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JAFFRABAD STREET FOOD TOUR

It is the holy month of Ramzan and just like any Muslim neighbourhood, the narrow and busy lanes of the Jaffrabad Market in Seelampur, Delhi gets filled up with street vendors with their carts or stalls, selling Iftari food items and the common public, enthusiastically thronging the streets to break their Roza or the day long fast along with their acquaintances. So all these set up gets laid an hour or so before the Maghreb or the evening prayer. The prevalent sensory experiences in terms of the sights, sounds and aromas undergoes a visible shift as the place gears up for the Iftar or the feast that marks the breaking of the fast. As the evening moves into night, the sea of humanity swells and the surge of the locals engulfs the marketplace. One thing that revolves in the minds of all is food, the fuel that drives the human body. This place in northeast Delhi has a sizeable Muslim population. It is also the home to thousands of families that migrated to the capital from the nearby states of UP, Bihar and MP.

During Ramzan, the locality and its neighbourhood markets transforms into all night bazaar that is full of food stuffs and other things as well. Like its Old Delhi counterpart, this place is cheaper and full of local crowd as compared to the touristy crowd of the former. It is primarily because this place has no tourist attractions like the Jama Masjid, Red Fort etc. 

A closer look to the human activity would reveal tired yet smiling visages of the locals who are out to bask in the collective glory of festivity and celebration especially through food. From evening time till dawn, food take predominance. Some of the common food sights are the fruits mostly dates, watermelon and bananas, pakodas, rose drink, a pleasing assortment of breads like sheermal or paratha, smoking hot kebabs grilled on skewers and huge cauldrons filled with either Nahari or Biryani.

We are at Jaffrabad to experience the food culture here during the festival of Ramzan; to discover and learn about the most popular and delicious local food, the distinct flavours triggers hysteria and the relentless hands behind the culinary celebration. 

In solidarity to the spirit of celebration, unlike our other food journey we commenced this food tour with an Iftar, for which we joined our friends at a local shop. First task was to buy the food items for the Iftar. It is a customary gesture if you are going for an Iftar. Everybody pitches in with some of the basic eatables that makes up an abundant supply which is then shared by all, simultaneously. 

We bought some Keema golis and mixed pakodas and went on to meet our friends for Iftari. The spread comprised of fruit chaat, medley of pakodas and rose flavoured drink. After this light initial spread came the main dishes comprising of Nahari and Khameeri roti. That the Nahari was brilliant can be assessed from the satisfying expressions of the fellow eaters.

With the Iftar done right, it was time to embark on the Ramzan food tour across the market. Our first stop was the Haji Ikbal Sheermal Wale. We were here for some fresh and hot Nan Khatais or Indian shortbread cookies. We were lucky to witness the making of a fresh batch of golden brown beauties. They were soft, crumbly and irresistible.

Next stop was a popular kebab shop thronged by the locals. Nawab bhai kebab wale is an interesting place that we recommend for the tastiest kebabs in the locality. We tried their famous sheekh kebabs right off the skewers and believe us they were amazing. Very interestingly the kitchen in this eatery sits above the shop and the hot kebabs are lowered to the ground floor shop area by a pulley set up. The owners too were extremely gentle and humble. This place won our heart.

 

Next stop was the Afaq Zaika Chicken. We tried their special butter chicken tikka. It comprised of perfectly grilled chicken pieces tossed in a creamy and buttery sauce made with curd, butter and minimal spices. With all its rich and robust components, this dish can’t go wrong. Its was delectable and addictive although the insane amount of butter can surely give you jitters. The dish was a representation of the iconic Aslam Butter chicken from Old Delhi. In due course of the conversation we came to know that they are kins. 

 

While ambling down the lanes we came to a place frying Khajlas, a Ramzan time snacks that is eaten mostly during Shehri. Next we halted at a bread shop. Traditional breads are the inevitable part of the meal during Ramzan. They had an eclectic variety of breads of which we loved the Coconut one the most. After this was the turn of some mixed fruit shake from a street side cart. It was refreshing and had a custard like taste.

 

Then was the turn of a shop selling matar pulav, tehri and biryani. The taste of these vegetarian rice delicacies were so wonderful that we had to label it as a culinary discovery in the area. Imagine what a humble yet spectacular stuff it must be so as to win the heart of a hardcore biryani aficionado like me.

 

Right after it we also gorged on a delicious plate of Haleem biryani again from a street side stall that was swarmed with a super enthusiastic crowd. We literally jostled our way through them to collect our order. This place was a star.

 

From there we reached Islam Milk store, a place that everybody had recommended. With great curiosity we spoke to the owner and the customers to understand the amazing popularity of this milk joint. And with one sip of their rose flavoured milk we got all our answers. They have mastered  the perfect ratio in which the three ingredients should be mixed so as to get the ambrosial byproduct. We left convinced that a glassful of milk can actually make adults smile.

 

Our penultimate stop was Cool point where we tasted one of the most decadent Shahi Tukda. The fact that they double fry the thing before serving makes it different from the ilk. Along with a scoop of their in house mango ice cream, this dessert attained great height in taste.

After so much gluttony that we didn’t at all regret, we ended the food tour with a paan. Jaffrabad emerged as a foodie haven with some gems that cant be missed.

 

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GWALIOR FOOD TOUR

 

The city of Gwalior holds a supreme prestige for its wondrous cultural heritage. Undoubtedly it is one of the gems of Madhya Pradesh. The town is eponymously known as Gwalior after the saint Gwalipa, who was able to heal a deadly disease of Suraj Sen, founder of the city. Beside the significant historical legacy, the city also offers eclectic street food options to the locals and visitors. We were in the city to explore its street food tradition through such iconic eateries which rules the heart of the locals with their amazing fares. According to us the best way to do so is to walk down the vibrant and glorious streets of this cultural gem for as you keep walking, you keep exploring. The street food scene here is overflowing with the sight, aroma and taste of kachoris, ladoos, jalebis, bedai, poha, imartis, sev etc. So let’s start with our food trail at Gwalior with our foodie host Shikha who took us to the most famed eateries across the city.

 

Bedai

Our first stop was the city’s most favourite ladoo and kachori shop, the Bahadura sweets. Contrary to its majestic sounding name, this place was a small and unassuming eatery situated in a Haveli like structure. Their ladoos are so phenomenal that one of its illustrious patrons was Sri. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, ex Prime Minister of our country. We tried their kachori and ladoo, whose reputation has traveled far and beyond. The Moong dal stuffed kachoris were very impressive but it was the fresh desi ghee ladoos that swooned us with their soft, luscious and moist texture. This place is worth all its reputation.

Next we went to Chote Lal shop that is known for its Bedai and Imartis. Bedai are firm and crisp, Moong dal mixture stuffed puris that is eaten with a spicy potato gravy and chutney. The bedai here like its Agra counterpart was quite appetizing but it was the Imarti that was the star. The distinctly fresh flavour of urad dal that comes through the ghee infused syrup fountain makes it irresistible.

Poha

 

From there we went to Ma Pitambara Poha Centre to savour another staple breakfast dish of this place i.e the Poha. The crowd over there was a tell tale sign of the popularity of this humble flattened rice based dish and the place as well. The inherent lightness that shines through the medley of taste and texture derived from the different elements makes its a go to breakfast delicacy.

 

After the breakfast tour we reached Dana Oli, a street line with  Halwai or sweet shops. This place is the epicenter of fresh savoury and sweet snacks that reaches the locals. Our first destination here was the Gyana Halwai. We had come to try their famous kalakand and hence we were lucky because we got to taste some Mango kalakand from the fresh batch that had just been prepared. It’s easily a must try dessert if you are visiting this place during the mango seasons.

The second destination at Dana Oli was Agarwal sweets where we ate the delightful Sev Boondi  and Philori. In case of the former the fresh Sev was the hero. The later one was another popular snacks made from moong dal that was a bit spicy yet tasty.

Next stop was Bansal Petha Bhandar where you will find an eclectic variety of this tasty ash gourd based delicacy. Here we tasted the Paan gilori petha that clearly has a very strong flavour of betel leaves and gulkand. We also visited their factory to learn about the preparation of this very intriguing sweets. The process of making it was really tedious but the end product is amazing.

Choti Kachori

After gorging on the delectable breakfast delicacies all through the day, it was time to check out the evening time treats on the streets. We arrived at Sai Chaat to have the appetising Choti Kachoris. Essentially it was a mini version of the Moong Dal Kachoris that we have had at Bahadura Sweets. Hot and fresh bite size Kachoris were served with green and sweet chutney. The interesting thing about the eating experience here was the Donna or the leaf bowls in which the Kachoris were served. It tasted much better in those leaf bowls.

Continuing with our sweet overdose we came across Ishwar Kulfi Bandar, a famous Kulfi shop. Its rich Rabri Kulfi flavoured with rose and kewra was refreshingly yummy.

Karela

Next was the turn for some playful treats at Sahi Chat bhandar. So we are enormously impressed to try the urad dal golgappa and the exciting karela. The later one is essentially a crisp savoury snacks that resembles the bitter gourd in shape. It is served as a chaat with curd, chutneys and spices. The delicious contrast of taste and texture made it an impressive option that should be explored by every chat enthusiast.

For dinner we went to the Rajasthani Bhojnalaya for having their immensely popular Dal bati churma Thali comprising of Bati, Dal, Gatte ki Sabzi, Kadhi, Potato masala, Churma ladoo and garlic Chutney. The owner was such an amazing host that he himself served us and guided us with the right way to have the delicacy. His warmth and hospitality just took the culinary experience to a different realm. 

Balusahi

 

 

Our penultimate stop was Baba Gafoor ka Dargah. In the month of July there is a festivity at this holy place and it’s during this time only, that perhaps the country’s largest Balusahi is prepared as an offering to the saint. Each Balusahi was around a kilo in weight. We saw its preparation and also tasted it.

We ended our tour with a tasty Paan from Pardesi Paan Shop. This post meal treat served as a palate cleanser and a digestive stimulant.  The food journey at Gwalior was very exciting and we convey our heartfelt thanks to Shikha for assisting us in the exploration. 

 

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OLD GURGAON FOOD TOUR

 

Alongside the swanky malls, office buildings and residential high rises that defines most of the skylines in Gurgaon, there thrives the city’s oldest and busiest marketplace known as the Sadar Bazaar. Located next to the main bus stand in the old city, it remains a popular destination for most of the  residents because unlike the malls the products here are more economical plus there are more varieties too. No wonder that the marketplace, which stretches more than 5 km, has some amazing eateries, many of which are more than 60 years old. So in this tour we bring you our food explorations from the Sadar Bazaar, Gurgaon- a foodie’s haven and the birthplace of the very famous sweet the Dodha burfi, which is essentially originated in Pakistan.

 

We started the trail from the very popular Gandhi Ji Pakodewala whose pakoras are the hot favourites among the locals. A family business in its third generation, this pakoda shop is one to impress. Here we tried an assortment of  crisp and delicious Pakoras like Soya Chap pakodas, Kamal Kakdi or Lotus stem pakoda, Paneer, Palak and Onion pakodas etc. along with green and dry ginger chutney. 

 

Our next stop was Pandit Ji Ka Dhaba. There pure vegetarian meal that has no onion garlic in is relished by the locals as well as the visitors. We tried their thali comprising of two Chule ki Roti(their speciality), Dal, Potato curry with chole and Kheer. The spread was simple, tasty and quite soulful. So if you want to have a proper meal instead of snacks at this busy market then this place is just perfect. Also their famous kheer is available on Tuesdays only.

 

From there we went to Sardar Jalebi wala. The first thing that wondered us was the excited crowd of Jalebi aficionados and of course the irresistible smell of the freshly prepared Jalebis. The stellar reputation of this seventy years old shop can be attributed to the superlative quality of the Jalebis. The genial owner whose family came from the Sarkhoda District of Pakistan and set up the shop here, informed us that they make fresh batch every now and then and most importantly they don’t add any flavours or artificial colours. The crisp and syrupy beauties were truly toothsome. 

 

Next we reached Baljees restaurant to try their celebrated Pindi chole bhature which is deemed to be the best in this part of the city stretch. We weren’t disappointed at all as the chole bhature were truly delicious. Along with the Pindi chole we also had their paneer pakoda which was impressive too. This place serves delectable snacks spread at an affordable price. Interacting with the affable owner was a heartening experience. We were glued to his anecdotes regarding the shop, delicacies and his native place Dera Ghazi Khan at Pakistan.

Finally we reached the Sham Sweets an iconic establishment that is known to be the pioneer of Dodha burfi. Here we tried the deliciously nutritious Dodha burfi and the kesar khoya ghewar. The delectable dodha burfi is a typical regional specific sweetmeat that is characterized by caramelized and nutty flavour and granular texture. It prepared from a mixture of milk, germinated wheat flour and sugar. The ghewar is again a seasonal fare that is available during the rainy months. Mr Bajaj, the owner enlightened us with the origin of the dodha burfi in India. We too are thankful to his father for introducing this sensational sweet in India. They too belonged to the Dera Gazi Khan province in Pakistan.