Friday, March 08, 2013

Deep fried tales

Wake up. Put big pan on fire. Pour oil. Deep fry. Serve delicious food. Every morning.

Puris - rich, biteable, wheaty and delicious. Bhature, oval shaped, fluffy and crispy (maida it is, but we will ignore health for the purposes of this post). Samosas, for breakfast - take that, all those who live South of the Vindhyas. And Jalebis - sweet, dripping with sugar syrup, orange and crisp. Paranthas - made to order. And cook some lovely accompaniments - like Chole, Alu Sabji. (For some reason, Rajma was missing in most places...any idea why?)

All across Varanasi, Allahabad, the Sangam area, Lucknow, this is the description of food. Deep fried, piping hot, breakfast. Lunch is usually a thali or rice with cholle or some such. Somehow, the Samosa and the puri seem to be breakfast favourites, but the roti takes over at lunch.

And I have not yet spoken about the sweets - the Khova, the Paneer, the Rabdi, the Hot Milk, the other sweets. And the lassi, with a blob of malai floating over it - if its sweet, it is just right sweet, not overpowered like a sugar bomb. And yes, I missed eating the launglatha...

Every place. From Cantt in Varanasi, to Godhulia crossing to Lucknow to Sangam. Amazing food.

The amazing part is that all this food is subtle. The tastes dont jar. They are just right and soft on the tongue. The sweets are not overly sugared. The samosas not overly spiced. This is bit different from what I have experienced - street food in general, is not subtle. The tastes stand out. The mirchi powder often strains your throat later. The oil is often oxidized.

But across 3 cities, the food was a revelation. Bordering, and often reaching, perfection. We chomped on Samosas and Jalebis for breakfast. Tried Sattu paratha. Chokha Bati. Puri Sabji with free jalebis. And the Malai Makhan - a Varanasi speciality.

 And the Kachoris. (And yet, after all this gastronimic gymnastics, the stomach was in perfect condition.) Paneer with salt sprinkled on it. Some melt-in-the-mouth rasagolla, hot Khova with just the natural sweetness of milk (and that is just so good).And this is just the stuff we tried. We missed trying the chaat, the chole-pakode, the masala kachori and perhaps 90% of the menu.

There are no refrigerators, most of the food is in front of you, in big baskets, big plates, big vessels - sometimes on a low flame, sometimes, just so. Served not in fancy plates with tissues or wraps, but in ordinary steel plates or in leaf containers that beat plastic by a mile. All this at a cost that makes your wallet smile.

And the tea, uniformly sweet, mildly flavoured, but brewed as it is usually is in places like these. Not for the dip dip connoisseurs or those who sip green tea at their desks - this is the real tea. And every place the tea tasted perfect.

(Aside: The birds here are also fed some form of farsan - is that the secret of migratory birds returning?)

After all this, we reached Bangalore, very hungry, took a long agonizing look through the glass refrigerator of a chain that sells frozen food as fresh food. And picked up an apology of a prepacked sandwich with cheese, corn and palak. It was served, microwaved, wrapped in foil, packed in a brown bag and two tissues and a huge bill. As I bit into it, I dreamt of a piping hot paratha or the chole pakode that we had missed. Sigh!


GiftPiper said...

Super duper, yum post. The pics added to the flavor, and to my envy. I'd expect nothing less from Uttar Pradesh- it is the originator of most things yummy in north indian food. Am glad you got to experience cow belt food in all its richness and variety.

Richa said...

Yummy, super post. The photos add to the flavor, and to my envy :) I am not surprised though, at your experience. Uttar Pradesh is the originator of most things yummy in north indian food, like chaat, jalebis and namkeens. Am glad you got to experience it in all its richness.