Expat chaat

I like nothing better than an Uttappam with chutney and sambhar for breakfast — though I often have to say the word ‘Uttappam’ several times before I am understood.

“Uttappam please”
“Uttappam please”

And so it goes until I pronounce it correctly, but hey, it’s worth the wait! The foods I like least are Gulab Jamun, Cham Cham and Rasgulla. I’ve been forced to eat these things at parties more than once.

Illustration/ Amit Bandre

Sweet nothings
“You must try the Gulab Jamun before you go!” I smile and refuse politely but Indian hostesses are natural-born feeders and won’t take no for an answer. Inside I’m screaming 'noooooo’ as I am force-fed the sticky sponge like a Foie Gras Goose. My husband is not a fan of Indian sweets either. When they hand them out at work he has a nibble and wraps them in a tissue when no one’s looking. I’ve lived in Mumbai for four years now and have met lots of expats, all of whom seem to have a favourite Mumbai food. Simon Tomlinson, from the UK says: “I love the spices and heat and subtle, delicious flavours. There is simply nothing like Indian food in India! Mysore Dosas from The Galleria in Powai, Chaat from the work canteen and home-cooked food from lovely people we’d only just met!”

French toast to Mumbai
Now living in Paris, foodie Emilie Thebault Darrasse worked in Mumbai for three years. “One of the most exciting things for me was the street food. Warm Onion Bhajias direct from the oily pan, Pani Puri on Juhu beach, giant paper-like dosas and sugar-dripping Jalebi. And when you’re in Mumbai you shouldn’t miss the famous Vada Pav. Delicieux! “When it comes to sweets my favourites are Kheer and Gajar Ka Halwa but the weirdest thing is Falooda — it’s like sweet noodles with cream and crispy stuff.”

Bold and British
Brit Sue Cope says: “We like to eat everything in Mumbai from the Vada Pav on the street and the slow cooked shank at Noor Mohammadi to Saltwater Grill's Bacon and Cranberry Jam Burger. “There is such amazing variety in this city… and food festivals galore! Last year, we went to the Koli Festival in Versova and Mohammed Ali Road during Ramzan. We also enjoyed a food walk with ‘Finely Chopped’ and tried Parsi and Mangalorean fare.” 

Puri for the palate
Someone who knows a bit about food in Mumbai is Jinx Akerkar, the German-born mother of top restaurateur Rahul of Indigo fame. She said: “I’m an inveterate street food eater — Bhel Puri, Pani Puri, Sev Puri — I’ve lived in Mumbai for more than 50 years and have a cast iron stomach. I enjoy channas and corn on the cob with salt and lime and once in a while I visit Bade Miya’s for his wonderful kebabs.”

New Zealander Frances Nicholls loves Sev Puri. “It’s the combination of crunchy and soft all at once, I can’t stop eating them!” “I get a real Jones for a Dahi Puri” says Texan Jean Spraker; Dubliner Leah McKenna is a Vada Pav fan and Edinburgher Diane Chatterjee loves Papdi Chaat, ‘the snack to beat all others!’

“We Brits are very well acquainted with such dishes as Chicken Madras, Mutton Bhuna and Vegetable Dhansak, says Mumbai blogger Bombay Jules. “Coming to India has opened my eyes to a whole new and seemingly unending range of regional foods. I occasionally treat myself to a Gujarati Thali at Rajdhani. I don’t need to eat for a week after that!” the blogger recalls.

Did you know
At present, there are believed to be between 20,000 and 30,000 expatriates living in India and, whilst this is just a fraction of the 100,000 foreigners in China, the number is increasing on a yearly basis.

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