Indore has won plenty of awards for being the cleanest city in the country and it showed on approach. The streets along the route I took, were devoid of garbage lying around and I noticed every shopkeeper having not one, but two dust-bins on their premises. I was also rewarded with the familiar snarl of legendary feather-weight two-stroke motorcycle from the Eighties and Nineties – the Yamaha RX100. The road-sense, though, was going to take some effort, to decipher. Luckily, my destination came up before I could get into any kind of trouble and with a celebratory cry, I rode into the parking lot at Treebo Shivani.
Indore – this Mumbaikar had arrived!
Check-in formalities done, I reached out to @PWNeha who would be my local guide to all the culinary delights for the 2nd Edition of the Great Indian Food Trip and informed her of my arrival.
The part of Indore where I was staying had this beautiful non-metro vibe about it. People seemed to know each-other in the street and also appeared to smile a lot. As the sun began its slow descent, hunger pangs had set in. Wanting to save my appetite for later, I sought out a snack. Following my nostrils, I found myself walking into a small corner shop inside the local bus-stand. The cacophony notwithstanding, I took up the suggestion of the friendly man behind the counter and settled in for a samosa and chai.
Even the chai was far removed from the one in Mumbai. Back home, it is brewed nice and strong, with the ginger often overpowering the tea. Out here, it was that right amount of creamy, with the spices blended just right that gave a totally different taste to the tea. Moreover, I’ve always believed that water has a huge impact on how the food tastes in a particular place. Snack over, I returned to the hotel just as Neha called.
Sarafa Bazaar was on the cards. A bustling gold and precious ornaments market by day, Sarafa magically transforms into an ode to the Culinary Gods in the night. Open all the way till dawn, every square foot of its streets are lined with food stalls. A mind-boggling sight awaits all those who head there, as every food stall tries to outdo the others in a bid to entice the customer.
Neha arrived just as I walked past the entrance. Even as we were animatedly discussing my journey into Indore, I happened to bump into Rikin. Part of the Mumbai Chapter of the Road Trippers Club, he and the rest of the gang too had decided to experience Sarafa before heading out the next day.
The 10 Flavour ki Paani-Puri was the first place I hit and boom! My taste-buds were tingling with joy right from the first bite. We got into the impromptu game of who could eat the most paani-puris, but gave up almost immediately. The flavours were just too memorable to gulp down without doing them proper justice. Big shout to the awesome couple who were a sight to behold as they served up the steady stream of customers thronging their stall with utmost precision. I mean, it is difficult enough to keep track of the flavour preferences and quantity when you’ve got just the two ‘chutneys’ – but to do that with 10 chutneys and across every customer – we were totally in awe.
Next up was a local delicacy called Garadu. Cassava chunks are deep-fried in hot oil, tossed with a special blend of spices along with some lime and served piping hot. Garadu is supposed to be enjoyed typically during winters, but we decided to be brave and try it out. I mean, you only have to listen to the sizzle as the chunks are dropped in the vat of oil and catch a whiff of the aromatic spices as they’re sprinkled on top – to know that this is a ‘must-try’ dish.
If you love corn, then Bhutte ka Kees is a Madhya Pradesh delicacy that you’ll love. Made from grated corn (use a hand grater for best results) – Bhutte ka Kees is best described as a most unusual mix of flavours. You’ve essentially got, corn paste that’s cooked in a pan, tempered with ginger, chillies and other spices, before adding equal parts milk and water. As it cooks and the moisture dries up, you squeeze in a bit of lime, throw in some sugar and garnish it with chopped coriander and grated coconut on top! Mind-blowing, isn’t it!
Someone also brought in chaat, while I managed to sample some incredible dahi-bhalla too. It was one decadent evening and we’d completely lost track of time as we went from one stall to another. The great thing was that Sarafa got even more crowded past midnight. The atmosphere was akin to a fun-fair, only that the performers were stall owners while the star attraction was all the food being cooked and eaten. We returned from Sarafa with our bellies threatening to scrape the ground – we were that full.