Day 3 on the 2nd Edition of the Great Indian Food Trip began with, a chai at the stalls along the street, followed by an animated chat over the journey of Indore with the locals gathered there. The next hour or so offered great insight into, not only how the city was transforming, but also how a few of the citizens were concerned about diluting the culture at the altar of progress. The talks were well fuelled by chai and Poha, and I was having such a good time that I nearly missed bidding adieu to the Road Trippers Club as they were leaving for their planned destination.
The temperatures being what they were, there wasn’t much food exploration to be done till early evening. So I decided to explore another historic side of Indore – its textiles. The city was known for its cloth mills, with the cotton produced here being sold not just across India, but was also exported around the world to the United Stated and England. Changing market conditions dictated the fall of the mills of Indore and the city resurrected itself as a premier hub for cloth trade. The finest cloth from around the country, in both, raw and finished goods format began making its way to Indore, from where it was once again sold to the rest of the country and the world.
While passing through the market, I had the good fortune of meeting the owner of Shree Mahalaxmi Vastra Bhandar. An iconic name that traces back its roots to the 1930’s and the illustrious cotton trade of the city – they’re Third Generation Entrepreneurs and a well-respected name in the local industry. Their store is a saree-shopper’s delight and even in the peak of the afternoon, there were enough customers to keep the staff busy on their toes.
The sun was beginning to mellow down as I wound my way back to the hotel. A quick turnaround later, I was back out, this time to soak in a different side of Indore food – called Chappan Dukaan. Unlike Sarafa Bazaar, Chappan Dukaan (a street lined with 56 food stalls originally) – is open earlier in the day. We happened to reach there just as the sun was dialling back on the harshness of its rays.
Starting from one end of the street, we began making our way down, shop by shop. Our first stop was Vijay Chaat House where we gorged on their famed Khopra Pattice and some chaat. For the second evening in succession, my taste buds were tingling in turbo-boost. The flavours and the freshness of the preparation had made for permanent memories.
Next on the list was Shahi Shikanji – a concoction made from spiced, sweetened milk that’s been slow cooked to a reduction, then chilled overnight before being served. Came in a deceptively tiny glass, for delicious as this Shikanji was – one has to have an insane appetite to feel hungry after having it. To give our happily-overworked stomach a rest, we decided to wander along the crowded street and observe the sea of humanity that was starting to descend there.
The crowd was threatening to get unmanageable, but miraculously, the street was clean. I mean, there was not one dropped wrapper or paper-plate and other food-packaging. Every one made it a point to drop the junk in the bins outside every store there. Most remarkable indeed. As I stood there marvelling at this, I realized we’d managed to stop right outside another Indori street-food legend – Johny Hot Dog.
To be honest, the name was most deceptive. There was nothing hot-dog about Johny’s servings. But, whatever he was serving, smelled really good and disappeared into the outstretched hands of the hordes thronging their relatively tiny stall. Essentially, a quick omelette served between a lightly toasted bun, with ketchup, coriander chutney and sliced onions on the side, the Egg Benjo was the fancier, Indori take on the quintessential omelette pao of Mumbai.
It was the Mutton and the Egg Mutton Benjo that brought me around to Johny’s magic. A succulent slice of minced mutton, spiced just right, being the key element to the whole experience. Our stomachs were once again, overfull for the evening and I walked away from Chappan Dukaan on an absolute food high.
The night was still young though and there was still dinner to be planned. So we took a break and decided to regroup after a couple of hours. I took the time to finish up my packing and inform the hotel guys about my morning check-out. Having gotten both things sorted, it was time to step out, once again.
Neha had planned dinner at Nafees – a place well-known for their Biryani. Now, to me, biryani has always been this greasy, meat and masala laden delicacy that had me licking my fingers. The great ones also had me reminiscing about their flavours for days after I’d polished off my plate. So when Nafees served up their biryani, it was safe to say that my brain received a multi-sensory jolt. Tender, juicy chunks of meat mixed with fragrant rice that had been cooked in just the right amount of ghee – Nafees’ biryani was a revelation. The typical masala was missing, but I was grateful for the lack of greasiness.
The past couple of days had broadened my horizon to a whole new culinary experience. As we parted ways, I thanked Neha for all the support and for taking valuable time out from her schedule, towards curating the 2nd Edition of the Great Indian Food Trip. Riding back to the hotel, I remember going back and forth between all the dishes I’d had since I’d set out from Mumbai. I couldn’t however, shake off the feeling that I’d missed out on something as I hit the bed that night.
As I woke up the next morning and began loading my luggage onto the bike, the stomach started to growl and that’s when it hit me. I fired up the maps and quickly narrowed down on the area where I would sign out of Indore. It was time to have breakfast like the locals and the Indore favourite was Poha with Jalebi. Yes, that’s right – Poha garnished with sev/farsaan and pomegranate was served with a piece of decadent sweetness called – Jalebi!
Riding around in the vicinity of the majestic Rajwada, I chanced upon Sundaram Samosa Corner. It is a small, unassuming shop that appeared to be a huge hit with the locals. Chatting up with Narendra Bagrecha was an entertaining affair, as he regaled me with his journey from his hometown to setting up shop, here in Indore. My eyes lit up wide, as he served me my Indori breakfast comprising a bowl of Poha and a Jalebi. My first combined morsel, and I felt like Remy from Ratatouille, experiencing the pairing of different food types in one delicious medley of colour, crunch, shape and taste. It was magic – most unlike any Poha I’d had back home in Maharashtra, ever. A quick round of thank you to Mr. Bagrecha and his jolly customers, I decided to get a glimpse of the Rajwada before the 2nd Edition of the Great Indian Food Trip checked out of Indore.
The weather on the way back was hot as ever. Only this time, I could manage a better job of staying hydrated. I kept the breaks down to a minimum and stayed on the throttle for longer stints.
Hitting the highway, my mind was in a tizzy. Everything was in parallel processing mode. The inevitable comparisons between Mumbai food and Indore food were running amok. The memories of each dish that I’d had, every lane that I’d visited, contrasted with the ones I’d missed.
The 2nd Edition of the Great Indian Food Trip had changed something inside me. I knew that what I’d sampled in the three days I’d been here, had been just the beginning. A teaser of sorts, offering enough to keep my memories going. Yet, it had been enough to open up an entire new section of food experiences that I would discover the next time. For return I would and with the rest of the #HauryaBikers to boot!
Written by Tanmay Pangam aka The Angry Saint of #Hauryabikers