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TRIBAL FOOD SERIES, RABHA TRIBE, ASSAM

Starting this week onward Delhi Food walks brings you a new series named Ethnic Food Tour series that catalogues our food explorations across the diverse and rich tribal panorama of our country and beyond.

It commences with the rustic cuisine of the Rabha tribe from Assam. The Rabhas are the indigenous tribal groups from Assam who belong to the Indo-Mongoloid group of people. In Assam they are mostly settled in Goalpara, Kamrup, Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Baksa, Bongaigaon, Chirang, Sonitpur and Karbi Anglong districts. Agriculture, forest based activities and weaving are the mainstay of their traditional economy in general. Rabha women are skilled weavers who usually make their garments on their own. However due to the lack of market opportunities and external support their exquisite skill haven’t yet transformed into a thriving livelihood opportunity.

Getting back to their cuisine, rice is the staple food of the Rabhas who are completely non vegetarians. Local herbs and edible insects are the essential components of their daily diet. The simple and rustic dishes have minimum use of spices and condiments. Home brewed rice beer is widely consumed not only during special occasions but on a daily basis. Their meal is hued with unique earthy notes because all of their ingredients are primarily sourced from the forests and local farms. To discover more about them, we visited the Ujan Rabhapara village in Kakoijana in Bongaigaon district of Assam along with our brilliant hosts Chayanika, Sishir and Risha whose insights helped us to get familiar with the new culture with ease.

ASSAMESE JOLPAN

En route to the village, we stopped at a local household to try Assamese Jolpan. It is the umbrella term for the traditional breakfast dishes that the locals relish daily. The Assamese word ‘Jolpan’ refers to both breakfast and evening snacks that includes different forms of the wide variety of local rice that are eaten with jaggery and curd. Typically, the base ingredient includes any one of the following-kumol saul (uncooked but soaked rice), sira (flattened rice), moori (puffed rice) etc. One can customise it with banana, sweet boondi, rasgulla etc. It also includes other preparations like Pitha and Nadu. We tried the most elementary of them i. e the Sira Doi gur and boondi laddo. It was such a comforting combination. 

After a short drive, we reached Ujan Rabhapara. Nestled amidst the green canopy of the Kakoijana forest expanse, this quaint sleepy village is home to the Rabhas. Kakoijana is the home to the endangered golden langur. Along with our hosts Chayanika, Sisir, Risha and Sanjib Sharma, we met the welcoming womenfolk from the village who had all gathered to cook a traditional Rabha meal for us. Since agriculture based activity are the mainstay of their livelihood, their cuisine is naturally dominated by the components from the same. 

Silkworms

Hence it isn’t a surprise that it includes rice which is the staple, various local herbs, meats, fishes and insects. Bugs and insects like the silkworm, red ants, grasshoppers etc. are the delicacies that define their cuisine. 

Chokoth

Another important element of the Rabha cuisine is the local rice beer called Chokoth, that is brewed in almost all households and is consumed almost daily. We tried it along with the genial locals. The taste profile of this alcoholic beverage was on the sweeter side. It is prepared by fermenting local rice along some herbs. After a period of 15 to 20 days they get ready for consumption.

The complete Rabha meal

The meal was prepared over the wood fire. Watching the herbs wilt in oil along with onions etc was a joyful experience although the addition of the silkworms or the red ants did make us apprehensive as it was our maiden attempt to try them. For the Rabhas these creatures are a nrich source of protein and so they are an important part of their regular diet. In no time with the collective efforts of the amazing womenfolks, the meal was ready. It was served in the local manner i.e. on the banana leaves. The meal comprised of the following- steamed rice, Mai Posung(steamed sticky rice with coconut) Skunkvine fritters, Silkworm with herbs, Posola di Kukura Mankho(country chicken cooked with banana stem), Taukam Bamshi(country chicken cooked with rice flour), Bakham(roasted pork), Hissa Pichi(Eggs of the red ants), Kekura bota(Crab Chutney), Guti aloo Aru Dhekiya Bhaji(baby potatoes with fiddlehead ferns) and Chokoth. Honestly some of the dishes like the silkworm and the dry fish chutney were an acquired taste that didn’t really catch our fancy although they weren’t at all weird. After finishing with the lunch we ate the Tamul and got ready for our departure. But what a humble experience it was with the simple and lively locals and of course the serene natural setting.

We are truly grateful to our amazing hosts for walking us through the fascinating landscape of the Rabha Cuisine with such enthusiasm and patience.

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ASSAM (CHANDUBI) FOOD TOUR

 

This time our gastronomic pursuits have brought us to the largest of the North Indian states, Assam. Well known for its sprawling tea gardens, national parks, paddy fields, the mighty river Brahmaputra and an artistic heritage, Assam has emerged as a popular tourist destination. Its vibrant cuisine makes it an important food destination for foodie travelers.

Stretching 600km along the Brahmaputra River Valley, the archetypal Assamese landscape comprises of golden green rice fields and manicured tea estates. In the north, there are the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh and to the south there are the highlands of Meghalaya and Nagaland.

Once known as the Light of the East, the name Guwahati comes from the Assamese words “Guwa” meaning areca nut and “Haat” meaning village market. The largest and most cosmopolitan city in the region,  Guwahati serves as the starting point for many journeys to different parts of the North Eastern belt.

Our food explorations in Assam began from the scenic place called the Chandubi lake situated around 64 km away from the capital city of Guwahati. Surrounded by forests, tea estates and small villages, this calm and picturesque area is a popular tourist spot.

This beautiful lake was formed as a result of the submergence of a part of the forest area during the devastating earthquake that had hit Assam in 1897.  The glistening waters of Chandubi Lake is a rich habitat for different flora and fauna. Visitors can go for fishing and rowing. Taking a ride on a country boat is the best means to discover the pleasing waters of Chandubi.

At Chandubi we visited the Chandubi Jungle Camp along with our hosts Chayanika, Sisir and Risha to savour a traditional rustic meal prepared with local ingredients.

The scrumptious lunch spread at the retreat camp included the Tupula Bhat, Omita Khar, Assamese style chicken curry, Tangy fish curry, Aloo pitika, Koldil Bhaja, Bilahi Pora and dal. It was a simple and gratifying meal that introduced us to some new ingredients like Khar and thekera.

Khar is an integral part of Assamese cuisine and it is consumed at the beginning of the meal especially lunchThis indigenous thing is alkaline in nature. Assamese people cannot do without it and it is generally consumed once a week. It is prepared from the banana peel as well as the trunk of the banana plant.

In the evening we all gathered together to prepare bamboo chicken, bamboo pork and barbecued pork. Chicken or pork cooked in hollow bamboo stem is a popular delicacy in this region that has caught the fancy of the gourmet crowd from near and far. Although initially it appeared easy with the minimalist marinades and all but it wasn’t, as it needs practice to master this style. The outcome was delicious. We particularly loved the bamboo chicken and bamboo pork. We are super grateful to our amazing hosts for making us familiar with the wonderful local cuisine with so much warmth and patience.

 

 

 

 

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WEILOI VILLAGE FOOD TOUR

Our curiosity to be a little more familiar with the Khasi cuisine led us to a quaint village called Weiloi, that was 48 km away from the capital city of Shillong, on the Mawsynram Shillong highway. We arrived here with our gracious host Linty who coordinated this insightful culinary visit. We were visiting Linty’s friend Joyfulmary and her lovely family in the village to oversee the preparation of a traditional Khasi lunch and to savour the same. The prospect of having a rustic meal made with local ingredients was so fascinating that we started early from Shillong and after an hour and a half drive we were at our destination.

The snacks basket that was served to us along with tea at a road side eatery in Trysad.

 

En route to Weiloi, we stopped at a small village named Trysad for some quick refreshments. There we checked into a tiny roadside eatery, which was full of people having breakfast or just tea. While most of them were sitting on the long benches waiting for their order, few of them were sitting on very low stools and having their food. A couple of agile ladies, dressed in the traditional Khasi attire called Jainkyrshah, were attending to the customers. A pleasantly starchy aroma wafted through the space. We ordered some tea for two reasons. First, we were earnestly craving for it and secondly we were intrigued by the sight of the snacks basket that was being doled out to the customers having this beverage. So on ordering a tea you get a neatly arranged basket full of a delightful assortment of rice cakes and biscuits. After you pick the ones that you like to have, they take it away, to the other customers. 

In it we spotted the Pumaloi, Pukhlein, Pusla, sweet bun etc that we had already tried at Iewduh. On Linty’s recommendation, we tried the Puslaan elongated, leaf-wrapped steamed rice cake that was made from rice flour and jaggery batter. Other than its mild sweetness, there wasn’t anything distinctive about it. In spite of the absence of a robust taste, these rice-based snacks are hugely popular across Meghalaya because of its wholesomeness that sustains the industrious lifestyle of the Khasi people.

Soon we were back on road and after half an hour drive we reached our destination Weiloi. Here we were greeted by the beautiful rustic surrounding and our genial hosts. Since outdoor cooking is common in villages, we spotted the place in the front yard of the house that was  spruced up for the cooking session. There was a portable wood fire oven and the necessary utensils. 

Putharo with Dohjem

 

Before starting with the lunch preparation, we were offered some Putharo(steamed red rice pancakes) with Dohjem(dish made of pork innards). The humble Dohjem was truly delicious. Moreover, the light Putharos impressively complemented its delicious meaty flavours. We also tasted another interesting combination of Pu Syep(rice cake) with sweet milky tea.

 

Wood fire cooking

Finally, we were out in the front yard to cook two traditional Khasi delicacies named the Jadoh and country chicken curry. Prup, our host, was was ready with all the ingredients. As per the local practice, we would be cooking them on the wood fire. The Jadoh is primarily prepared with pork meat but the chicken variant is also popular. We were making the chicken Jadoh with country chicken meat. During the conversation with Linty, we came to know about a very interesting fact about the chicken meat that is used in the dishes. Generally people use the chicken with its skin for it gives an extra flavour to the meat preparation. They wash the flesh thoroughly and remove all the feathers and then lightly roast it over the fire to soften it. That is how the chicken meat gets ready for cooking.

For the Jadoh Prup, first sliced up some onions and then added them to mustard oil. Then she chopped the chicken into small pieces and kept it aside. When the onions became translucent, she added the chicken to it and after five more minutes she further added the black pepper powder, salt and black sesame seed powder. On a different wood fire oven, she put the red rice to boil. After ten minutes of cooking, she transferred the chicken mixture to the boiling rice and let it simmer on a very low flame till the stock dried up. 

The country chicken was also an easy preparation. Chicken pieces were cooked in a simple masala comprising of onions, ginger garlic paste,  chillies and salt. After ten minutes of stirring the dry mixture, water was added to it and it was allowed to simmer for some more time till the stock reduced and the meat was tender. In the middle of cooking the intermittent drizzle gave way to a downpour and we had to rush the whole set up to the verandah. It wasn’t much of a surprise as the village Weiloi was nearly 14 km away from the wettest place on the Earth i.e Mawsynram. As we waited for the country chicken to be done, we met the old lady at the house who was wearing the JainTap Moh-a traditional Khasi Shawl-to protect herself from the cold breeze. Together we all had the kwai.

 

The lunch spread

 

After the cooking was over, without wasting any time we sat down for lunch. Along with the Jado and chicken curry there were few other dishes that the family had already prepared in advance. So our platter comprised of chicken Jadoh, country chicken curry, Phan kleh or potato and herb mash, stir-fried pork, tungtap, mint chutney, pickled sophie and some local herbs. 

 

Jadoh and Country Chicken curry

The star dish Jadoh had a moist texture and was very flavourful. The country chicken curry tasted great as well. We also liked the Phan Kleh or the potato mashed with the local herb Jalangchir. The pickled Sophie needs special mention because it was quite delicious. Along with the regular cooked dishes the locals do eat few herbs that prevents any kind of stomach disorder that might arise due to the consumption of meat. We realised that the use of local ingredients and the traditional style of cooking lifted this humble and minimalist meal to a gratifying experience. After this soul-satisfying meal we had the customary kwai. And soon it was time to bid adieu to the lovely family. Their hospitality was so warm and endearing that it felt like home. Heartfelt thanks to Linty, Sayan, JoyfulMary and her family members for such a heartwarming experience.

 

 

 

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SHILLONG’S IEWDUH MARKET FOOD TOUR

Market visits are always fun and exciting, so after the Police Bazaar food tour, we were keen to check out the food scenario at Iewduh market in Shillong. Pronounced as “Yoh Doh”, it is one of the oldest and largest wholesale markets in the city where one can find fresh stocks of vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, spices and other food items. Majority of the fresh stocks are supplied by the local farmers. The place also has a lot of handicraft items from local artisans like bamboo and wicker baskets, and many other non-food items as well. This sprawling marketplace is full of narrow alleys that leads you up and down the place. All these alleys appears the same to any unfamiliar eyes. 

 

We reached there early in the morning with our host Lynti, just when the market was opened for business. Soon the shops and stalls appeared to be spilling over the congested alleys full of vendors, porters and customers. In no time the calmness all around transformed into a clamour. We were thrilled to discover what the locals ate on a daily basis so our main focus was on the food items were being sold at the market.

 

We started our food tour by purchasing various kinds of rice cakes from a roadside vendor. Home made rice cakes are popular khasi snacks that are mostly consumed for breakfast along with tea. They are wholesome and convenient source of energy for the industrious populace. The ones that we bought included the Pusaw, Pumaloi and the Pukhlein. Pusaw or plain steamed sticky rice cake was bland in taste and is supposed to be eaten with tea or milk. The Pumaloi or steamed red rice cake was bland as well. But both tasted good with sweetened tea. The Pukhlein which was a deep fried rice flour and jaggery based snacks, was quite delicious. It had a sharp flavour of the mustard oil in which it was fried. 

Another popular stuff that local people preferred for breakfast was flattened rice soaked in tea. We have eaten it with many things like milk or curd but never with tea. It satiates the craving for tea and fills up your tummy. 

We also visited one of the oldest Jadoh shops in the market. It was bustling with people enjoying Jadoh and other regular Khasi dish. We went there to witness and understand the eating scenario here in Iewduh market. 

After ambling up and down the narrow lanes lined with shops and stalls in the different sections of the market we finally arrived at the centre of Iewduh that houses the largest vegetable market of the region. The sight was no less than a marvel. Wherever your eyes went, you can see different kinds of vegetables that came from local farms. They were fresh and colourful and unique. 

One of the most notable things about this market was that most of the traders here were women. Attired in their simple traditional outfits, they can be seen chatting, laughing, chewing kwai and selling their fares. It was indeed a fun place that gave you a sneak peak into the lifestyle and culture of the Khasi population. 

In the evening the place was more alive with people. Moving through the market becomes difficult due to darkness and intermittent rains. Linty took us to a place that sold a dish called Big Momo, a popular evening time snacks. As goes the name, these momos were big-sized steamed momos with same filling. the only difference was there in the texture which was more fluffy and bready that the regular ones. They were truly amazing. With it we came to the end of our Iewduh marketplace tour. It was one exciting exploration that made us more familiar with the Khasi culture.

 

 

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SHILLONG FOOD TOUR

 

This special blog marks the beginning of our food explorations across the North-Eastern states of India, the region that is pleasantly rich and diverse in topography, demography and culture.

Our Northeastern food trail began from Meghalaya’s capital Shillong, whose breathtaking natural beauty has catapulted it into a popular tourist destination for all the nature-loving travelers. Due to the picturesque beauty and pleasant climate, this city was once referred to as the ‘Scotland of the East’.

In this northeast culinary expedition of ours, we have until now covered a minuscule of the pristine expanse but we soon intend to discover more of its breathtaking beauty.

Shillong is a place that is mostly inhabited by the Khasi tribe, hence the local food scene here is primarily dominated by the Khasi tribe. So join us on this exciting food tour across Shillong. In this venture we were joined by two zealous food explorers Lynty and Sayan walked us around and assisted us in this culinary discovery.

In this brief account we have covered our street food trail in Police bazaar and also the traditional Khasi meal that we had at Linty’s place. Our journey began with a lovely drive from Guwahati to Shillong through the beautiful landscape and pleasant weather.

On reaching Shillong we directly went ahead to join our hosts Lynty and Sayan who were waiting for us at Police Bazaar. It is a prominent shopping, hangout and food hub in the capital city. The place was crowded yet very lively. We straightaway walked up to the food area that was lined with numerous stalls selling local and popular street food fares.

 

Jadoh

 

Here Lynti introduced us to the most ubiquitous Khasi delicacy called Jado. Few minutes into the walk and we soon realised how much did the locals loved the dish. It is rice cooked along with meat and a few other ingredients. Unlike the usual case here they have cooked the rice separately without meat and while serving it they topped it with a chicken or pork curry. It was simple yet super delicious.

 

Barbecued chicken

Next we tried some freshly barbecued chicken which is another local favourite. The neatly defined flavours of pure succulent meat makes it an irresistible snack.

Pakoda vendor

Further, while ambling down the lanes of the marketplace, we stopped by a Pakoda seller to try some hot Pakodas. This gentleman from Bihar has been successfully selling these humble fritters for the past 40 plus years. They were quite toothsome.

After that brief street food trail that was interspersed with crazy downpours, we reached Lynti’s house to savour some traditional Khasi dishes for dinner. We were welcomed by her warm and genial family. Then followed an enlightening conversation in the tranquil setting.
With the clock announcing dinnertime, we couldn’t contain our excitement to try the meal. The spread included Jastem, Shriew, Doh sniang Trykhong, Dohneiiong, Tungtap, tamarind pickle, etc. No wonder the meal cooked with so much affection and care was distinctly scrumptious. We particularly loved the Doh sniang trykhong which was a simple dish made with smoked pork and pumpkin. From the very first morsel we could relate to the fact the Kashi cuisine is minimalistic yet delectable. The best part was of the delicacies were the clean flavours of the major components i.e. the meat or vegetables.

The day’s culinary escapade gave us some insights about the Khasi cuisine. It is minimalistic in nature with very little use of spices or fats. Rice, pork and chicken are their staple food. They also consume a lot of local vegetables like yam, pumpkin etc. The dishes are mostly prepared with onions, ginger, garlic, chilies, sesame seed paste, turmeric and mustard oil. Smoking and fermentation are two chief culinary practices of the khasi cuisine. 

Post-meal it was time to have Kwai. It refers to areca nuts. The tradition of eating areca nuts with or without betel leaves, was an integral part of the Kashi tradition so in Shillong you will find every other person chewing kwai. People offer it as a mark of friendship, hospitality and honour so refusing the kwai is considered to be an ill etiquette.

Soon it was time to convey our gratitude and bid goodbye to our generous hosts for the yummy food, warm hospitality, and useful insights. The beginning being great we were thrilled for the rest of the adventure in this marvelous region.

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RATLAM FOOD TOUR

Historically known as Ratnapiri which translates to the City Of Gems’, Ratlam is a city situated in the northwestern part of the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh. This commercial city is synonymous with three S i.e Sev, Sari and Sona(gold). Moreover, it is also a significant railway junction of the Indian Railway’s western division. The place also boasts of some amazing snacks and street foods which the locals love to binge on. So we have arrived at this small yet commercially significant city of Madhya Pradesh to explore its street food scene that is a matter of joy and pride for the locals. In this gastronomic journey we are joined our amazing hosts Ratlam Wale and Chirag Rai who would be taking us to the most frequented eateries. Due to its proximity with the neighbouring states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, Ratlam’s street food is deeply influenced by the culinary traditions of these regions. 

We started our food exploration with Central India’s traditional breakfast dish Poha from a popular Poha joint Saklecha Nashta point. It was fluffy and light on spices. But the toppings of sev, fresh coriander, pomegranate seeds and chopped onions made it a tasty affair. The wholesomeness of this humble dish makes it a popular breakfast choice.

With the rains making a sudden appearance, we rushed to the nearby tea stall named Bajrangi Tea stall to satiate our tea cravings. Tea is the favourite beverage across Madhya Pradesh and the enthusiastic crowd at this stall and elsewhere too, was a tell tale sign of the fact that just like Bhopal and most other cities of central India, Ratlam too is a tea loving city. The tea here was indeed very energising and addictive but their saffron coffee was just decent enough. They stand out in their service as they use undiluted milk and good quality tea leaves for their brew.

Our next destination was Gordhanlal Sev Wala, a fifty year old establishment that specialises in the famous Ratlami sev. These gram flour based, tiny deep fried spicy snacks were truly appetising and fun. Here in Ratlam it is eaten anytime and with most of the dishes. According to the owner, the climate and the water of Ratlam gives the sev its distinct character. The use of the warming spices like cloves, black pepper, asafoetida etc., makes it a bit spicier for our palette.  

Next was the turn of a wholesome Dal Bati and Bafla Thali from the popular Vyas Dal Bati. It comprised of crushed Bati and Bafla along with sweet and sour dal, papad and chutney. The platter was delicious and value for money. We spotted many daily workers having it for breakfast because this heavy protein and carbohydrate rich meal easily provides them with a continuous supply of energy for a long period. 

 

 

After that we tasted the simple and light Sabudana khichdi from Sabudana Bhandar. Like the Poha this too is a go to breakfast dish across Central India. Its light, sweet and sour taste that was quite satisfying. In the morning time locals prefer these healthy snacks.

From there we reached Karu Mama Samosa shop. Their bestsellers includes the corn samosa, raw banana samosa and mirchi vadas. All of them were distinctly flavoursome. We were quite surprised with the taste of the raw banana samosas that we had for the first time. It had a sweet and sour taste. This snacks was created out of the necessity to cater to the Jain population who refrain from consuming the vegetables that grows under the soil. The place is a hot favorite so don’t miss it if you are visiting Ratlam.

 

While ambling down the street we came to a very interesting shop with the name Madhya Bharat Bar. On inquiring we realised that it used to be a thriving place long back and its origin dates back to post Independence era. The bar was no more functional. Here we tasted their fruit beer which okay but not much impressive.

Our next stop was Satish chaat wala whose chaats are a craze among the locals. Here we tried their three popular dishes- one was the aloo tikki chaat, the other was raw banana chaat and finally aloo tikki biscuit. Everything was delectable. No wonder people keep coming back to this place again again not only due to the lip smacking fares and also for the passionate young chap behind the counter who serves them with such joy and zeal. It’s another must try place in Ratlam.

From there we went to their relative’s pani puri shop for some delightful panipuris. The owner was such a generous host that he made us taste all the different flavours of pani puris available in his shop with such pride and honour. Though each of them were simply brilliant, but it were the Ratlami sev flavour, the mixed flavour and the Gatagat flavour that just blew our mind. Gatagat is a zesty, sweet and sour, playful tiny edible balls that we used to have during our childhood days. We also had the palak chaat here which was super crisp and moreish. We highly recommend this place to all the Pani puri lovers.

After binge eating those unforgettable pani puris we went to taste another famous hot beverage, the kesariya doodh that the city swears by. The thick and luscious milk is was quite pleasing. The locals love to have it after dinner. 

We ended our food tour in Ratlam with a tasty paan from Govind paan shop. The day super gratifying and we could cover most of the popular eateries. We are extremely grateful to Chirag and Ratlam Wale for taking us around and helping us in our exploration. We truly appreciate their passion towards their hometown. 

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NOIDA(BRAHMAPUTRA MARKET) FOOD TOUR

The Brahmaputra Market is one of the oldest markets in Noida. Situated in sector 29, it is a popular shopping and food destination for the locals. After sundown this shopping hub transforms into a gastronomic paradise pervaded with food items varying from Kathi rolls and Momos to Chaats and Chicken Biryani. Name any popular pan Indian street food, you would find a stall here to cater to your cravings. So in blog we bring you our street food explorations from this bustling marketplace. In our sojourn to sample some of the lip-smacking street food fare, we were joined by our gracious host Sanyukta Nath who is a gourmet and a local. The unfortunate part of this tour was a sudden change of weather due to which we were bound to curtail the scope of our plans.

 

PAPER DOSA FROM LAKSHMI COFFEE HOUSE

 

Our first stop was an old South Indian joint named Lakshmi Coffee House. It is a quaint restaurant serving popular and authentic South Indian fare. We ordered the Paper Dosa along with filter coffee for two specific reasons. One, we intended to have a light meal so that we have enough room for other delicacies that were in the offing. Secondly, we believe that the seemingly simplest dish offered by any eatery can be a test of one’s amazing culinary skills prowess. True to its name, the dosa was paper thin, pleasantly crisp and hearty and so were the coconut chutney and sambar that accompanied it.

PAPDI CHAAT FROM EVERGREEN

 

The second stop was the popular Evergreen Chaat shop. On arriving there we were greeted by their huge, neatly done Chaat assembling area. The sight of the ingredients on the other side of the transparent facade makes you salivate. We tried one of their bestselling Chaats i.e the Papdi Chaat. This zesty thing qualified all the criteria(components, tastes and textures) of a good Chaat. However it was this unique touch of a topping of spiced peanuts that gave it an extra edge.

 

DAHI PURI FROM BOMBAY BHEL PURI STALL.

 

Then we headed to Bombay Bhel Puri for that tempting plate of Dahi Puri that Sankyukta had been eulogizing about all through. The super pretty crisp hollow puris loaded with a delightful sweet, savoury and tangy mixture reminded us of the adage that one first eats with his eyes and then with his mouth. Just as they crack apart in your mouth, you know how sensational they are. If you are a chaat lover, then definitely give this place a try. 

 

VEG KEBABS FROM LUCKNOWI ZAIKA

 

While moving towards our next destination, we chanced upon this stall named Lucknowi Zaika. So it was the sight and aroma of the flat kebabs stacked one upon another on the huge griddle, that attracted us to this place. To our wonder, here we had one of the most delicious Veg Kebab, that was quite similar to a well done Galauti kebab, all in taste, texture and flavour. This humble delicacy made with lentils, soya nuggets mince and raw banana was indeed a revelation for us both. 

 

In no time the weather turned bad and it began to rain. The market place was just being set up. But neither did it dampen the spirit of the vendors nor ours. Thankfully in sometime the rain stopped and the evening food market began to emerge hurriedly. We were glad that the tour didn’t get aborted. As the cool and pleasant weather whetted our appetite and we began to lookout for our next destination.

CHICKEN KORMA

So as the activity at the food zone resumed, we were tempted to try a plate of piping hot Chicken Biryani from one of the vendors. The biryani was served with a spoonful of Chicken korma and some Chaat masala. It had a fun taste with the chicken being moist and tender.

 

Finally we arrived at Al Kaif Shawarma stall to have the Chicken Shawarma Roll as recommended by our host Sanyukta. It was a no fuss Lebanese style wrap that was tightly stuffed with a juicy, tender and optimally spicy, finely chopped grilled chicken. We enjoyed this soft and filling combo. 

Next was the turn of an Afghani style Chicken Shawarma roll at a cart with the same name. The wrap comprising of a soft, thick and fluffy bread stuffed with charcoal grilled shredded chicken, vegetable juliennes, seasonings and dollops of mayonnaise was simply irresistible. We highly recommend this place to all Shawarma addicts.

Our penultimate stop was Amar Momos. Their Chicken Tandoori Momos were smoky and spicy, buttery, creamy and very flavoursome. You can sense the Tandoori and the momo flavour coming together quite nicely. The chutneys were brilliant as well. The filling was quite moist and the outer case was so aptly thin that the overall deliciousness was not marred by any doughy taste.

It was time to wrap up the food tour and so we decided to call it off with a paan. For this we went to try a meetha paan from the very popular Nitesh Paan shop in the market. 

Inspite of the weather playing spoilsport, this culinary trail across the Brahmaputra market in Noida was truly fun and gratifying. No wonder as Sanyukta had rightly convinced us, the marketplace is a street food haven that has some delectable gems whose brilliance you can’t escape. We are truly grateful to her for her assistance. 

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VRINDAVAN FOOD TOUR

 

Located just 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) from Mathura, Vrindavan is a sacred town full of innumerable temples with intricate architecture and carvings. As per the Hindu mythology, this was where Lord Krishna spent his childhood years and also showcased his divine love for Radha. Numerous devotees from all across the country and beyond come here to seek divine blessings. Despite the hustle and bustle all around, you can’t escape the peace and sanctity of this heritage place.

Apart from the religious association, Vrindavan also boasts of a quintessential food culture, dominated by milk based delicacies, that has been moulded by the spiritual connection. The traditional fare on the streets and at household are mostly Sattvik food. The street food scene prevalent here is still shielded away from the impact of the growing fast food culture.  In this blog we bring you a soulful street food escapades from Vrindavan that was mostly centered around the bustling lanes of Sri Banke Bihari Mandir.

Urad Dal Kachoris from Agarwal Mithai Wala

 

Just like the locals, we started our food trail with a traditional breakfast at Agarwal Mithai Bhandar. After having the Gujrati dhokla from the counter outside the shop we quickly moved inside to relish delightful spread of Urad Dal Kachoris, potato and pumpkin sabzis and fresh curd. This humble spread was all prepared in pure desi ghee and had no onion and garlic in it. There is something very enriching about such food that makes us feel more wholesome, calm and joyous. One interesting thing about this eatery is that, if you like the food then you can ring the bell placed outside the shop to announce it.

Khurchan Malai from Radhe Radhe Pede Wala

 

After the cheerful start our second stop was Radhe Radhe Pede Wala, a very old establishment in the city whose sweets are a craze with all sweet lovers. We couldn’t help prevent us from drooling over the eclectic spread of sweets over here. According to the owner who was a genial fellow, the shop still stocks some very traditional sweets that are very popular with the locals and visitors. One of them is the Peda. Though it appears to be a humble sweet but the process of making it is quite tedious. Milk is simmered for a long time till the moisture evaporates and the residue attains a dough like consistency. It is then mixed with sugar and cardamom powder and tiny balls are rolled out of it. These fellows have mastered the art. We also loved their Khurchan Malai which is a well cooked sweetened Malai or cream. Scooping it out of the tiny and adorable earthen pots was so much fun. We highly recommend this toothsome dessert. Their Moong Dal Burfi was soft, pleasant, greasy and delicious.

While visiting the city be very careful about the impish monkeys whose menace is simply unpredictable. They are notorious for snatching away your belongings. So be very careful about your wallets, spectacles, mobile phones etc. The astonishing thing is they mostly return your things in lieu of any food especially mango drink. But it does cause damage to your belongings and you as well. 

Kanji Vada from Manish Cheela Shop

 

After those irresistible sweets we arrived at Manish Cheela Shop for their Kanji Vadas and Cheela. We were tempted to try them both as they appeared super appetising. The former was a light and refreshing snacks comprising of small deep fried moong dal dumplings soaked in mustard powdered flavoured fermented water. A delicacy essentially from Rajasthan and Gujarat, the Kanji vada is preferred for its excellent digestive and detoxifying qualities. The latter one was a zesty Cheela or stuffed moong dal crepes. Cheela is a popular snack from UP and this one from Manish’s shop was filling and flavourful.

 

Satvik Thali from Jaipuria Bhojanalay.

 

For lunch we went to Jaipuria Bhojanalay to try their unlimited Satvik thali that is very popular with the visitors. It was an eclectic spread of roti, rice, dal, bottle gourd curry, kadhi, chutney. Everything was prepared on the woodfire oven sans onion and garlic. It was light, wholesome and tasty. Even though it is an unlimited thali but there is one catch, that is you can’t share it with anyone else. Check out this place for a proper lunch or dinner option.

 

Aloo tikki from Mukesh Chaat Wala

 

Like all other parts of UP, Vrindavan too is also famous for some amazing chats. And so we couldn’t resist ourselves from trying a serving of Aloo tikki chat. It was truly satisfying. The melange of flavours and textures made it endearing.

Next was the turn of paan from Ashoke Paan, a local favourite. Being a Paan aficionado we can easily vouch for the brilliance of the simple betel quid that Ashoke ji modestly handed to us.

Rabri Chuski

 

With our palette cleansed and our appetite restored we stopped by a random cart selling something very interesting. It was the Rabri Chuski, an innovative take on Rabri. This would remind you of gola or crushed ice pops. Essentially it was a yummy rabri served on a bed of crushed ice. 

While ambling down the street full of enthusiastic visitors, we spotted a young boy selling Golgappas with differently flavoured water. The flavoured water with different condiments like hing, harad etc was lip smacking. Do make an effort to trace him down and binge on his zesty golgappas. 

Kesar Gulab Lassi

 

Our final stop in this gratifying food exploration in the holy backdrop of Banke Bihari Mandir and its adjoining areas was Brij bihari lassi shop. The kesar gulab lassi was served in an earthen glass as delicious and refreshing as it could be. 

 

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INDORE STREET FOOD TOUR PART II

 

In the final episode of the two part Indore Food Tour series, we bring you our memorable gastronomic explorations from Chappan Dukaan and Sarafa Bazaar in Indore, the commercial capital of central India and the city of foodies. Chappan Dukan is a lane that has 56 different eateries servion the other hand is Indore’s most prominent jewelry market that transforms into a vegetarian food haven after sundown. With the closing of the jewelry market at around 8 pm, rows of street food vendors springs up on the lane with their eclectic mix of scrumptious vegetarian snacks. This place is ideal for nocturnal culinary escapade as it remains busy till 2 am a night. Locals and visitors throng these two places to satiate their ravenous street food cravings. Here is a compilation of the most popular eateries that boasts of the substantial footfall due to their delectable and exciting fares.

Let’s start with eateries at Chappan Dukan street. Our first stop here was the Vijay Chat House. We tried two of their most popular snacks, the Batla Kachori and Khopra Patties. The former is a peas stuffed kachori while the latter one is a one of its kind snacks that is available only at Vijay Chaat House in the whole of Indore. The coconut stuffed round potato patties were crisp and moreish. The Batla kachoris was so well fried that each and every layer of these flattened dough balls were perfectly cooked. They served it as a Chaat which was filling and satisfying. Since the owners are from Gujarat, the shop also serves some of the popular Gujrati snacks like the Khaman dhokla etc.

The second stop here was Madhuram Sweets whose Shikanji is well known. This one is not at all, not even remotely, the Shikanji that we are familiar with i.e. the refreshing spiced lemonade. Here it refers to a luscious milk drink made with Rabri, buttermilk,dry fruits and spices. This signature drink was rich and smooth but a way too sweet. 

Egg benjo from Johnny hot Dog, Chappan Dukan.

Our third halt was Johnny Hot Dog that has become a household name in the city. It is hugely popular with the locals, especially the young crowd who adore its delectably affordable snacks like Hotdogs, Egg Benjo etc. We had ordered their bestseller, the Egg benjo and Veg Hot dog. The former is a simple yet interesting dish comprising of buns stuffed with a fluffy omelette. The use of desi ghee in its preparation elevated its taste to a different dimension. The veg hot dog was a tasty vegetarian alternative to the Egg Benjo. Moreover the place was quite neat and hygienic. We recommend this place for its yummy snacks that are modest yet toothsome. 

As evening ushered in, we arrived at Sarafa bazaar, Indore’s famed food hub. It is a jewelry market by the daytime that transforms into a food haven by late evening. Innumerable vendors throng the place with their attractive and eclectic spread. And the culinary fiesta goes on till 2 am in the morning. As you enter the street, the sight and the aroma captivates your senses and you are bound to forget everything but the food and the carnival around you.

Joshi Ji from the Iconic Joshi Dahi Vada House

 

We began our binge from the iconic Joshi ke Dahi Vade whose owner Joshi Ji was no less than a sorcerer whose magic wasn’t just limited to the food that he served but the amusing tricks that he performed with them and his endearing talks with the customers. He has mastered this incredible skill of flinging the Dahi Vada plates into the air and catching it back without spilling out a drop and also sprinkling five different spices separately in just a single pinch. Furthermore he is so eloquent and affectionate that his sweet talks just wins your heart. The Moong dal  Dahi vada that are fondly known as Flying Dahi Vadas was quite satisfying, especially the curd which was super smooth and luscious. It is an indispensable food destination of Indore. 

From there we went on to try the Indore famous Bhutte ki Kees and Garadu from the stall named A-1 Garadu. This place is hugely famous for these two playful treats. Butte ki khees is a savoury corn based delicacy that has a Halwa like texture. While the Garadu was a zesty, deep fried snacks made of Yam chunks. We tried them both for the first time and loved them. The fun part of the eating experience here was the light-hearted interaction with the owner of the stall Mr. B.C. Agarwal, who is a septuagenarian. His vigour at such age was both amazing and inspiring. In an amusing candour he told us about the his business, his success and his nocturnal lifestyle. Like Mr. Joshi, he too is a culinary celebrity of the Indore street food scene.

Our next food stop was Sawariya ke Khichdi food stall whose Sabudana kichdi is very famous among the locals. The mildly spiced Sago khichdi along with the toppings of spicy sev was quite appetising. They also sell the zesty savoury snacks like peanuts chat, banana chips, potato wafers etc.

Jaleba

Next was time for some sweets and so we visited the Jai Bhole Jalebi Bhandar to relish the humongous Jaleba which is nothing but an extra large, saffron flavoured Jalebi that was served with an equally decadent Rabri. We thoroughly loved the contrast of crisp hot jaleba with chilled Rabri. 

After all those gluttony we checked on Jai Bhole Soda Shop gulp down a glassful of the digestive concoction so that we could make some room for few more delicacies. The fizzy lemon soda that we had ordered got extra frothy when the vendor dissolved some spice mix into the lemon soda. The whole act was fun but due to the effervescence, a lot of soda got spilled out. So when you go to try it make sure that you drink half the content of the glass so that most of the fizz stays in the empty portion. 

From there we headed to Nima Kulfi, a highly recommended place at Sarafa bazar. Apart from the sensational falooda kulfi, the genial owner all decked up in gold ornaments was a sight to behold. We did confuse him for a jewelry trader but soon got to know that gold ornaments were his passion so he wears them. Like the owner, Nema Ji, the falooda kulfi was also an flamboyant delicacy. 

Our penultimate halt was Naveen Coconut Crush stall where we tried the healthy drink coconut crush. The milky concoction had refreshingly pleasant taste that came from the blend of coconut water and tender coconut flesh. The vendor informed us that the coconut were sourced from Bangalore. It was a perfect health drink that restored the mineral balance in the body and energised us. We wrapped up the food trail with a brilliant Paan from Anna Pan Shop. 

The gastronomic escapade at Indore was quite special for many reasons, the significant ones being the unusual yet delectable street food, the warm and jovial food vendors, the glorious success stories and the clean, hygienic and sustainable food practices in many of the eateries.

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INDORE FOOD WALK PART I

 

Indore is a city that prides itself for food. It’s a paradise for every food enthusiast. The street food here is heavily influenced by the neighbouring states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The diverse street food culture here is a testimony of the food crazy locals and also the Indori ingenuity that is visible in the quintessential dishes found here. In this episode we bring you some of the wide variety of must try delicacies from different pockets of the city. 

Head sahab ke pohe

 

Our first stop was Head Sahab ke Pohe, where we tried a very interesting breakfast dish called the Usal Poha. It was basically Poha served with a spicy Chole and other accompaniments the most important of which was the Sev. It was quite spicy yet zesty. Even in the rainy weather a crowd had thronged the place to enjoy a plateful. The name of this eatery was quite intriguing hence when we inquired about the idea behind it, we got to know that it was established by a who was so fond of feeding feeding that he left his job as that of a head constable and started this eatery. 

Fresh Rasgulles from Rasgulla House

 

The second stop was Rasgulla House. This place is enormously famous in the whole of Indore for the most softest and yummiest rasgullas. It is run by an enthusiastic and agile granny who proudly showed us the process of making rasgulla. Watching the tiny cottage cheese balls puffing up into spongy and bouncy delectable spheres was a thing of joy. The endearing and zealous grandmother dexterously manages this family business that she has become an indisputable authority in this art. The rasgullas were so yummy and irresistible that I had to stop myself at 4 only because we had the whole food trail to complete. 

Dahi poori from Ghanshyam Chaat.

After this we headed to Ghanshyam Chaat House to gorge on some big sized Gol Gappas. The ones that you get here are bigger than the cavity size of your mouth and stuffing inside along with the spiced water makes it more difficult to handle. But the public is crazy about this as it is tasty and fun to negotiate the size and devour it. The Masala and the water was perfectly zesty. We also tried the Dahi Puchka which was a fountain of flavours. Eating it is a renders you speechless as there is no space left in the cavity to make sounds. 

From there we headed on to try the unique Bhutte ke laddos or corn ladoos from Sharma Ji’s cart. Made from dried and desiccated fresh corn paste, this sweetmeat is both delicious and filling. Due to the proper toasting of the cornmeal, it has attained a grainy texture. Taste wise it resembled the besan ke ladoo. It’s a seasonal fare that one must try. 

After popping the Laddo we went to Sindh Bakery, a very special bakery run by gentleman who is immensely fond of old Bollywood classics and the stalwarts who sang them. We were glad to meet this keen music lover who perhaps makes the best bakery items in the city. The ingredients and fresh and the process of making them is very much traditional and old fashioned. But the byproduct s are unparalleled. We loved their rusk and baked samosas. The samosas were different from the regular ones. They were more like puff pastries. Do pay a visit to his place for the irresistible sight and aroma of assorted cookies, biscuits, puffs etc, old music and endearing company and stories.

Next stop in the city was Sri krishna Gujrati Kadhi and Fafda, a shop famous for Gujrati Fafda and Kadhi. This gram flour based delicacy is a very popular snack that the Gujarati’s relish with mostly jalebis. But here they served it with a sweet and savoury kadhi. The combination was decent although among the two we liked  fafda the most. 

Soon it was the turn of some luscious kaju shake. It was a simple yet divine concoction of milk, cashew paste and sugar. The most unique and amazing thing about this place and their drinks is that all the ingredients are served through a cloth into a container from where it was poured into the glass. It’s a must try place for thandais.

From there we went to another popular spot, the lal balti kachori shop. The moniker is derived from the red coloured Balti with a bulb inside it, that is hung outside the shop. The lighted bulb signifies the availability of the kachoris and vice versa. The potato stuffed kachoris were quite decent but what made them special and delicious was a super spicy chilli chutney coriander chutney.

Next was the turn of a veg hot dog from Lala Chat Bhandar. Its very popular with the locals. The crisp pan fried buns smeared with chutney and stuffed with chole, paneer slices, potato patty, onions sev etc was zesty and very appetising. 

Our final stop for the day was the iconic Lakshinanayan Doodhwala. This place is hugely popular for their flavoured milk. Apart from the hot luscious milk drink, another noteworthy thing about this place is the humongous Kadhai or pan in which the milk is boiled. It is deemed as the largest pan in the whole state. The milk keeps boiling for several hours as a result of which a thick cream settles over it. 

With this we wrapped up our first day at Indore. Apart from being the food capital of Central India, this place is full of warm, friendly and cheerful locals. Another noteworthy thing about the place is that, the steer food scene here is mostly very clean and hygienic. Indore has been officially deemed  as the cleanest city of the country. That’s another very cogent reason to join the gastronomic bandwagon here.