TASTE buds were tingling with a smooth blend of tastes that went from tangy to spicy and back to sweet with a hint of mint every few minutes. We paused and took a break. The traffic had started to thin. All the buzzing horns had died down and music being played on the street food carts had taken over. Laughter and loud happy exchanges were filling the air as food lovers of all ages had started filling the streets. It was closing in on 10 pm and it appeared that the place had just started to come alive.
It took us few minutes to locate the next street food cart. This one happened to be of an old man, one of the oldest in the business – over 40 years doing the thing he did best. Closing in on 70 but standing strong, this charming old man was pushing his ‘tikkis’ around on his pan. We walked around his cart, climbed the stepping stones of the jeweler shop and made ourselves comfortable in the corner.
Sharmaji Aloo Chaat: Aloo (potatoes) Chaat (is a North Indian preparation that involves a variety of spices)
We noticed, the owner had not diverted his attention one bit and kept tossing the tikkis from corner to corner on his hot steel pan till they turned ‘crispy golden brown’. We ordered our chaat plates to the best of our preferences – mild, medium and spicy. He responded with a nod and soon enough dished out some amazing aloo chaat bowls. An ice cream spoon to help us maneuver our moves, we dived right into the amazingly delicious bowl of infinite bliss. This one is a must visit for anyone who lands in the city.
We thanked the old man ‘Sharmaji’, as they fondly call him in the area and moved slowly towards the old rustic square at the end of the lane. We had in mind a few things but our stomachs were sending out subtle signals of being semi full. We hastened our walk with a dual purpose of getting to our next pit stop sooner and hoping to make some space in our stomach.
The Sabudana Khichdi (Sabudana means Sago; Khichdi means a rice like preparation with sago that has been soaked overnight.)
Khichdi is a common dish in most of our houses and we have had it atleast a few hundred times before but this, just blew us away. It was nothing like what we had had before. The taste and method of preparation was distinctly unique. The khichdi in its semi prepared form was stocked on a large pan with green chillies tucked into the heap. As we ordered, the vendor quickly pulled out his large scoop and interestingly added the flavors in proportions of weight right on top of a weighing scale. Such impeccable was his judgement we gasped in awe as we took our first bite. The juices of the freshly squeezed lime were refreshing enough to lift our spirits inordinately.
Next on our list was Paani Puri, an extremely popular chaat item that is more of an appetizer which is usually had before having all the stuff that we had already had.
Paani Puri : Paani means water and Puri is an unleavened deep-fried small puff.
The paani is a beautiful blend of spices like mint, cilantro, chilies, grated ginger, black salt, cumin powder etc. The water is made in abundance along with another sweeter version made with tamrind and jaggery . The guy at the stall handed out paper bowls to each one of us as we sported smiles and shouted out – “spicy”, “medium” and “medium -spicy”.
What followed was an amazing fifteen minutes of soulful indulgence in form of mouth watering servings of multiple rounds Paani Puri. None of us were in the mood to stop, the puris kept flowing from the stored packs into a bowl of chickpeas, and then dipped into sweetened water and finally into spiced water, momentarily into our individual paper bowls before we devoured them hungrily. On an average each one of us had close to a dozen of these puris with watery eyes, before we decided to stop.
A beautiful journey that continued to some savory sweet stalls that Sarafa Bazaar is popularly known for went on for close to another hour. Read more of it in my final blog on this wonderful gastronomic journey.
In case you missed the first post on Sarafa Bazaar you can read it here : Sarafa Bazaar – a foodies paradise (I)
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