In Mumbai’s sleepless reality, fast food becomes your best friend. But you can only choke down so many soggy burgers and gristly chicken wings before you can hear your innards crying out for something real. But trying to find a satisfying, nutritious meal in the same price bracket as a slightly stale wrap is no easy task. But, as with all things Mumbai, someone has found a way.
A small, unassuming roadside food truck in Dadar has, for the last 30 years been churning out some top shelf Malvani cuisine at stunningly low prices. Raju’s Malvani Cart has its own little cult following and whether you’re a regular in the area or just passing through, it’s well worth stopping by for a meal. The owner, Narendra Sawant (also known by his pet name, Raju) inherited the business from his mother who set it up in 1986 and with the cart he inherited the traditional recipes that have been their claim to fame.
Needless to say, with the promise of Malvani food comes seafood...a lot of seafood. Every day fish is sourced from local markets (thank god for coastal cities) and taken to their kitchen a few lanes away from where the cart has been parked for so many years. There the curries, pulaos, various masalas and doughs are prepped, ready for the evening rush. While all the cooked dishes are made in advance to speed up service time, the vades and fried fish are made to order. From the moment they open at 7:30, there’s a crowd thronging around the cart and by 9 they start selling out so be sure to get there early if you want to sample the full range. Despite their fame, expanding the business into a proper restaurant has proven a challenge, what with all the permits and formalities that come with the territory, Sawant prefers to stick with their tried and tested model.
Though of course, their affordable seafood is the primary attraction, Narendra confesses that his personal favourite is the kombdi vade, a classic Malvani dish with chicken sukka curry, vades and a side of sol kadi that is still made using his mother’s recipe. Though simple, each dish is prepared with care and infused with homely flavours that outshine the legions of hotels and upscale restaurants trying to mimic Malvani fare. In fact the quality of their food has earned Raju food cart many celebrity visits from food writers like Kunal Vijakar and even a nod from the Times Now food awards. This little joint is the dream destination for every foodie with a penchant for local cuisine, between their long history and low costs they’ve solidified their status as one of Mumbai’s must-try meals.
1/23 Kubal Niwas, Opposite Hotel Sachin, Gokhale Road North, Dadar Shivaji Park
All images by Rashi Arora.