readies his supplies. He’ll stay here from 5–10pm, peddling snacks called chaat for rs20 each to domestic staff from nearby apartment buildings as well as the wealthy residents who live there. At 10 pm, he’ll go home, eat dinner, and sleep. He has done this every day for the better part of forty-three years. (more…)