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BIHARI MITHAI (SWEETS) TRAIL

During the Bihar Food Trail, our love for sweets led us to go on an impromptu Mithai trail, as we travel to Gaya from Patna in search of food. The mithais available in this stretch were not of any luxuriant kind but are were simple and humble stuff. There were four destinations where we had stopped by to see the mithais being made and try them. This included the towns of Fatua, Dhanarua, Nishalganj and Silao. Let’s see what all did we try and what’s so unique about them. 

Mathke Wali Chai

While driving down the National Highway, the first place that we halted at was a crowded tea stall under the four lane flyover in Fatua called Neha Tea Stall. Our intention was to replenish the spirit with an energizing cup of tea because it had been a while since we have been driving. Interestingly it was not just the usual milky tea but matke wali chai or tea made in a clay pot. The earthy notes from the clay pot lent a unique taste to this well brewed tea. Speaking to the locals we came to know about this sweet from Fatua called mirjai. After gulping down two cups each of this matka wali tea, along with equally yummy peanut encrusted cookies we set out in search of mirjai.

 

A short drive led us to Maharani Chowk in Fatuha. Mirjai is the popular sweet in this region. It is a deep fried sweet snack made from maida, jaggery or sugar and shortening. This disc shaped snack had a firm yet crumbly texture and was fun to have. After a quick chat with the owners of Amit mirjai shop, we headed to our next destination Danarua that is famous for Lai Ke Ladoo. 

Lai Ke Ladoo

A 32 km drive led us to Om Sai Baba Lai Bhandar in Dhanarua that is perhaps the most renowned shop among the numerous lai shops over here. We were lucky to arrive there right at the time when a fresh batch of lai ke ladoos were going to be made. Made with Khoya, sugar and a unique ingredient called khobi dana which was very similar or perhaps is the amaranth seeds, these sweets are light and delicious. The khoya used in it is prepared in the shop itself. A balanced use of cardamom powder also enhanced its deliciousness. They were so good that we got some packed for later consumption. 

Our next destination was this small town called Nischalganj where pedas are a popular thing. The main road in this area is lined with numerous shops selling this traditional sweet made of khoya and sugar. To find out what was so unique about the pedas available over here, we checked into Shiv Shankar Ji shop. At one corner the khoya was being cooked and at the front part fresh balls of pedas were being rolled out from a freshly prepared khoya based dough. The soft, dense and delicate pedas were yummy indeed. 

Silao Ka Khaja

From there we resumed our journey for Silao, a town famous for the sweet treat called khaja. This classic stuff, that Silao is renowned for is a super delicate, multi layered deep fried puff pastry. This place too is lined up with khaja stores but the most famous one is the old Kali Shah Khaja Shop. The moreish and delicate taste and texture of these khaja are attributed to the air and water of this area. Due to its quintessential fame, it has received the GI tag as well. Silao ka khaja is a must try if you are en route to Gaya.

As we headed to Gaya in search of its popular flavours, we felt enriched and delighted to learn about the unique sweets available across this region. We will see you soon in the next story. Till then keep walking and keep exploring.

 

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PATNA CITY FOOD WALK

 

 

Patna City is a small neighbourhood in the capital that is full of stories from the past. It is the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth guru of the Sikhs. Moreover it is home to one of the most sacred gurudwaras in the country named Patna Sahib Gurudwara or Takht Harmandir Sahib and so it is of great significance to the Sikh community. During our Bihar Food Journey, we had stopped by at this place for a brief food exploration to discover it’s prominent and popular flavours. Let’s tell you what all did we tried.

 

Before starting our food tour, we visited the holy and peaceful precinct of Patna Sahib gurudwara to seek the divine blessing. After offering our prayers we headed to the langar hall where preparation for the daily community meal was underway. A team of assigned cooks and volunteers who are devotees themselves were engrossed in different tasks like cutting of vegetables, making rotis, washing and arranging the utensils etc. This voluntary service carried out in any sphere, with deep devotion for the guru and love for the brethren is called seva. Here we first partook the kada prasad and then relished the humble yet delicious meal of dal and roti at the langar hall. This eating service is open to all irrespective of religion, caste or any background. The common rule is that one needs to sit down on the floor in rows with all other devotees and eat the meal. It was quite a surreal experience.

 

We hit the street to try the stuffs that defines the food scene of this place. First we got some kachori and ghugni from Nandu Lal kachori shop in Sabzi Bazar Chowk. The combination of crisp, small-sized sattu stuffed kachoris with an equally amazing kala chana sabzi, locally called ghugni was brilliant. This shop has been around for 100 years. No wonder their deep fried treats is phenomenal. Apart from the taste what’s laudable is the pricing which is quite reasonable. We also tried some crisp fritters made with khesari dal. The kick of garlic and chilli made them a fun treat.  

 

While heading to our next destination we took a short tea break. The tea at this tiny makeshift stall was very impressive. 

 

After that energy shot we arrived at Manish Kumar Aloo Puri wale opposite the Marwari school to have aloo puri with aloo dum. Yes this again is a much loved street food in the locality. The sight of the crisp and puffy aloo stuffed puris served with a ladle of aloo dum made us restless. As we got our plate, from the very first morsel we realised why this place is such a hit with the locals especially for breakfast.

 

This thumbs up combo was followed by a crisp and juicy Imarti from Vinod ji Imarti wale at Gulzari Bagh. This traditional sweet is an ornate loop of deep fried urad dal batter that is filled with thick sugar syrup. Urad dal adds more a body to the taste and texture of these Imartis. If you ever feel like trying it, always go for the fresh and hot Imartis. 

As we walked ahead we came across a Lathkto seller in Sabzi Bazar. These are jaggery coated deep fried sweet treats made with maida. They were firm yet somewhat addictive because you can never go wrong with stuffs that is fried, sweet and has maida. The cart also had few other traditional treats made with jaggery and puffed or flattened rice. 

We then tried some ubiquitous samosa from the renowned Tandon Ji Ke Samose shop in Sabzi bazar. The taste was much familiar to the ones that are available in Bengal. Along with a great crust it had a humble yet lip smacking potato filling, it had a distinct charm of its own due to the Panch Phoran or five spice mix based flavouring. 

Our penultimate eating destination was  Suraj and Mahadev Gupta Sweets in Kachori Gali. It is an old sweet shop that is known for its pure milk and ghee based sweets. Our pick from the wide variety of traditional sweets included dahi, khurchan, peda and gajar burfi. Among them the khurchan was a simply a piece of art. It was a stack of pure malai layers that were lined with bhura and cardamom powder. The sweet and rich taste elated the milk lover in us. The peda and gajar burfi too were quite good. 

Finally we ended the food tour with some ber which is a highly nutritious tropical fruit native to this state. The food journey in these sleepy and holy lanes of Patna city stirred up some divine emotions that we carried back with us. 

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AMER FOOD WALK

AMER FOOD WALK

Amber or rather Amer is an ancient city that was constructed in 12th century AD. Eventually, after 500 years, to accommodate the ever-increasing population, a new city by the name Jaipur was formed in 1727. The city also holds the pride to also be the first planned city of India. As Jaipur prospered, the city of Amer began to lose its charm and is known for having the majestic 12th-century fort that is open for tourists today. However, just like the beauty is in the eyes of the observer, it looked in the right way beyond the fort, you can feel the energies of centuries-old history that the city has to offer.

Food walks, in general, is a very incredible way to explore an area and see a city through the lens of food. When it becomes an exploration food walks, it becomes a cherry on the top. There is excitement around what special dish we might end up eating, then the fun of going inside the lanes and sub lanes of never seen before areas and getting mesmerised by the beauty this city has to offer. 

With these thoughts along with being of a mission to know about street food all over the city, we decided to go on a food walk to explore the ancient city with food as the medium.

The food walk took place on Sunday, 8th of December with eight of enthusiastic lovers of food community from Jaipur who assembled near the haathis(elephants) standing outside the Amer fort. In total, we explored the city for three hours and covered five food stops along with an additional stop at the oldest temple of Jaipur. Here is our list of food we tried along with our comments on it.

  1. Jain kachori Centre stall (located opposite to SBI bank, Amer): We would have never really given it a chance had it not been because of a piece of advice given by the shopkeeper. The stall is run by an old age couple. Small-sized Kachori and Samosa are the two items in their menu. Both the items are always made fresh considering the fact that it gets over as soon as it comes out of the frying pan due to heavy demand from the people who eat there on a daily basis. The X-factor of them is the spice of hing(asafoetida) that they add in high quantity. This stall was also personally my favourite food place as well.

    JAIN KACHORI CENTER
  2. Bam Bam Shop(Sagar Road, Amer): Located in the inner lane, the shop was located under a hut a little cozy environment. We tried Kadi Rice there which taste rather pretty simple like we are used to eating at home.

    KADHI CHAWAL
  3. Paratha with aloo sabji, garlic chutney, curd chutney and chaach(Car parking, Amer fort): For me, this was the most unusual spot for which we actually trekked for 30 mins to reach.  A lady sitting on one side near to the exit of parking sells one of the most amazing thali. Apparently, all the drivers that come to Amer fort tend to eat their lunch at this place only.

    PARATHA WITH ALOO SABZI
  4. Jagdamba paratha house(Opposite to Haathi stand, Amber): Apparently the only shop I had heard about in the past(although never tried it before), is a place where you can have to eat too many types of stuff Parathas cooked over pan kept over wood fire. We tried their Paneer Paratha, Mooli(radish) Paratha, Gobi(cauliflower) Paratha and Aloo pyaaz(onion potato) Paratha.

    JAGDAMBA PARATHA HOUSE
  5. Madhures restaurant: The dessert place, we tried special milk solid of Amber’s special Peda. This is the sweet that is also used as prasad in temples in the city.  The shop is 100 years old and really popular for getting namkeen and sweets as well, definitely my new personal favourite place.

    PEDAS

We are planning to run it as a series of food exploration walks that we will keep on doing on every alternate Sunday under HungryHitchhiker with the mentorship of Delhi Food Walks. To know more about these tours or become a part of it, you can email us at hungryhitchhiker@gmail.com or check our website www.hungryhitchhiker.com

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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.