I remember how, years ago, there were carts selling badaam milk in tall glasses, unlike the unflattering plastic cups they hand out in corner shops now. The gentleman manning the cart would skim the cream off the badaam milk boiling in his giant wok-baandli, straight on to your glass of chilled badaam milk. Brings water to mouth and tear to eye, that thought.
Voicing concerns about the missing badaami-haalu-gaadi-wallah to a bunch of old gentlemen, I was told in response that nosy policemen had shooed him and other gaadis off because of unsavory traffic hurdles. I find that strange because the street isn’t exactly critical to the connectivity in the area. Considering its popularity, would it be so difficult to devise alternative motoring routes on Food Street? Families crouched in SUVs and minivans, bustling with loud chatter is the cutest thing, regardless of what the easily irritable policemen may think.
One another disappointment is how capitalism and ways of the modern consumer has sneeringly reared its ugly head here, too. The prices have done an upward spiral. Plastic errata replace the humble plantain leaf coupled with newspaper that food was served on. Those quaint old gaadis are now dwindling in number. The ones that remain are amazingly gadget savvy, however. They play loud music and have multi-coloured lighting, accompanying embellishments and all that jazz!
Moving on to another Food Street specialty, we recommend interesting novelties such as American corn on the cob with mango, expertly chopped off, seasoned with raw mango and chilly flavoring. The innovatively served chilly baby corn was a bit of a massacre on the senses. Emerging from the chilly-hangover, we noticed other wacky ideas such as chilly-buttered-corn and American corn with pineapple. The corn specialties here are a major draw with junta.
Saving the best, and perhaps the most controversial, for the last, I eagerly ventured into the chaat section. One look at the items being dished out enraged our photographer who, with her varied travels, has concluded that Allahabadi chaat was indeed the most genuine and tastiest of its forms. Now don’t get me wrong but I don’t get purists from the gastronomy department.
It hardly helps that I am surrounded by friends who have quasi-philosophical issues with Bangalore–style chaat. Why do they use channa, cries the condescending Kolkatan. Why do they use onions and matar, worries the indignant Mumbaikar. Offer them plain old paani puri as we know it, and they insist on esoteric golgappas, puchkas and god knows what else.
The debate was nipped in the bud with everybody agreeing that food was too noble to be vilified as elements of region. We met a bunch of young people who were enjoying a round of paani-puri themselves- presumably a "treat" in the wake of happy tidings. A rather happy looking family, indulging in thatte-idlis thought that Food Street had gotten too crowded. They, however, believed that not much had changed about the place in spite of my faint protests.
We bumped into another couple waiting for their roti-bhaajis who planned to "start at this end of the street and go all the way to the other end" which, if you were to explore the delights of Food Street, is a fine way to go about the business of it. At about Rs.150-200 a person, be assured of a filling-diverse-culinary outing, that isn’t too hard on the pocket.
Food Street may not serve the best food you ever smacked lips on. It isn’t the dirt-cheap haven it used to be. But it has variety and an experience that beats most other options in this town hollow. Go there for the novel experience. And take a large bunch of friends along. ⊕