A Koli woman carries a basket of fish on her head, a podgy man, dressed in a striped shirt gapes in horror at the fat bill even as the woman looks on with glee; a bunch of middle aged men sit at a distance enjoying their beer and banter oblivious to the infamous rains and flooded streets.
Monsoon is the best time to be in Mumbai, but it is even better to be in Mumbai while savouring the lip smacking street food in pouring rain.
Despite lack of space everything is big in Mumbai – hopes, aspirations, dreams, ambitions, and also food. While in most cities street food is confined to variations of local cuisine, here it refuses to be bound in any category. From local to regional, from Indian to international, everything can be found on the streets of this magical city, you just need to know where to get it.
Vasanth Sagar is one such place. Covered with thick sheets of asbestos, hidden behind big old trees and washed with rains, Vasanth Sagar is not in your face street food joint, but a treasure that you have to hunt for. Your hard work of uncovering this treasure is rewarded generously with delicious food, quirky art, and loads of gossip. A regular hangout of office-goers, meeting point for friends and lovers, weekend jaunt for families from the suburbs, the place is tiny on space but big on character. Laced with wooden benches and stools, lit by bamboo lamps, and decorated with murals, it is a far cry from the make shift street food places one is used to.
“For a street food shack, the menu here is quite exhaustive, but in Mumbai you cannot not have options. I love the Pav Bhaji here; my husband’s favourite is Tava Pulav, our kids however gorge on the cheese pizzas and chocolate muffins. We have been coming here for years but only on Sundays, on weekdays there is no space to even stand.” Aditi, who is a regular at the joint, tells me while waiting for her favourite Pav Bhaji.
The Pav Bhaji comes dripping with butter, a wedge of lime, and onion on the side; the Tawa Pulav is aromatic and is served with salad, papad and raita; the pizzas are loaded with cheese; chocolate oozes out of the muffins – if austerity is a synonym of street-food, it does not show here. In that sense, Vasanth Sagar is just like Mumbai – small on space, but huge on experiences.