Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sadak chhaap maal

So this was supposed to be my Independence Day post, but the day was pretty much spent outdoors so I couldn't get down to it. I woke up at 6.15 am -- earlier than I do on weekdays, as a bunch of us had decided to go to the Indian Embassy for the flag hoisting. So there we were, coincidentally dressed in the colours of the Indian flag. Sumanth was the orange, I was the white and Pizzadude was the green. Since Shub was dressed in black, we decided that she was erm, the flagpole. Viv couldn't join us as he was at the run-bhoomi, playing for paraya desh.

The flag hoisting was great and I sang the anthem after ages (I reckon singing it in my head as I do every now and then doesn't count). Apparently, at last year's function they had served awesome chhole bhature and jalebis, which partly explained the crazy crowd this year. However, the Embassy was oblivious to the power of word-of-mouth publicity lasting a whole year, and hence unprepared for the lengths and distances we Hindustanis would go to for food. It was declared that the food would be served to children and the elderly first (implying that nothing would be left for the rest), and even though we were in neither of the brackets, we found ourselves with one of the white packets courtesy a rather enterprising bloke who again, was in neither of the categories but had queued, pushed, shoved and grabbed a box. Imagine our horror when we found neither bhaturas nor jalebis inside. There was a laddu, a samosa and some namkeen. Not what we had expected, but it did bring back memories of the food from my childhood Indepedence day parades. So we saluted the flag and made our way to a food court for breakfast.

Anyway, going back to the original post I'd wanted to write for Independence Day, it was to list five unforgettable street food items I had in India when I was a kid. So here it is, my top five list of food items that I can almost 'taste' even now, if I close my eyes and think about them really really hard.


Cuttack ka baraa
I was born in Cuttack and that's all I did there. Right after, I was whisked around every few years due to Dad's transfers and the only time I'd go back to the tiny town was during summer vacations. The power supply would be out for about an hour every evening, and a bunch of us cousins would sit around lanterns and tell each other ghost stories. The evenings would not be complete without Cuttack's famous baraa (it's kind of like vada but it looks like a spaceship and doesn't have a hole in the centre). We would beg, borrow or steal ten rupees from somewhere and give it to Bana, and he would return a few minutes later with a delicious smelling paper bag full of steaming baraas. I have lived in Singapore for more than 11 years now and have experienced only one power cut. And the one thing I remembered when that happened was the Cuttack baraas.

Jamshedpur ka egg roll
I was in the seventh standard when Dad was posted to Jamshedpur. I can't remember the name of this movie theatre, but right next to it was a stall that sold the most amazing egg rolls I have ever had in my life. They cost 8 rupees each and were enough to fill us up for dinner after the movie. You could ask for either vegetables or chicken filling, and both came with these amazing onion slices dipped in the sauce from heaven. All of us went for "Bhaiya, zyada pyaaz dena" ("brother, more onions") and even though we had to refrain from speaking to one another due to the "zyada pyaaz" hours after the meal, we didn't complain.

Jhinkpani ka singhara
When I was the 10th standard, Dad was posted in this little town, which was almost a village. After the board exams, my folks were faced with the daunting task of deciding where to send me for my 11th and 12th because my school in that town did not have these levels. Many of my classmates left the town and headed for bigger cities, but Dad did not want to send me away to live in a hostel. So he decided to send me to the DAV school in Jhinkpani, the neighbouring town, located in present day Jharkhand. I had to wake up at 5:00 am and catch my school bus at 5:45. Unearthly hours and daily commute aside, the bus rides were made fun by my friends. On the way back was a roadside stall selling what were 'singharas' (at first acquaintance, I made the mistake of calling them 'samosas' and really heard the music from my friends). They did not taste anything like regular samosas anyway -- the covering was different, the filling was different. Children were not allowed to alight the bus randomly, so we'd cajole the bus conductor to buy the singharas for us. Generally, I'm not a fan of samosas/singharas, but these 50-paise delights were unbelieveable. We would buy a big paper bag of them and it would be passed from seat to seat from the back of the bus to the front. The conductor would also get one as his commission. I still miss the singharas so much I have no respect for any other kind I have had in the last 11 years.

Bengaluru ka gobi manchurian
Now this one's very recent - from my India trip in May this year. Pizzadude took us to the famous but hidden Food Street where I had gobi manchurian from this streetside stall. There it was, served in a bowl made of leaves, a small heap of yummy gobi manchurian florets, doused in a thick red sauce and yet crunchy, with a few toothpicks to pick them up with. Yum.

Kolkate ka pani puri
And finally, we get to the ultimate street food, my favourite of all. I love pani puri so much that I can have it anytime, anywhere, any amount. My cousin once had a bet with me that I couldn't finish off 50 at one go. Needless to say, I won quite easily. I also have many dhinchak quotes about it: "Pani puri ke liye jagah pet mein nahin, dil mein chahiye." and "Meri ragon mein khoon nahin, pani puri ka pani daud raha hai." One of the things I want to do is travel all over India some day and sample the pani puri offered in different cities and rate them. I have had pani puris in at least 20 cities and so far, the stall in the sabzi market in Kolkata where Dad was posted a few years ago, is a clear winner. I went there almost every day during my short trip home and the guy had by now recognised me as the girl who when asked "jhaal?" (hot?) wanted it to be, "Haan, khoob jhaal, bhishon jhaal!" ("yes, very hot!" -- one of the few Bengali keywords I had learnt and misused on several occasions).


All right, it's 11.57 pm and I am going to bed now, and I hope some of these appear in my dreams at least. But before I sign off, I would like to tag all street-food-loving bewdas to do up their own lists. I would also like to tag bloggers who have tagged me on something or the other but whose tags I haven't taken up yet. If you ignore this tag, we will be even and I won't feel so bad anymore. :P


Ashwin said...

Delicious post Sayesha. One food item that I remember from my days in Indore, MP is something called shikanji. Normally it refers to something made from lemon juice. But, this one was made of sweetened condensed milk and loaded with dry fruits. One glass (Rs 15) and you'd be all set for the whole day. 1000 calories easy but totally worth two extra hours in the gym.

Happy Independence Day !

And to keep the tradition alive... GOLD !!!

~ Lopa said...


Now will go and read the post ;)

~ Lopa said...

Aaah, reading about all these delicious food items, I am feeling hungry now....
But cant complain, just returned yesterday from India trip and had my share of food about which i dreamed every night from the day we decided we will make India trip soon ;)

Taurus Girl said...

"Mouth-watering" post.. :)
You reminded me of the tons of pani puri, or "phuchka" as it is called in Kolkata, that i hv devoured.. :)

Porkodi (பொற்கொடி) said...

Slurp..! :)

mythalez said...

yah .. the singharas .. i used to miss them even while i was in india .. since u dont find the same kind everywhere!! oh yeah, the singharas of my choosing were to be found in orissa :D

Unknown said...

your post took me back to my schooling days in Kolkata!! aah...the ghooghni and the jhaal muri...havn't come across those anywhere else!!

B said...

wow! mouth watering :(

Prats said...

You didn't knew singhadas????

By the way how can u not mention any sweets?

Jina said...

aiyayyo...why did u have to do am sitting and drooling and hoping soomebody would send a parcel from India full of those snacks..:((

Meira said...

What? You've not had dilli ka chaat and bhelpuri? When are you visiting India next
*Must take Sayesha on dilli food darshan*

R said...

That's one thing I am jealous of majorly. Dads with cool jobs so kids get to experience different cities. :-/

Anyhow, I was in Cal last year for four years. I LOVE the city. It's awesome. In another time zone altogether. And ooooooooh puchka! I loved it!

I was in Gandhinagar earlier this year (around my birthday, the idea was to get drunk in Diu and lie by the quiet beaches) and you know what they do? They serve a "plate" with six options for your water flavour (jal jeera, mint, etc.) so basically it's six kinds of extremely innovative pani puri at once. You will love it.

R said...

*Uhm, I was in Cal for four days :-/

Sanchit said...

happy wala independence day!!!

VIDYA said...

Hey yummy yummy post,this!
I miss Cal's puchkas too! :)
Btw,I am in love with the name Jhinkpani!Sounds very funky yaar...Kahan hai?:)

Neha said...

yummmy!! feel like getting on the first flight home! ;) I had pani puri outside victoria memorial in calcutta once, when i was visiting, and it was just yummy!! nothing beats it!

naween said...

the cinema hall in jamshedpur is regal, i think...

Urv said...

Bahot dino baad commentva kar rahe hai :)

You know I actually have my own mini list in my Orkut Profile under the food section :)

Aap ko kabhi Gujarat le chalenge aur hamare ghar pe asli dhokla khilaenge. With some spicy green and red chutney :)

Sanchit said...


dhokla -> raju khaman
paneer chilli -> goodies
chinese -> techo canteen..


Thousif Raza said...

wow india is so cool yaari live here but still its a mystery for me, wow i love my India nice post yaar

take care and keep writing......

Sayesha said...

Whoa, I've never heard of such a shikanji, but it sounds awesome! :D Happy Independence Day to you too! :)

Aaaaaaaaa I want to go home too and have pani puriiiiiiiiiii! :'(

#Taurus Girl,
Oh yes.... meri ragon mein khoon nahin, pani puri ka pani daud raha hai. :P

:P ~ ~ ~

Man now I am craving real bad! :(

Oh yeah the googni stall outside the school... dirty but yum! :P


Of course I knew singhadas! I just didn't know what the difference between them and samosas was. Still don't! :P

//By the way how can u not mention any sweets?

I don't like sweets. Hehe! :P

Hahahaha! Can you imagine a parcel of pani puri from India? Hahahaha! DHL wala beech mein hi kha jaayega! :P

Actually I did have a lot of pani puri in Delhi, but I didn't quite like it. Maybe because my cousins who took me out insisted on mineral water pani puri? :/

//That's one thing I am jealous of majorly. Dads with cool jobs so kids get to experience different cities. :-/

Hehe... I think I appreciate it more now... back then, it was all about the heartbreak of leaving the school and teachers and friends... :)

Whoa! The Gandhinagar pani puri sounds yum! :D :D :D

Tere ko bhi! :D

Hahaha... yeah it is indeed a funky name eh? It's in modern-day Jharkhand. :)

Yeah Cal PPs are the BEST!!!!!!

Oh! Is the egg roll bhaiya still there?????? :D

Abbe tu kahan hai aajkal? Bar mein shakal nahin dikhai ab tak! Waise you'll get the baraas in your current city too! ;)

//Aap ko kabhi Gujarat le chalenge aur hamare ghar pe asli dhokla khilaenge. With some spicy green and red chutney :)

Awesome!! Kab? :D

Hahahaha! Tu bhi? I want paneer chilli and chinese tooooooo!

Thanks. :)

SMM said...

Ummm Cal does not have pani puris.Bombay has pani puris. Cal has puchkas.Btw if you had puchkkas, did you not have the churmur? Tht's my favurite

Snig said...

Its Snig here... I have been reading your posts since couple of months. Sorry, never commented, but today when I came to know that you had been to Cuttack , then I was thrilled... because I am also from Orissa, well not from Cuttack, but from Bhubaneswar. Well, till now there are power cuts and till now there are Baraas :). I am currently working in Kolkata and I have those puchkas sometimes, but what I love are the "gupchups" and chats of Bhubaneswar road side vendors... Well Yummy post :)

Nagesh.MVS said...


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