Taste of India – magic of masala

As we traversed on the 93 kM of highway from Vadodara to Ahmedabad in about 70 minutes we crossed Anand – where the Taste of India brand sits. That was the point that I thought to write about the Street Food that flourish all over the world and in India. Usha and I travelled from Kerala to Karnataka, to Delhi and Rajasthan as well to Gujarat and Mumbai all in about two months. This time we agreed that as we travel we look at street food as an alternative to ambience dining. The experience was exotic and very tongue twisting. Food was very tasty with different items as most of it we found being prepared in front of our eyes. This is a pictorial representation unlike my earlier blogs.

Kerala – Calicut railway station:

As we were boarding the train to Bengaluru, as usual the aroma of coconut oil fried banana fried, caught my nostril’s attention. I bought one “nenthrapazham nirachath” and enjoyed the delicacy. Ripe Kerala banana is cut and inside is filled with a mixture of coconut gratings and sugar. That was from the vendor who walked around me and my wife, as we shared it.

Karnataka – Bengaluru:

Bengaluru has many dining places and a large variety as most of us are aware. This time we thought to taste “GOLI” and super that was with punch of spices and ingredients that was filled into hot “Pav” (bread).  Our daughter and family stay here.

In Kannada they say “EnjoyMadi” – really the word is apt!

As our grandson was also having it I could see tear drops coming from his eyes. Interestingly these are sold on road side small eateries in a hygienic manner and packaged well. Taste it and you will add tears into your vadapav.

Andhra Pradesh – Seconderabad Railway Station:

As our train stopped at Seconderabad, I got out of the train and had “mulak bhajjiya” that was being served on platform by vendors.

My wife does not like to bite into the spicy green chilies dipped in besan dough and so I had my heart’s content. I saw people enjoying the bite with mint chutney but I had the real taste of it munching it all.

Delhi – Gurgaon:

In Delhi we had food at many different places and from all over. The first one was at Convergy’s Mahesh Pehalwan Dhaba at Gurgaon where they sell only paranthas – you name it and you get it straight. There are more than what you can name it and each parantha is a special one and as it comes to your table, the butter melts on surface inlaid with your choice of meat, egg or vegie.

My sister-in-law had Mooli parantha, wife and daughter had kheema paranthas, son-in-law egg paranthas and me aloo parantha. Wow – the stomach was filled with the amount we all had and the finger licking paranthas had no accompaniment. Just indulge in it with your fingers getting in to the depth of the hot paranthas that gets shifted from hot thava to the table.

As I asked for tea, they said “OUT-Side” and as I enjoyed sipping the masala tea with my son-in-law the three women posed for a picture close by.

Gallivanting is one activity my wife and daughter like, and we went around Delhi on many occasions. Once close to the Rashtrapathi Bhavan and on returning the side streets had hundreds of street food vendors depicting a variety that was extremely tempting to grab and eat.

It was suggested to move faster so that we reach UPSC Lane in Delhi area where a delicacy is on sale on the streets and had Dahi Balla Paapdi Chat and Aloo Tikkis – God, that was licking away the fingers as well the plastic plates!

Rajasthan – Jaipur:

We were hungry as we touched Jaipur after a visit to Siriska Tiger Sanctuary and checked up on Google for a street side shop where we could still get lunch at about 3.45 p.m. and supported by a friend in hospitality industry we were told to straight drive to Pink City area and ask for Kallu Hotel. The aroma of Kashmiri spices and the cooking as was seen outside on huge old vessels indicated we were in for a sumptuous feat with kebabs and what not? Some pictures that were hung on the wall showed us the fact that Kallu Hotel is an old one in that area hundred years old. The Mughlai Rajasthani non-vegetarian food reminded of the past era of awesome food.  Order was placed for Rogan ghohst,  Safed Mas and roti’s, all turned out to be finger licking good with oil floating on the serving bowls.

As foodies we were ready to try out new dishes, flavors and cuisines. And Jaipur is a foodie’s paradise. If you are a gastronome and love to explore a variety of food from a range of local Jaipur offers everything under the sun.

As we went around to see Amber Fort and came to Jal Mahal next day it was tempting to watch and walk past the spread on a movable cart on display – none of us were hungry but the color, types and the way the vendor was preparing the jalmuri – we stopped over and had an attack of the sort on the lake side. The cool breeze accomplished our eating style as we walked in that lovely area.

The ladies wanted a look at the blue pottery and we managed to locate a side lane shop close by where samosas and kachoris were being made  – packed a few and took it to our hotel to have with beer for lunch – the accompaniments were delicious and mouth-watering, no doubt.

On way back from Jaipur on highway to Delhi:

We decided to drive down straight and time was nearly 3.30 p.m. when my daughter spotted Haldi Rams on the right side of the road. The sumptuous spread of items as displayed made our hunger cells tick faster – each one ordered a separate item saying we all will share – but what was over was Dahi Balla and Chat. The thick curd with colorful toppings was a treat by itself. Spoons were not used as we thought the fingers needed to be cleaned up before we washed our hands.  Haldi Ram is in no way a small restaurant but fall under category of street restaurants in this blog.

Gujarat -Vadodara:

Gujarati cuisine is a huge cart of surprises. I first enjoyed it in Jamshedpur where our neighbors shared with tepla and a variety of pickles that are tantalizingly salty and spicy. The interplay of flavors and colors is a treat to eyes like that for the taste buds.

I had worked in this place also earlier but at those times did not venture to appreciate the value of street food. We were on our way to Poicha and in the early morning got ourselves into a road side dhaba where we enjoyed dhokla, thepla sitting on choir cots. My cousin asked for Undhiyo and Surti Kadi and I used to enjoy kadi made as per the taste of Karachi born Indians while working in Jeddah. For lunch we had yet another road dhaba located on the side of our highway and had bajar ki roti, vatana bherala karela.

At tea time we had a long drive between lunch and that evening and all felt we should have pani puri – and here we went around the shops – with jal jeera and lassi to cool us from the heat.

At times one feel that the variety that India has in terms of food at an affordable price and at OK hygienic conditions can exceed the street food available in Hong Kong and Thailand – though the way food is served and handled are a bit different. Here in India it’s the effort of the house hold that manages their living by making and selling traditional food at an affordable price and served closer to you and when you are hungry!

All that we did the next day at Vadodara where my cousins live was to be chit chatting and bringing in nostalgia and comparing Kerala street food with what is available in Gujarat – I am told that a stretch of road at Pahalganj in Vadodara not more than 600 meters has nearly 50 eateries including a masala dosha “Kairali Restaurant” – where we had masala doshas!

As night fell longer we all decided to get back to the streets and enjoy the cart of variety with pani-puri and chats – that was once again enjoyed by my wife and Panna-Ji (my cousin’s wife). I used to enjoy Pani Puri near New Market Kolkota (Bengali’s call it Gol Gappa) and the person who used to make it was rom Rajasthan with a huge paunch. As he dipped his hand in the water and served – wow the juicy watery liquid contained in thin puri’s made me linker to order for more. Long since I enjoyed it in Vadodara.

The car drive that made me think of Taste of India as we crossed Anand took us to Ahmedabad and we were soon looking for something to be eaten as we went shopping on Relief Street. There was a lady on street with a set of bangles swinging and making sound as she danced and took money with a smile – and as she moved I too moved to take a snap of her. At that corner was a Kulfi vendor and believe me for forty rupees it was sweet semia underneath, two different scoops of ice cream, cream and tasty sugar syrup poured with khs-khas topping and a few dry fruits spread on top with a colored topping that melted in our mouths. As we walked towards , we decided to pack a few different types kulfies and hot jalebi’s that were being made on the side lanes to take to my Gujarati behan Ji’s home where she had prepared a spread of vegetarian food in a thaali with hot chappathys .

Where else in the world you will get the sweetness, music and dance at same venue?

Maharashtra – Worli:

Final destination for this trip was Mumbai at Usha’s residence and there are three things that one should not miss close to this area – One is Kulfi who comes around 9.30 p.m. and sits through late night till he sells the whole cold frozen kulfis; the sandwich wala who reaches the Annie Besant Road, Worli around 5 p.m. and makes a lot of sandwiches with and without butter, toasted and with pudina chutney etc. – the Vada Pav vendor near Kirti College. All are exclusive and special at a price that is affordable even to a low income buyer who wants a treat for his stomach.

All it matters:

What this trip down the street food stalls or kitchen factories of the lanes and by-lanes made me understand is that it’s good to taste and enjoy the fresh food made in front of you with specific ingredients added to taste better to one’s choice.

Every Grand-Mother made a recipe and every street vendor has his own.

If one has limited time on travel, these street stalls are a good alternative. You fill up when you are hungry, and on the move.