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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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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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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.