The Street Food Gems of Zaveri Bazaar
I had not visited Zaveri Bazaar’s 3rd Agiary Lane (or Khau Galli, as it’s better known) in over a year. Until a couple of years ago, if I was anywhere near Jama Masjid or Mumbadevi Temple, I’d find a reason to walk over to Mohanbhai Pudalawala and get a quick and spicy butter moong dal pudala on a giant steel plate with three pools of chutney and a scattered pile of finely chopped onions, all threatening to run into my lentil crepe. Four days ago, I agreed to accompany my mom on an errand in the area, mostly because I was excited about the prospect of a pudala treat. However, when we got there, I walked right past 3rd Agiary Lane, not recognising it, because it looks nothing like it once did. Just over a year ago, it would take at least 20 minutes to negotiate the 200 feet stretch of the khau galli. Now it takes less than a minute. Then, there were about 40 street food vendors; now, there isn’t even one.
Soon after the bomb blast in the street on July 13, 2011, khau galli was made a no hawking and no parking zone, shutting the door on over 300 years of street food history. The only eateries that are still around are establishments, such as Mohanbhai Pudalawala, which operate out of buildings. However, a few street food vendors have taken up space in corners in adjacent lanes of the neighbourhood. I lingered, asked questions, and ate my way through the three Agiary Lanes, and found at least eight places that will keep me coming back.
31/33, Rangwala Building, 3rd Agiary Lane, Zaveri Bazaar. Tel: 022 2340 0036.
The 70-year-old proprietor insists that his last name is Pudalawala. Prod him for his birth surname and he’s likely to change the subject. He’s been manning the counter for 40 years, selling just savoury crepes in various iterations, each one just Rs30, unless you add cheese, in which case you pay R5 more. About 1,000 pudalas are sold every day, feeding jewellers, karigars and their customers. People still wait for a spot on the steel community tables, but Pudalawala says that “pehle jaisa ras nahin raha”. A few months ago, Pudalawala gave pani puriwala Sanjay Kumar Tiwari a spot in the restaurant. Tiwari was a street vendor who lost his stall in the bomb blast. He went back to his village, and was unemployed for almost a year, until Pudalawala took him in. It was a wise decision, because his pani puri is fantastic.
Ratan La Festa
9, ADN House, 3rd Agiary Lane, Zaveri Bazaar. Tel: 98922 34151.
Ratan La Festa is just a few months old. “Everything went away—that’s why we decided to come,” said owner Madhav Mittal, when we asked him why he chose to open a branch of his Lower Parel snack joint here. Mittal sells about 10 items including chaat, dhokla, dahi samosas and gulab jamuns, but the dosa stall is the biggest draw. Be sure to try Rajesh Kumar’s khichiya papad. Like Tiwari, he had a very popular stall on the street. He got the opportunity to restart his business after Mittal gave him a spot in his shop.
Jagannath Chaturbhuj Halwai
Shop No 2/4, Building 123/125, 3rd Agiary Lane, Zaveri Bazaar. Tel: 022 2342 6143.
People line up outside this 75-year-old shop for hot, fresh mini kachoris cooked in ghee. Should you decide to eat them at the counter, the pani puri-sized spiced dal-filled snacks are cracked open and topped with chilli and tamarind chutneys. They also sell dozens of other fried snacks, including two kinds of fafda, a peppery Goa puri (a mathri-like fried snack) and every kind of sev. The shop is named after owner Sanathkumar Upadhyay’s father Jagannath Chaturbhuj who started the place, but the name that really stuck was Buddha Marwari Dukan, which is how long-time customers still refer to the establishment.
Shop No.6, Usman Manzil, 3rd Agiary Lane, Zaveri Bazaar. Tel: 022 2341 2495.
Just like in the other jewellery district around Panchratna building in Opera House, mustard seed-flecked sev khamni is also very popular in Zaveri Bazaar. The khamni served up by Bipin Patel at Shree Mahalaxmi is said to be the best in the neighbourhood—served hot from a steaming kadai, and topped with sev, chopped onions, a squeeze of lime, and fried, salted green chillies.
Mokshkari Dugdhapan, Shri Kamleshwari Milk Corner
31/33, 1st Agiary Lane, Zaveri Bazaar; 191 Kapadiya Building, 2nd Agiary Lane, Zaveri Baazar.
Both these shops sell Surti milk-based specialities, essentially variations of milkshakes and dry-fruit shakes. While Mokshkari is a more organised, permanent structure with employees briskly handing out narrow plastic glasses filled with sweet dairy-based products, street stall Kamleshwari’s owner Ramesh Khoja is also its only salesman. Try the masala milk and the seasonal fruit shake at Mokshakari, and the badam milk and Surti cold coco (a custard-y, cold chocolate drink with lots of chocolate chips in it, and yes, it’s spelt “coco” on the menu) at Kamleshwari.
Pappu’s Chivda Bhel
Corner of Dhanji Street and 1st Agiary Lane, Zaveri Bazaar.
Pappu lost his spot in the khau galli after the blast, but he resurfaced two months ago around the corner from where he ran his stall on 3rd Agiary Lane. He makes and sells only one thing, a poha chivda bhel. But it’s a bhel that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, because it’s a Pappu creation. Fried poha chivda is mixed with a chutney made with crumbled khaman (yellow) dhokla and crushed chillies; this is then topped with vinegar- and turmeric-soaked sliced green chillies, and a squirt of lime. He’s made paper-cone rolling into a fine art, so be sure to watch Pappu as he packs your food.
Dayaram’s Chhappan Bhog
Shop No.2, 191 Kapadiya Building, 2nd Agiary Lane, Zaveri Bazaar. Tel: 98191 59658.
Named after the 56 kinds of foods offered as prasad in Krishna temples, Dayaram’s Chhappan Bhog shop specialises in the eponymous chaat made of only eight fried foods. They are: fried channa dal, channa chor, two kinds of chivda, “nylon” (extremely fine) sev, Kabuli channa, peanut bhajiya, and moong dal. It’s all tossed together with salt, a secret red masala powder and lime juice. People can get it custom mixed and ready to eat there, or they can take DIY kits back home. Dayaram’s dad Kashiram Gupta started the business 60 years ago in khau galli, and Dayaram’s new shop on 2nd Agiary Lane (Dayaram bought it after the blast destroyed his old stall on 3rd Agiary Lane) continues to be “the only place in the world” that sells this snack, or so says Dayaram.