The Story of Mumbai’s Khanavals

A Maharashtrian culinary trail across Mumbai.

Shirin Mehrotra

Long before Mumbai had a booming dining out culture, long before it was renamed Mumbai and was still known as Bombay, eating out in the city was only a utilitarian activity. In mid 1800s, when the textile mills started growing, Bombay saw an influx of labour that migrated mostly from the Konkan region to work at these mills (at one point there were 130 mills in the city). These men, who came to Mumbai leaving their families back in the villages, lived in chawls around the mill area which was then known as Girangaon (we know it as Parel). The wives of these mill workers (the lucky few who came and settled with their families) started cooking for the rest of the men and the khanavals were born. 

These kitchens were simple, no frills serving gharguti (home-style or homemade food). The cooking style and food varied based on the community and village the owner of the khanaval belonged to. The idea was to provide an inexpensive meal to the mill workers who sent most of their earning back home. Over the years the number of these local Maharashtrian eateries has depleted, but the few that remain are still going strong. While the food offered at these eateries ranges from simple vegetarian to Gomantak style fish thalis, here’s a list of the ones that serve vegetarian food and are usually known for their breakfast and snack options.

Tambe Arogya Bhuvan, Dadar
Established in 1941, Tambe Arogya Bhuvan near Dadar’s Kabootarkhana was started by Shankar Tambe who came from Ratnagiri. The place is now managed by 71 year-old Hemamalini Tambe who is the third generation owner. This is also the place that claims to have created Piyush, the thick lassi like drink made of saffron flavoured yogurt. The fare is simple snacks like missal pav, pohe, thalipeeth, kothimbir vadi or a meal of jhunka bhakar, varan bhat or kadhi khichdi.

(Step-by-step of how to make missal pav at home)

Sujata Upahar Gruha, Girgaon
Earlier known as B Tambe, Sujata Upahar Gruha is over 100 years-old. The quality of food here has gone down considerably over years. Their thalipeeth which is served with white butter is one of the must tries.

Vinay Health Home, Girgaon
The 75 year-old restaurant is one that gets the maximum crowd in Girgaon. The food here is on the sweeter side since the owners come from Konkan where it’s common to use jaggery in cooking. Missal pav, thalipeeth and kothimbir vadi are some of the best dishes in the menu.

(Step-by-step recipe of how to make Konkan style Rice Seviyan)

Mama Kane’s Swatcha Upahar Griha, Dadar
Located right opposite Dadar station, Mama Kane is over 100 years-old and run by the fourth generation of owners. The eatery started with simple meals of varan bhat and poli bhaji but the menu was later expanded and a few South Indian dishes were added. The batata vadas, aluvadi, bhajjis and kokum sharbat are the best selling items on the menu.

Panshikar, Girgaon

With its original branch in Dadar where you get sweets and farsan, Panshikar in Girgaon is fairly new; it opened in 1992. Go for their missal pav and thalipeeth.

Aaswad, Dadar
In 2015 at a Foodie Hub Award in London, the missal at Aaswad won the award for world’s best vegetarian dish. Award or not, the restaurant has been a local favourite for years now. Apart from the Maharashtrian fare this is also the place where you’ll get ukdiche modak all year round.

Ladu Samrat, Lalbaug
Located right in the heart of the area popular for its Ganpati pandal during Ganesh Chaturthi, Ladu Samrat was established in 1967 and primarily sold kadak boondiche ladu famous in the Konkan region. Due to demolition of the original building where the shop was located, it was shut from 1984-1992 and was later reopened a few metres away from the original location. The shop is packed almost all through the day and is known for its missal pav, dalimbi usal, farali pattice, kharvas and the entire range of sweets and farsan.

(Also read: How to make besan laddu)

Sapre & Sons, Goregaon (W)
Tucked away in a lane near Goregaon station, Sapre & Sons is a 58 year-old restaurant now being run by third generation owner. The menu follows the same pattern of poha, upma, sabudana khichdi, thalipeeth and missal. The food is simple and delicious and one of the best things on the menu is their amba piyush (mango flavoured piyush). 

Featured Image:
Other Images: Shirin Mehrotra


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