Pop by Crawford Market for A-maize-ing Popcorn


popcorn crawford market


Sour cream and onion, Manchurian, peri peri, and more – the humble butter popcorn gets an exciting makeover at Mr. Vinay Thari Jayswal’s stall in Crawford Market. 

Vicky’s Popcorn, Near Dharamjyot Electricals, 79, Kerawala Mansion, Mangaldas Road, Lohar Chawl, Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 002


I was in the middle of my usual 5 p.m. hunger pangs when my colleague offered me her popcorn. “Try it,” she said, “it’s sour cream and onion flavoured.” Two minutes later, my nose was dusted with the seasoning as she tried to pry the packet away from me. 

The source of this magical snack was Mr. Vinay Thari Jayswal’s 40-year-old stall in Crawford Market (located at the beginning of the lane next to Bata). Of course, I visit for myself. The first thing that catches my eye is the signboard on his cart – Vicky’s Popcorn and Yeh cheez badi hain mast mast (10 points for the Bollywood cheesiness). Displayed below that is the array of flavours on offer: caramel, cheese, sour cream and onion, chilli cheese, chilli tomato, Manchurian, Szechuan, and chatpata. 

Since cheese and caramel popcorn are longer a novelty, I go with three others: sour cream and onion, Manchurian, and peri peri. He promptly scoops plain popcorn into a transparent plastic bag, sprinkles in a generous serving of the flavoured seasoning, and shakes it all together into utterly, butterly deliciousness. Oh, and each of the variants costs only 30 rupees. When I ask Mr. Jayswal which is his favourite flavour, he smiles. No answer. They’re all unique, he tells me.

Well, that settles it. If he can’t pick, why should you?

Feature photograph copyright Brent Hofacker  –




Feast On Gujarati Food At Shree Thaker Bhojanalay

shree thaker bhojanalay


Shree Thaker Bhojanalay is a restaurant in South Mumbai that is famous for its Gujarati thali. It was established in 1945 and serves hundreds of thalis daily. The restaurant is closed on Monday evenings.
Shree Thaker Bhojanalay, Building No. 31, Dadiseth Agiyari Lane, Gaiwadi, Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 002. Phone: 022 2201 1232


The afternoon sun propels us along ancient lanes, bound by genes, hunger, and anticipation. Brother-1 has primed his stomach by skipping breakfast. Brother-2 asks, “Are we there yet?” I plod deeper into Kalbadevi, stupefied by the summer heat. It is The Sister who spots the Gujarati signboard: Shree Thaker Bhojanalay.
Up a staircase, past a blackboard announcing the day’s menu, and onto a bench facing the inner courtyard of an old, old building, we await our turn. This better be good, growls my stomach.
When our name is called, we charge into the blissfully air-conditioned dining hall, drool dangling from the corners of our lips. Probably.
Let us not waste words on ambience. There are tables. And chairs.
But the plates, the plates! Do you remember the scene from Jodhaa Akbar in which Jodhaa supervises the cooking of a vegetarian repast for Akbar and his court, served in what looks like a giant tray for each person? I count 11 – eleven! – vaatis on each thali. If I pop into the kitchen, will I be surprised to find Aishwarya Rai stirring a gargantuan cauldron of kadhi? No.
We are soon awash in the largesse of our servers’ ladles. First, they anoint our Giant Eating Surfaces with myriad chutneys; pakodis, snow-white dhokla, and the bafflingly named Veg Salonis then tumble in. Dollops of aam ras, doodhpaak, and chanaa dal halwa land with the flip of a wrist. Homemade portions of moong, aloo, bhindi, and some version of gatte ki sabzi rest in their receptacles, but not for long. Just as we are about to tear into our puris, bajra bhakris, and makai ki rotis, a server deluges our plates with a second avalanche of starters. Only at Shree Thaker, No doesn’t mean No.

At Shree Thaker, there is something – and lots of it – for everyone.

We feast in silence, pacing ourselves according to burps; talking takes time away from savouring this wholesome meal. Brother-1 unbuckles his belt. Brother-2 has eaten his way into a stupor and wants some coffee to perk himself up into eating more. I accept no more than a tablespoon (or three) of masoor pulao; rice – that old encroacher of the gastrium – will not impinge upon my efforts to consume my body weight in hot, sweet, nourishing Gujarati dal. Chicken soup is for coughs and colds; Gujarati dal is forever.
Entertainment is provided by a devilish server who, once he realises that The Sister detests ghee, materialises out of thin air from time to time and flings a spoonful of the offending liquid onto her steaming khichdi. “I’m being ragged”, she wails. It’s true; ragged with love.
The unlimited thali is a panacea to all the problems of modern dining: too many options, conflicting tastes, overpriced but middling fare, and portions insufficient for more than one-and-a-quarter persons. Brother-1’s appetite is a black hole, The Sister is allergic to garam masala, and the number of vegetables Brother-2 refuses to ingest is not insignificant. But at Shree Thaker, there is something – and lots of it – for everyone.
I would like to marry into the family that runs this fine eating-house. If they are reading this: pranaam to my future in-laws. I can cook and sew.
Photographs by Suruchi Maira 
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New Vasantashram Has Stood The Test Of Time

new vasantashram


New Vasantashram Boarding and Lodging House is a 71-year-old hostel/hotel in the heart of South Mumbai with beds starting at Rs. 300 per night. They welcome locals who want to spend time in a home away from home as well as travellers looking to live in the thick of things. They also host cultural events such as classical music performances, film screenings, and board game events.

New Vasantashram Boarding and Lodging House, Narasinh Mansion, 3rd Floor, 232, L.T. Marg, Above Bombay Shoe Mart, Opp. Police Commissioner’s Office, Crawford Market, Mumbai 400 002. Phone: 022 22080226, 022 22084607, 097732 00702.


New Vasantashram Boarding and Lodging House is seven months older than independent India. Founded by Mangalorean brothers Pilinja Laxminarayan Rao and Subba Rao on the third and fourth floors of a mansion opposite Crawford Market, it straddled the watersheds of sovereignty and race; Lokmanya Tilak Road, which it abuts, was the great divide between British Bombay and Native Town.

In its fledgeling years, the silver-tongued siblings would haunt Victoria Terminus down the road and persuade alighting passengers to spend a night under their comfortable and affordable roof. Seven decades later, Vasantashram is preserved like a habitable museum of the ’40s – with Wi-Fi.

new vasantashram

I walk into a narrow passage between shoe-shops, past a greeting-card vendor who has annexed both walls, turn right, left, up two flights of stairs past storerooms and a solicitor and lo! Cheery Warli art beckons me up towards leisure and light. If “lodging house” evokes a picture of a sordid little joint managed by a seedy lout where you sleep with one eye open, perish the thought. Wearing a spotless white lungi and vest, Keshava, who has worked his way up to supervisor over 46 years, genially checks me into my dorm. No juvenile, stultifying bunk beds here; individual bedsteads and gaddas let space occupy the space. The high-ceilinged room holds little else but a steel water-drum, a mirror, innovative lattices bearing clothes pegs, and a wardrobe just for Mr. Jayaram (I’ll introduce you later).

Keshava shows me to the common room that is a riot of colours. Grey-and-black floor tiles, sky-blue rafters, white ceiling. Easy-chairs upholstered with pista-green and saffron cushions, the door painted a shade of turquoise money can’t buy; like Waheeda Rehman, it grows more beautiful with age. A small writing desk is overlooked in favour of a seating device no one can quite figure out. Ornamental barrels in the corners feature Buddha and gopika motifs, and the three canary-yellow, peacock-blue, and parrot-green trunks can be dragged out for an afternoon’s read in the common balcony.

new vasantashram

Out here, a fellow guest is leaning back in his chair, fingers knotted behind his head, feet up on the balustrade, snoozing in the winter sun. He is unmoved, perhaps, by the vista of Crawford Market’s clock-tower, the black-and-white brick façade of Musafirkhana, Taj Mahal Tower in the distance, and numerous colonial cupolas scattered across South Bombay.

At lunchtime, I pop into Radio Restaurant nearby, housed in a cavernous, abandoned movie theatre. One elegantly spiced chicken tikka biryani later, I wander into the lanes behind New Vasantashram. In an instant, I am set upon by itinerant salesmen peddling handkerchiefs, garbage bags, and junk jewellery. I fend them off to behold the slow-moving mass of two-legs and two-wheelers captivated by a glorious battle between a handcart laden with swatches, a wheelbarrow burdened with perus, and a hawker attempting to divest himself of an entire, dissembled sewing machine. Before Mumbai succumbed to the allure of advertising, this – Kalbadevi – was the commercial heart of Bombay.

new vasantashram

Back at Vasantashram, our friend Keshava, who started on a monthly salary of 30 rupees, tells me of a time when six rupees would you get you two hot meals, tea twice a day, and a bed for the night. When police and bank employees working nearby, along with textile and gemstone traders from adjacent Mangaldas Market and Zaveri Bazaar, would cough up the princely sum of 30 rupees a month for daily meals comprising one “wet” and “dry” sabzi each, puris, rice, rasam, saambaar, curd, and pickle with a sweetmeat on Sundays. Keshava, a formidable linguist after aeons of conversing with folks from different parts, used to cook the repast himself. The last full meal at Vasantashram was served 30 years ago.

A cup of tea and akuri at Kyani’s later, I stroll over to watch the liveried Navy Band play show tunes and classical compositions in the historic quadrangle of St. Xavier’s College. You need only glance at a map to realise that from Vasantashram, all things interesting are but a Victoria-ride away.

Arguably the most captivating attraction of a sojourn at Vasantashram is a conversation with managing partner Sujata Pilinja Rao, who took over from her father. As she shows me around her family legacy, I am impressed by her decision to conserve, not renovate: she pared back the walls to reveal vintage iron pillars and commissioned an artist guest to brighten utilitarian surfaces with dollops of art. An artist herself, she put up prints of traditional Indian art in each room and employed her creative sensibilities to enrich the quaint interiors of her hostel-hotel: block-print moulds are doorknobs, a circular stained-glass window from Do Taaki is a partition, ship lanterns from Darukhana provide illumination, timber from an erstwhile mezzanine floor is used to suspend bulbs, and outmoded railway sleepers stand shoulder to shoulder in the doors of the Indian-style loos, the usage of which is explained in a hilariously-worded guide (“your face should be facing the door, not your bum”).

new vasantashram

Sujata digs out tariff cards from the past – a bed in my four-bed dorm cost 18 whole rupees in 1981; in 2017, it was still a wallet-friendly 350. This explains the diversity of my fellow guests: German backpackers, a young finance professional, two Nagpur auditors, a Goa-bound Australian couple, and Mr. Jayaram. The last-named gent is a trader from Chennai who has been a frequent, long-term guest since 1962. He has his own bed, aforementioned wardrobe, and nightstand on which he will perform the quietest dry shave in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.

But for now, the homely house is settling down. The latecomers straggle in. Beds are dragged closer to the fan. My neighbour plugs in his earphones and drifts off. As do I.

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Nathulal Gopilal Fries Up Rich, Flavourful Farsaan

kachori farsan


Tucked inside one of the bustling bylanes of Zaveri Bazaar, Nathulal Gopilal Kachori Bhajiyawala has been fuelling locals with fresh jalebis, kachoris, bhajiyas, and other farsaans for over a century. Every item on the menu is made with pure ghee and is an explosion of rich, Rajasthani flavours.

Nathulal Gopilal Kachori Bhajiyawala, Shop 3-5, 31/33, Khara Kuwa, 1st Agiary Lane, Zaveri Bazaar, Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 002. Phone: 022 2341 3759


How does a business from Rajasthan’s Tonk district survive at the heart of Mumbai’s commercial district for 115 years? By pitching a board outside that proclaims in bold letters – Garma garam jalebi milti hain. If the fresh, hot golden coils fried in pure ghee fail to entice you, the other items on this halwaiwala’s sparse menu will reel you in. Kachori, bundi, bhajiya, sev, sweet gathiya – you can buy it all for the flat rate of 440 rupees per kilo, but goodies once sold won’t be taken back. I doubt anyone has ever tried.

You will find 74-year-old Pawanji on his cushioned pedestal, just like his father and grandfather before him. Located strategically outside the shop (but not quite on the street), the throne gives him unobstructed views of both, allowing him to straddle the roles of boss and salesman with equal ease. He implores you to try fresh kachoris while simultaneously reaching behind him to tug at a newspaper sheet hung from a wall and then reaching up to break some string from the spool attached to the ceiling. By the time he’s snipped off the cellotape, parceled the jalebis, and punched out the bill for a regular, you’ve taken a seat at one of those laminated benches inside the shop.

Inside, gods and goddesses adorned with single string garlands look down longingly at partitioned steel plates filled with farsaan scooped straight out of the blistering wok. The biggest section on the plate is for the farsaan and/or jalebi, while the other two are filled to the brim with generous helpings of a runny, light green mint chutney and thick, sweet date chutney. You share the tiny space with Gujarati businessmen, office-goers, tourists, and other shopkeepers taking a break from the hustle of Zaveri Bazaar to tuck into a plate of dahi kachori and a cold drink. But sharing your kachori? Pawanji advises against it.

Feature photo copyright CS Stock Images –
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Try The Exotic Flavours At Famous Sharma Kulfi Centre


famous sharma kulfi centre kalbadevi mumbai


Famous Sharma Kulfi Centre is a kulfi and ice cream shop at Kalbadevi. Kulfi flavours include kala jamun, rabdi, and paan masala as well as perennial favourites such as malai and kesar pista.

Famous Sharma Kulfi Centre, 2/12 Dadiseth Agiary Lane, Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 002.


The ganji-clad owner clambers onto his counter, harried after a six-hour power cut in the middle of the summer. “Thankfully, we have deep freezers, or everything would be ruined.” He needs to cool down, but I’m the one who asks for kulfi.

Famous Sharma Kulfi Centre makes no pretence at modesty. Cursing government engineers, the owner tells me that it is over 75 years old, and his family has been manufacturing ice cream and kulfi for one-and-a-half centuries.

Flavours on offer range from the mundane malai to kala jamun. When I pick coconut cherry, he extricates a slab from the freezer, plops it on a plate, unwraps it, and employs a butcher’s knife to cleave it into bite-sized pieces. Whichever you choose, he will insist on adding a small chunk of another flavour as a sample. He forces me to try pineapple dry-fruit (I detest pineapples), and I love it.

Round two for me is paan masala (high hopes: fulfilled) with a side of gulaab. He leans down to present a child with an assorted platter and apologises for not having chocolate chip in stock.

While there are branches at Nepean Sea Road and Chowpatty, the Kalbadevi outlet is the mother ship. Do not leave without polishing off some rabdi kulfi, or you will be condemned by the kulfi gods to kulfi hell, which I suppose is like kulfi – cool and cooling and heavenly and such a treat.

Feature photo by Suruchi Maira

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Explore The World Of Chillies At Mirchi Galli


mirch galli kalbadevi vadilal champaklal


Once redolent with the wares of dozens of chilli vendors, Mirchi Galli’s Vadilal Champaklal & Co. may be the last man standing. Expand your culinary repertoire beyond the ubiquitous Kashmir mirch and meet bor mirch, resham patti mirch or begdi mirch. You’ll also find dried fruit, ground masalas and traditional snacks.

Vadilal Champaklal & Co., 8/C, Mirchi Galli, Juma Masjid, Lohar Chawl, Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 002. Phone: 098200 59876


To get to Mirchi Galli, I plod slowly, slowly, down Princess Street, scuttling over little pools of garbage, stepping past grand, peeling, centuries-old buildings, sliding by rudderless groups of young men, hinging round chains of parked scooters. I wade through a maddening eddy of people, until the striking Juma Masjid looms before me. And then I pivot right, plunging into the crowded capillary of Mirchi Galli.

The thing about the Mirchi Galli is that it doesn’t sell too many chillies anymore.

It sells dried fruits, and hair-bands, and snacks, and paper plates, and plastic buckets, but no chillies. Not, that is, until you reach Vadilal Champaklal & Co., and then the acrid smell of chillies will assail your nostrils. Cupped in large gunny sacks outside the shop, I find explosive Bedgi mirch, spheres of bor mirch, resham patti mirch shaped like arrowheads, and the Kashmiri mirch that stains any dish a vivid crimson without lashing the tongue with spice.

I pause for a moment at Shah Gabrubhai Uttamchand, a shop that is alive with treasure from floor to ceiling – packets of chivda, kesar milk masala, aloo papad, dried kopra, and jars and jars of ground masalas. The man at the counter tells me that once, Mirchi Galli was a bubbling hive of chilli vendors. “Now, people only want pre-ground masalas,” he laments, turning away to serve yet another customer.
It is the usual tale of two worlds. But, staggering home with a bagful of bedgi, apricots and powdered chicken masala, I am grateful to the pockets of Mumbai that marry nostalgic nourishment and contemporary convenience.

Feature photo by Suruchi Maira

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A Parsi Girl’s Guide To Parsi Food In Mumbai


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Some days draw me into the world of restaurants and cafés, tempting my tongue with the intriguing and the unaccustomed. Others though, are meant to be spent in the company of familiar Parsi flavours, a simple dhun dar chawal or a khichdi kheemo, comforting, frugal and unapologetic. This story points to these days. The shops and eateries I mention below are all unshowy and unpretentious, but the food is always compelling. They are my home away from home.


RTI (Ratan Tata Institute) outlets are sprinkled through the city, but the one I keep returning to is the RTI café cloistered within the gardens of the Parsee General Hospital. This is where friends and relatives of incarcerated patients come to tranquillise the winnowing flail of hunger that assails them at mealtimes. On the menu – hearty Parsi cooking like dhansak and curry chawal. On the shelves – a catalogue of Parsi snacks like bhakra (a sort of tea-time cakelet), chocolate rum balls, chapat (pancakes fattened with a dense coconut stuffing) and cheese straws.

The B.D. Petit Parsee General Hospital, Bomanji Petit Marg, Cumballa Hill, Mumbai 400 036


Dhansak is the butter chicken of Parsi food, the dish that inexplicably flies the pennant of Parsi cooking. A delicious dish forsooth but, to my mind, overrated. I choose the sali boti instead – dark, sticky hanks of meat, covered with a pelt of crisp-fried potato sali. But whichever road you choose to walk down, make sure it ends at Paradise. By way of décor, Paradise is restrained, even spartan; its service is desultory, at best. Go anyway. The food has the unmistakeable stamp of good, honest home cooking.

Sind Chambers, Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 022 2283 2874

paradise bombay parsi food

Parsi Dairy Farm

What draws me to PDF’s dazzling blue shop-front is the corpulent canine usually lolling outside. I am lured within by its slabs of malai kulfi. And the mawa ni boi, the fish-shaped sweet shimmering in its silver leaf skin. And tangled pats of snowy sutarfeni. And ghee fashioned from buffalo milk, and white butter. The list goes on…

261-63, Princess Street, Marine Lines Flyover, Marine Lines (e), Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 002. Phone: 022 6775 2222

Meher Cold Drink House

Included for the frivolous reason that its name matches mine. Meher Cold Drink House has settled very comfortably into old age and has dedicated itself to the twin virtues of lassi (sweet and salted and most refreshing) and sweet dahi, set in little tea glasses.

5, Ground Floor, Mackawee Mansion, 7, Rustom Sidhwa Marg, Borabazar Precinct, Ballard Estate, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2266 0444

parsi food bombay meher cold drinks

Ideal Corner

It’s a bit of a thrill to stumble upon this quaint little cafe in the tangled lanes of Fort. Ideal serves the usual suspects of Parsi food, but on Tuesdays they make kharoo gosh, a chunky stew of mutton and potatoes, flanked with rotli. And on Wednesday there is railway mutton.

12/F/G Hornby View, Gunbow Street, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2262 1930

Paris Bakery

Don’t be dissuaded by Paris Bakery’s unassuming exterior. It is here that you will find the simple troika of flour, butter and water transform into the khari biscuit, the Bakery’s finest offering. Light as a cloud, with a sunny-coloured glaze, the khari biscuit is meant to be submerged in hot chai at tea-time. Second best are the stubby little lumps of batasa biscuits, spiked with caraway seeds.

278, Dr Cawasji Hormusji Street, Our Lady Of Dolours Church Lane, Marine Lines, Mumbai 400 002. Phone: 022 2208 6619

parsi food bombay paris bakery

Jimmy Boy

Full disclosure: I’ve eaten here only once, a long while ago, but reliable sources have told me that this is where one goes to get lagan nu bhonu i.e. the much-vaunted wedding spread of pulao-dar, patra-ni-macchi, marghi-na-farcha (fried chicken skirted by lacy batter), saria wafers, achaar and lagan-nu-custard. If I go again though, I’d order the dhun dal and tareli macchi, which is nothing but yellow dal and rice served with fish that has been fried until its skin blisters.

11, Vikas Building, Bank Street, Near Horniman Circle, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2270 0880


This little store has been sliced into two, one half given over to the sale of sapat (slippers), topis and other Parsi worthies. The other half is devoted to pickles and pastries like the khajoor ni ghori (pastries infiltrated by date and jaggery, then fried until crunch gives way to tender); khaman na ladoo (velvety balls of dough with bellies of sweetened coconut) and patrel (colocasia leaf and gram flour furled together, then fried or roasted).

218, Chandra Mahal, Dr. C.H. Street, Marine Lines, Mumbai 400 002

Parsi Food Trail_007

Royal Sweets

Go to Royal Sweets for its crisp whorls of jalebi. Stay for its malai na khaja, slender panes of pastry stuffed with cream and tinged with nuts. Come home with the fudgy, coconutty kopra pak.

L.T. Market, Opposite Novelty Cinema, Grant Road (e), Mumbai 400 007


This is one I would have left out since I have already written about PAC for The City Story, but it has crept back into this story, by sole virtue of its chicken pattice: a flaky, crumbly, golden-brown carapace that shields its creamy chicken depths. During the winter, PAC also stocks badam pak (a sort of savoury almond fudge) and vasanu (a spicy-savoury breakfast fudge, rumoured to impart strength on wintry mornings).

292 Shastri Hall, Shop No. 3, Nana Chowk, Tardeo Road, Mumbai 400 007

parsi food bombay pac samosas chicken pattice

Photo by mitrs3 –

Dadar Perviz Hall

At Dadar Parsi Youth Assembly’s Snack Centre, the best thing is the chutney egg, a dish of potato and green chutney folded round a boiled egg, and deep-fried to a crisp. Dar ni pori (discs of pastry, plumped with sweetened dal) comes a close second.

803-D, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Road, Parsee Colony, Dadar, Mumbai 400 014. Phone: 022 2412 9437

Bonus: Honourable mentions must be made of Motilal Masalawala and Belgaum Gheewala, purveyors of all Parsi masalas, pickles and other condiments. This is where Parsis go to buy the Parsi dhana jeera, Parsi sambhar masala, dhansak masala, gharab nu achar (pickled fish roe), tarapori patio (Bombay duck pickle) and bafenu (an entire Alphonso mango submerged in a mustardy masala).

Motilal Masalawala, 405 Grant Road, Mumbai 400 007. Phone: 022 2373 4306

Belgaum Gheewala, N. Bharucha Marg, Nana Chowk, Grant Road, Mumbai 400 007

parsi food bombay pickles
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Badshah Reigns Over Mumbai’s Falooda Scene


badshah cold drinks falooda crawford market kalbadevi mumbai


Once the privilege of Persian kings and Mughal emperors, the royal falooda has found its way to our humble palates via Badshah Cold Drinks. The 100-year-old restaurant is located opposite Crawford Market and also serves juices, milkshakes, and snacks like pav bhaji and pizza.

Badshah Cold Drinks, 152/156, Umrigar Building, Opp. Crawford Market, Lokmanya Tilak Marg, Mumbai 400 003. Phone: 022 2342 1943


If there’s a fruit that can be found in the bustling markets of Mumbai, you can be near certain that Badshah has either a milkshake or a sherbet that flaunts that flavour. Mango, chikoo, pomegranate, lychee, strawberry, custard apple, orange, banana, fig, watermelon, peach, grape – chances are you will find these on the menu and arranged artistically inside the century-old juice centre. Over the years, Badshah has expanded its space to include a mezzanine labyrinth and overhauled its menu to make room for pav bhaji and pizza. However, the biggest draw for shoppers, businessmen and tourists who troop in red-faced from the blazing sun remains the royal falooda.

Once the privilege of Persian kings and Mughal emperors, the royal falooda has found its way to our humble palates via Badshah. On the face of it, the composition seems rather simple, but no one else in the city gets the proportions quite as right. Rose syrup dunked into a tall glass of cold milk containing silky smooth vermicelli and sweet basil seeds (better known as sabjah or takmaria) topped with a scoop of velvety vanilla ice cream; I can’t think of a better way to top off an afternoon of shopping at Crawford Market.

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A College Student’s Guide To Affordable Meals In Mumbai


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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a college student in possession of a small budget must be in want of cheap food.

There’s nothing quite like college life in Mumbai. Life works on fast-forward, zipping through rushed mornings when you’re half dressed and entirely late, not-so-subtle notes passed in class, racing down corridors to meet an extracurricular team before your next lecture, inside jokes, serious debates and a myriad of responsibilities that you’ve expertly procrastinated on – all successfully accomplished before noon. But classroom lectures consist of the least interesting part of your day, for it’s after the bells have rung and/or you’ve ditched your last couple of lectures that the real life of a college student begins, and there’s a lot of food involved.

The J

College Food Guide_002Photo by Stephanie McCabe

When in need of a snack on a lazy day, there’s one great place I turn to. Opposite HR College, tucked away so that you almost miss it, is The J. Popularly known as “J’s fries”, it sells one thing and one thing only: French fries. Gloriously crispy, perfectly cooked fries with a variety of toppings and sauces (dear Lord, the sauces).They’ve tried every combination and put up the best, from Tandoori Chilli Fries to BBQ Chicken Fries. The best? At first, I didn’t believe it and so was told to combine any toppings and sauces I liked, and if I thought my combination was better than theirs, they would add it to the menu. After much experimentation (all of which failed miserably), I admitted defeat and downed my sorrow – quite happily – in the form of Chicken Nacho Fries.

The J, 3, Vaswani Mansions, Dinshaw Vacha Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 022 2284 4650

Kyani and Co.

College Food Guide_003

When overburdened, when all the work I’ve been procrastinating over comes back to bite me, I go to Kyani and Co., one of the few old Parsi cafés still left standing. Fit into the side of the building, a few steep steps (aided by a dangling rope) lead up to a maze of tables, covered with red chequered tablecloths. I order a chicken-cheese burger and akuri on toast with optional baked beans (always the baked beans). The food there is simple but delicious. I wash everything down with a raspberry soda and one of their chocolatey desserts, conveniently displayed near the entrance. After I spend a few hours engulfed in the old world feel of this shadowy café, chatting with friends over nothing and everything, my impending assignments and projects don’t feel as threatening, reality isn’t quite so dark and I can almost feel my stress melt into air.

Kyani and Co. Ratan Heights, Dr. DB Road, Opposite Navjivan Society, Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 008.

Dosa Guy

The title may be incongruous, but that is what every student of Sophia College calls this much loved dosa seller just down the road from the college’s main gate. Setting up his roadside stall every working morning from June to April, he is as much a part of the college as the bhaiyas in the canteen. He attracts customers from college students, professors and residents alike and is famed for having some of the best dosas in Mumbai. His Mysore Masala dosas with their mysterious chutneys, perfect combination of vegetables and crispy buttery edges are to die for and his Sada Cheese dosas include a whole grated block of unhealthy goodness (hallelujah). After picking my dosa (try the Mysore Masala Uthappa, I dare you), I sit on the pavement going up Vivek Singh lane and make a mockery of every crow that eyes my dosa enviously.

Vivek Singh Lane, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai 400 026.

WTC Pasta

College Food Guide_004

Every evening, as the night creeps in and the commercial areas of the city wind down, one place remains a hive of activity and life. The divider opposite the World Trade Centre at Cuffe Parade turns into pasta central. Stalls under the name “Manoj Pasta” are set up along the road, and steaming pasta dripping in sauce is tossed into the air. With a menu ranging from a simple “white sauce pasta” to the “penne Italian pasta magi with chilees”, the pasta always comes in large quantities, piping hot, covered in enough cheese to block all your arteries, and is unutterably delicious. Sitting under a tree, eating the pasta precariously balanced on my knees and playing music from my phone is the perfect way to unwind at the end of a long day.

Outside World Trade Center, Cuffe Parade, Mumbai 400 005.


College Food Guide_005

As the sun sets and lights begin to turn on to fight off the impending darkness, my friend and I wind our way to the back roads of Colaba. Bademiya, consisting of a stall on the street with a small dining area across the road, is an integral part of the Mumbai experience. While we wait for an order of our favourite kababs (Reshmi Tikka and Mutton Boti), we play with the cat that never wanders far from the stall. As soon as our order is ready, we pack it up, along with a couple of bottles of coke from the shop down the road, and head to Marine Drive. We sit on the sea-face, our backs to the rush of the city, watching the dark waves crash against the rocks and tracing the lights of the distant ships on the horizon as we devour our juicy rolls. It is contentment in its truest form.

Bademiya, Tullock Road, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 039.

Feature Photo By Sachin Gupta (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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