Do street food joints at Mumbai beaches meet hygiene standards?
After the FSSAI and Government of Maharashtra awarded the Chowpatty stretches at Juhu and Girgaum a Clean Street Hub certificate, we dropped in to see how they fared on the hygiene and taste fronts
In the song, From the Ritz to the Rubble, popular British indie band Arctic Monkey's vocalist Alex Turner croons, "Well, this town's a different town today; Said, this town's a different town to what it was last night." Turner probably has no idea how these words relate to Mumbai, which is changing all the time. It's also as much Ritz as it is rubble: like the transition from Bandra's quaint alleys to the chaos of Dharavi. But it's alive and how.
It is possible to spot a glimpse of this microcosm in places like the bustling Chowpatty in Girgaum or Juhu, where you will find a burqa-clad newlywed laughing coquettishly as she enjoys spicy pani puri. Beside her, a college-going kid slurps away at a juicy gola, while a touristy firang struggles to eat pav bhaji with his hands.
As these two street food centres cater to so many people, on March 5, the Government of Maharashtra decided to designate them as Clean Street Hubs, after they went through a facelift and passed the audit by the Food Safety Standards Association of India (FSSAI) that confirmed that both destinations had met with the institution's cleanliness and hygiene standards. Read on to find out how both fared when we dropped by.
Grub shup in Girgaum
On a Tuesday night, we arrive at Girgaum Chowpatty glittering in the glow of the freshly installed lights. The stalls have been refurbished and elevated with the help of embankments, and coarse green mats made to replicate grass have been laid out by the sides. One wall sports a bright mural comprising a life-size bicycle. The centre space has a brand new wash basin that appears speckled — a closer look confirms it's food splatter and paan spit.
We also spot green and blue dustbins, demarcated for dry and wet waste. A laudable move towards waste segregation, but a peek inside confirms no one really cares. The cooks and stall owners are dutifully wearing masks and gloves in keeping with the new rules. They seem delighted about the change, the nonchalance of the customers nothwithstanding.
We try a few eats.
At Opposite Amar Juice Centre, NA Purandare Marg.
Pani puri: We are not fretting about paying R40 for a plate of pani puri at Sharma Ji stall, while it costs between R15 and R20 on the streets. After all, in India, sanitation comes at a price. Not a fan of ragda, we opt for the one with batata only and ask the bhaiya to skip the sweet chutney, too. We dislike the overtly spicy and flavourless pani puris here and miss the chatpata version we relish near our office in Kalanagar.
Pav bhaji: At Shetty's pav bhaji, the stall-walas are enthusiastic and attentive. Our plate comes soon with a generous dollop of butter and pavs that glisten from the grease. It's a bit much, and the strong kick of over-used garam masala dampens the extravagance. Our verdict? Not worth R100.
Gola: At the far end of Chowpatty, is Daddy's Corner. "Ab toh firangi log bhi aa rahein hain," says Pushpendra, the owner, referring to the clean sweep. We pick the kalakhatta flavour and pay R60 for our treat, and enjoy the sweet, tangy and masaledar taste of the desi popsicle.
Street jam in juhu
On the following day when we head to Juhu Chowpatty, it feels like Saturday. Alan Walker's hit chartbuster, Faded, is blaring from a stall, and the place is crowded.
Dustbins are placed haphazardly, facemasks hang lazily around the necks of thelawallahs, unattended plates lay strewn around the stalls — our first impression is, "What has changed?" "It's a little better," our companion remarks. We move on, hoping that at least the food leaves a mark.
At Beside Dominoes, JBS, Survey No 73, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu.
Sev puri: We ask for a plate of the classic Bambaiyya chaat that comes at R40 at Sai Kripa Bhel Puri and Chaat Centre. The vibrant-looking snack is a perky medley of flavours and we love the tang from the chopped raw mangoes.
Pav bhaji: Maybe Juhu's cleanliness standards are not as high as Girgaum's, but its pav bhaji is definitely better. The amount of butter used is generous, but not overbearing and we enjoy the piquant vegetable mash. The pavs are softer, too. At Krishna Pav Bhaji, a plate of the dish costs R120.
Ice cream falooda: Having had falooda with kulfi forever, we are astounded by this desi-videsi mix and are eager to see what the sweet vermicelli tastes like with ice cream. We opt for the kaju anjeer ice cream falooda at Dreamland where the pocket pinch is R90 per sundae. We relish the dessert that is made with kaju-anjeer syrup, milk, sabja, falooda, anjeer ice cream and dried fruits.
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