Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Food on the Streets

It would be sacrilegious to my creative mind if I didn’t write today. After raining everywhere else in the state, the monsoon has finally hit Bangalore. It has been pouring since last night. The worst is that it starts raining just when I am about to leave office. Tonight I had to splurge on the luxury of an auto to avoid getting wet. (Don’t even get me started on Bangalore auto drivers! Eesh! They are….anyone who has traveled in an auto here would know) On the way home, I saw, or rather whiffed the smell of corn being burnt and couldn’t resist picking up one. The guy didn’t bake it well, but as I was biting into it in the warmth of my little home, I felt I just had to write about street food.

Corn being burnt on hot coals is one street food that is quite typical to Karnataka (don’t really know about other states). The wrapping around the yellow corn is taken off and the corn is smeared with lemon juice, salt and pepper or chilli powder and is placed on coals until is almost burnt. When well done, you can suck at salt and chilli for hours. The yellow corn gets stuck between your teeth and your hands get soot on them, but the taste makes all these little things inconsequent.

And then there is the eternal favourite chaat food that you will find in every other corner. Must say this about Bangalore, people here simply love eating out. No where else have I seen so many eating places doing so well. Coming to chaat, there is one cart that sells paani puri, samosa chaat, masala puri and the rest of the fare just opposite my office. Divya and I go there all the time. It tastes horrible out there but we don’t have better options. Sanman nearby (excellent coffee there) makes chaat too but there is something very undesirable about eating chaat in the confines of a restaurant. The chaat-wallah near the High Court, on the way to the Press Club makes fantastic chaat items. Another great place that I keep recommending to people is the Calcutta chaat store near Swastik Circle in Seshadripuram. It is this obscure little shed behind a now fancy eating place. I have never had better chaat anywhere else. The people there came from Calcutta many years ago, still don’t understand Kannada but make some mouth watering variations of the usual stuff you get.

There is a place in Malleswaram where gulkund ice cream is sold. Not really street food, but it’s a tiny shop and you need to stand on the footpath and eat. Gulkund is dried rose petals soaked in sugar syrup and makes a gooey paste. You get a bowl of this, topped with two scoops of vanilla or strawberry ice cream and dry fruits and a huge dollop of butter. Absolutely sinful!
There is something about street food that has always drawn me to it. Back at uni, a friend and I would hog on pani puri whenever we were in the city. This was from those mobile paani puri places; a stool, a big pot, a bucket to wash plates, a red cloth to wipe hands, plates and what not and the puri in a big plastic cover made up the “shop”. Utterly unhygienic but man it tastes good!

The thing about street food is that hygiene is the last thing on your mind while eating there. I agree it is not very clean, but my logic is that when you eat at hotels, you can never be sure the kitchen is clean, so what is the difference? Street food is cheap (the best part!), often tastes divine (if you know the right places) and somehow makes you feel happy to be alive and glad to be living a beautiful life.

Best had with my best friend by my side! :-)


A.K.Purandare said...

I agree to the feel of enjoyment and many a time need.However as we grow experience starts teaching us.May be specially it is water which creates havoc some times.And as for as masala taste is concerned i feel it is stomach to stomach the bearing capacity else if you go by medical you are damaging your digestion system leading to serious problems later.
But it is only another part of story.
May be individuals experiences and feeling should be predominating in our life.As it is My life my rules.

Ashley said...

I'd love to eat a greasy samosa right now!!! Mmmmm!!!