Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Food Streets of Indore

Welcome to the "Foodies city – Indore" or "Abode of Gourmets - Indore"

We would have loved to see such welcome board while entering Indore during our Great Central India Road Trip. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any. But that didn’t reduce our enthusiasm for culinary adventure in the Holkar city.

One of memories of my stay in MHOW in 86 was the delicious and sinful Kulfi an old man used to bring to our barracks on his Lamby immediately after we returned from lunch. I am not sure if he is still alive or if his family still continue in that business. Entering Indore kindled my memories of roaming around in Rajwada/Sarafa snapping up gol guppas, tikkis etc.

We both believe in "eating local” wherever we go. We love local cuisine and believe that it does not make sense to eat Masale Dose in Delhi but Paratha in Paratha Wale galli. We had done some research on what was to expect on our plate in Indore  – unfortunately we had only one evening – and wanted to make best us of our time. Sarafa Bazar and its mouth watering chats, was to be our destination for the evening.

We checked into the hotel, freshened up and got into an auto rickshaw. I don’t want to take out the Scorpio after seeing the traffic and also for the fact that Sarafa bazaar has narrow lanes which will not help either. Also, driving in city by asking locals for directions is a painful exercise.

The hotel security got us a rick and our journey to “Gourmet land of Indore” starts.

We had already prepared the list to savour while in Indore.
  • Coconut patties at Vijay Chaat
  • Ghamandi Lassi
  • Shikanji
  • Bhutte ki Kees
  • Kachoris
  • Gulab Jamuns
  • Jalebis
  • Garam Badam Milk
  • Yam chaat
  • Poha – Jalebi
  • Saabudana Kichdi
  • Egg banjo
A short drive from the Lemon Tree hotel brings us to Sarafa Bazar. It is 8 PM. Eateries are getting set up. The legendary food streets of Sarafa Bazar become alive after 8.30 PM when eateries are set up on the road after the jewelry shops are closed. These eateries continue till wee hours in the morning. To give a perspective, this possibly rivals Paratha Wala gulli and surroundings in Old Delhi.
The evening scene in Sarafa Bazar
The variety on the plate is mind-blowing – all kinds of chaats, kachoris, dahi vada, hot jalebis, Gulab jamuns, malpuas etc etc….. But there is already action and the aroma of kachoris is inviting. I look at my list and see Vijay Chaats in the Chouraha of Sarafa bazaar. Our journey begins here.
Vijay Chaat House
I ask the cook who is frying a small ball sized item. It is deep fired like “Pakodas”. He says it is “Coconut patties”. Yes! This was the one we wanted. We ask for two plates of patties. Served in leaf bowls  with mirchi and sweet chutney, it melts in your mouth. Brinda wants another plate and I go in for hot kachoris. The kachoris are crisp and taste good with chutneys.

We strike conversation with Vijay Sharma standing next to us, He is an Indori but who has business interests in Bangalore. He travels to Bangalore every month and loves Masale Dosey in Udupi Krishna Bhavan in Balepet. We tell him what we are after. He asks us to try Dahi vada at “Joshi Dahi vada” which is possibly the best. This is the season of Bhutta, the fresh corn. Indore is famous for Bhutte Ki Kees and Vijay ask us to taste it in Joshi Dahi vada. This is the intelligence we gather from locals which could not be found in our research or on “Highway on Plate” book. Thanks to Vijay, lest we would have missed out the famous Dahi Vadas of Indore.

Joshi dahi Vada is few steps away from Vijay chaats. We walk down the road and see eateries being set up. We notice a halwai and ask what halwa is in kadai. He answers “Moong dal” and we order a serving! Prepared in “Desi ghee”, it is sinful.
Moong Dal halwa flanked by Rabdi on the left and Gulab Jamuns on the right
Another busy stall
We reach Joshi dahi vada and Joshi saab is sitting in the middle and distributing dahi vada like an assembly line. There is already a crowd. We tell him that we are from Bangalore. He welcomes us in Kannada! I am surprised and ask him how does he Kannada and he says he has picked few words from friends.

He explains why his “Dahi vada” is not like others. The vada is not oily, soaked in water and dahi is really thick. To top it all he has a secret Masala powder which he sprinkles on the vada adding to the taste. He throws the dahi vada bowl in air to prove how thick the dahi is and ask us to watch if there is any dahi spills over. We don’t notice any.  He gives us two plates of Dahi vada and it is delicious. It is also very filling. We then ask for Bhutta Ki Kees and finish off that as well. This is the first time we are eating it and it tastes good. The sweetness of fresh corn mixed with mirchi and lemon gives a sort of Katta – Meeta taste which leaving a tangy feeling in the mouth. We bid good bye to Joshi saab – an amiable and talkative man –who will gift us a packet of his secret Masala to be carried back home!!
Joshi Dahi Vada stall
Joshi saab demonstrating
We are now on the lookout for the famous Shikanji of Nagori sweets . We meet the owners of the stall and they say that this is not the season for Shikanji and is prepared in Summers. Bad luck. We gulp couple of Gulab jamuns and jalebis on the way and now on the lookout for famous “Ghamandi Lassi” of Indore. We check with people around and they suggest us to go to the outlet near railway station. We catch an auto and move towards railway station and there we are in front of the famous shop. The menu is varied but we settle for special Lassi. 
The famous Ghamandi Lassi
The Lassi is served – thick with malai. The quantity is huge and Brinda could drink only half.

“What next ?” I ask Brinda.
“I am full, let us go back to Hotel”
“What about Egg Banjo and Badam milk”
“No space baba, let us go”
“Let us try “Poha –Jalebi” for breakfast tomorrow”
“Ok, let us go now”

We don’t do justice to Indore.

We don’t have time to go to “Chappan Dukan” another foodie area. We may have to come back for completing the unfinished task. I am not sure how famous is Indore for Non veg items. Being veggies, we did not explore on this.

For veggies and lovers of chaats, Indore is THE CITY.  

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