Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Shopping at Crawford Market Mumbai

I am a non-traditional shopper. When it comes to shopping for clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery etc, my standard operating rule is "Like, Fit, Price, Pay, Leave." But when it comes to food and books, I savour the experience. At food markets I linger over every shelf, enjoy the display, discover new ingredients, pick them up, smell them, touch them and read about them in detail, I jump with joy when I find the right thing at the right price or sigh softly when I can't find what I need.

My most favourite experiences for shopping for food has always been that of shopping at Crawford Market in Mumbai. Crawford Market, or Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai as it officially goes, is a 144 year old building located close to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) station in Mumbai. You can find ANYTHING food-related here, including the most unheard of ingredients, fruits, vegetables, cheeses and chocolates at prices that will make you not only jump, but dance with joy.

Everything at one place: Crawford Market Mumbai

For me and my friend who loves cooking too, shopping at Crawford is like our version of 'making a day of it'. Going to Crawford market to shop is like a picnic for us. We mark an entire day for going to Crawford, not only because of the travel time (as we live in the suburbs), but also because of the time we'll take to browse, linger, and shop. We'll carry at least 3 to 4 huge (and by huge I mean HUGE) bags to carry back whatever we 'plan' to shop for. Of course, every time the number of bags end up being more than what we have carried as you simply cannot stick to lists here if you love food.

My first experience of shopping at Crawford felt like an interesting irony of all the ingredients I need in ways I didn't think it could be available. It is like shopping for high-end, rare ingredients at an everyday bazaar. Where else will you find Thai Bird Chilly, Galangal, Kaffir Lime, Italian Basil, and curled Parsley next to your everyday curry leaves and dhania patti at a traditional sabziwaala stall? Where  else can you find Parmesan, Gouda and Edam sharing shelf space with Amul and Britannia? And in which bazaar will you find Earl Grey and Lady Grey nestled next to your Girnar and Society Tea?

Shopping at Crawford can be best described an assault on your senses. Though it is an indoor market that is poorly lit, you cannot miss the bright colours of the products at display.There are a variety of smells:  fishy, spicy, cheesy and chocolaty sweet that mingle and permeate through the market. And the symphony of sounds of calling out to customers, persuading, questioning, bargaining and haggling are a tribute to Indian bazaars.

The range of products available at Crawford does not end at rare ingredients and people also go there to shop for cheap and good quality clothes, footwear, beauty products from around the world, crockery and serveware, bakeware, party items, jewellery-making stuff and even alcohol. The range is wide indeed.

Till date, I have never been disappointed by a trip to Crawford. I've always found whatever I have needed at very reasonable prices. It is a must-go for all Mumbai food lovers. A word of caution though for first time shoppers, go with someone experienced with the maze of Crawford Market and its bylanes or you'll be spending hours there with not much fruitful outcomes. Whatever it is, I can assure you you'll still enjoy the experience.