It is only when one visits Mumbai does one truly understand why it is referred to as 'The City That Never Sleeps'. No matter what happens, nothing ever stops. The fast-paced life of the 'City of Dreams' is something that strikes you from the very moment you set foot inside Mumbai. This aspect of the culture of Mumbai can very obviously be seen depicted in terms of its food as well.
People in Mumbai are always on the go and eating out on the street is a daily ritual for many of them. No points for guessing, therefore, that among a lot of other things, Mumbai is also famous for its street-food.
In the wee hours of morning itself, whether you are at a station or passing by-lanes, you will see hawkers selling cutting chai and omelettes or egg bhurji with hot buns or paos. The cutting chai is usually sugary sweet unless you are fortunate enough to get a chaiwallah who makes it slightly 'kadak' or 'strong'. You may also come across variations being sold in the form of 'elaichi wali chai' or 'adrak wali chai'.
As far as Mumbai is concerned, ‘pao’ is like the undisputed ruler in street food. It would be safe to say that vada pao is the face of Mumbai street-food. For many people, that piece of vada squashed inside a pao is an actual meal and not just a tidbit you grab on the way. There are several other versions of pao - you have Bhajia Pao which is a pao stuffed inside with oily onion rings; Anda Pao which is a half-sliced boiled egg enclosed inside the pao; and Samosa Pao in which you have an entire samosa stuffed inside that one piece of pao! There are also Usal Pao, Misal Pao, Kheema Pao and paos of numerous other varieties. Pao bhaji is another item that is very popular in Mumbai.
Visit any beach in Mumbai - Juhu or Chowpatty - and you will come across several hawkers selling ice-golas, kulfi and a wide range of 'chaats'. If you are from Kolkata, you may find Bhelpuri to be similar to the 'jhaal muri' that is abundantly sold on the streets of the City of Joy, and you may also feel that pani puri is no match to the 'puchkas' that you get; but you can still try out other 'chaat' items such as Dahi Puri, Sev Puri and Ragda Pattice.
Walking down the sandy beaches licking an ice-gola made of one or more flavours of your choice (mango, orange, kala khatta, rose, khus, etc.) or savouring a mixed plate of malai, kesar pista, chickoo, mango or strawberry kulfi is one of the many joyous moments you can experience out of being in a city located so close to the sea. Even if you are someone who loves cleanliness and the dirty beaches strike a chord of disharmony in you, do not give this experience a miss.
Mumbai is also famous for its 'frankie' which is nothing but a roti wrap that comes with a wide range of stuffings from paneer to chicken to vegetables to eggs.
Since Mumbai is close to the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, it comes as no surprise that the city has a wide chain of South Indian stalls, restaurants and lunch-homes serving different kinds of dosas, idlis and vadas. In many places, you may find the sambhar to taste a tad bit too sweet but you won't usually have any complaints about the chutneys that are served as accompaniments.
It is not an uncommon sight to find hawkers selling fruit-plates on the streets of Mumbai. While you can always question the freshness of these fruits, do not hesitate to try fresh fruit juices, milkshakes and sandwiches from any of the stalls in Mumbai. These items from the roadside kiosks usually taste good.
As the sun sets and the evening arrives, you will find stalls beginning to grill skewers of various meat kababs. The kababs that you get from these small roadside joints are almost always finger-licking good - if you are adventurous, you could try items like bheja fry; or you could just stick to the safe side and enjoy seekh kabas and chicken tikka kababs amongst several others.
Mumbai is a tourist hub and it has many sights and sounds to explore. However, taking time out and feasting on the various delicacies that the streets of Mumbai offer is an opportunity that every person who comes to this city should experience at least once.