The new avatar of my company’s brand is out in the open with an impressive unveiling ceremony which took place in Indore. The scale was enormous as more than 2000 participants attended this event between 2nd -6th December, from every nook and corner of the country. I was part of the team which had to ensure the travel and stay of this huge audience (called as MICE in the parlance of travel business) and quite obviously the last fortnight has been nothing less than an ordeal .For me it was also another rendezvous with the city of Indore which has its own idiosyncrasies.
The biggest ode of respect which one can pay to this city if you are landing early in the morning is to stop over for a round of Poha (flattened rice) and Jalebi .A brief vigil in the fresh morning will make you spot numerous shops and “thelas” who will have yellow stacks of Poha with coriander leaves sprinkled over .Eating this simple snack is like a ritual in this city and I myself was part of it when I was at Indore. I would get up early on weekends and go to the “Chappan Dukaan”. As the name suggests this stretch has 56 shops selling all sorts of Indian “nashta “ but in the early hours of a Sunday it was the much revered combination of Poha and Jalebi which people queued up for .
Let us stay with this place called Chappan Dukaan .The name is as clear as it can be. The place has a string of 56 shops offering a delightful choice to any gourmet. Take a stroll and take your pick. You will come across an outlet called Johnny Hot Dog which becomes a hot spot in the evening with a big crowd waiting at its counter. They are all anxiously waiting for the Indori version which could stupefy anyone who has ever had a hot dog. Johnny’s hot dog is anything but what the Americans usually have. At best it is an Indian crossover of a burger and a hot dog with options of both veg and non-veg. However you cannot take anything away from the taste and the people who throng this place daily are a testimony to that .Both Chappan and Johnny Hot Dog are a part of the folklore here.
Indore has its own nomenclature when it comes to food which can very often catch people wrong footed .I had my share of learning during my first few days in the city when I was there for induction. It was May and summer was at its peak .For some reason I ended up at Chappan high and dry .I was craving for something cold to quench my thirst .I spotted some boards which said “Sikanji”. Now in normal north Indian lingo it means sweet and sour lemonade, hence without any second thoughts I went to one of the counters and asked for one .What I got was a huge glass of something which felt like a thinner version of “Rabri”. It was loaded with nuts and raisins and was a meal in itself. A part of the same learning curve was my visit to the Sharma Chat and Choupati (don’t know why is it called Choupati as there is no beach around) .I ordered for “Khopra Patties “which I was told is an Indore special. When the guy at the counter gave me my plate I again wondered. I reminded him that what I wanted was patties and pat came the reply in the typical Indori nasal accent “Arey bhaiyo yehi to he “.I was staring at something which was more like a bread roll. Quite embarrassed at my lack of awareness I accepted that in this part of the world patties is not what we all think they are. Then there are Baked Samosas .It is when you order one that you realize what patties are called here. Also don’t be surprised when one of these vendors selling the samosas and patties asks you “Bana ke doo Kya”. The obvious answer is yes. Why would you eat something raw? What he actual wants to know is whether do you want that extra chutney and sev to make your snack even more spicy and tangy. Banjo is another term I came across for the first time in Indore .It sounds like a musical instrument but is actually an omelet between two buns.
A description of Indore is incomplete if one does not mention the famous “namkeen”.People really like it here and if you had one thing to take away as a souvenir from Indore it must be a packet of namkeen .Om’s namkeen shop is the place you must visit to see how elaborate these shops can be in Indore. You have an entire counter in front of you with an assortment of sevs, wafers, chevdas and so on. There are quite a few diet versions as well which have been baked instead of being fried. Just as in Baskin & Robbins you can taste the samples and take your own packet.
What if it is very late in the night and suddenly you feel like having some “ Aloo Chaat” .If you are in Indore this is not an abnormal craving as there is Sarafa to satiate the taste buds late into the night. Sarafa is actually a lanes of jewelers situated next to the Rajwada which used to be the seat of the Holkars. As these jewelers pull sown their shutters in night these lanes transform into a very peculiar hang out where people come along with their families late in the night to savor a variety of food items. Ranging from the conventional chaat to very typical Indori stuff this place has a lot to offer and if you really wanted to try everything you would need to call on all your digestive juices .There is dahi bhalla, chaat, paav bhaji, sandwiches, south indian and even Chinese if you are in the mood to have something savoury.For the sweet tooth there are Gulab Jamuns, halwas, kulfi and Jalebis.The “Moong Dal Ka Halwa” which you get here is really irresistible. You will most likely notice the Jalebi also, due to their unusual size. Bhutte Ki Kis and Garadu are the two local delicacies .Though I have not yet figured out what Garadus are but Bhutte Ki Kis is definitely boiled and mashed corn served hot with a garnish of coconut .A touch of tanginess is added with some lemon squeezed over it. If you are a foodie you will love Sarafa but even if you are not one it is still an experience you must have if you visit Indore.
Indore’s love affair with food is quite amazing .The city loves its food which is synonymous with the idea of having fun here. I have mentioned Sarafa and Chappan but yet there many more places which a local will make you count. The culture of food here does lend a great deal to the character of this city and you cannot resist being a glutton here.