Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dedicated to Jammu - An insight into the street food

The first few weeks of any trip back from home for outsiders are always filled with longing, nostalgia and terrible bouts of homesickness. This post is a result of all those emotions. Live any any big city, shop in malls and eat in fancy places but none of these can match the charm of your chotta shehar, local bazaar and the thaeli ki delicacy’s. It’s just like eating pani puri in a restaurant and from a local vendor. The former is spick and span without dirt or flies but it never has and never will match the exquisite taste and the saliva that sprouts when you see the puri being dipped into various concoctions right in front of you. Getting passed from bhaiya’s hands to your mouth and aahh the blast of different flavours

Gol Gappe wale uncle
 Though it’s only been around 2.5 years since I left Jammu, I find a lot of difference in the lifestyle of people. I was quite surprised to spot a Porsche and a Land Rover on one of my recent visit to town. Jammu also boasts of having a branch of all major food chains – KFC, Dominoes, Pizza Hut, and Mac-D etc. There is an outlet of Cafe Coffee Day right in front of my erstwhile school. Sipping coffee with my friend I saw a huge throng of girls from my school rushing to buy drinks and shakes after school. I was astonished that they were easily buying stuff from a place where the average cost of any beverage is more than Rs. 50. When I was a little girl the only after school guilty pleasure was an orange candy costly some 5 rupees. On some days my mother used to give me 10 rupees and I used to be on cloud#9 the entire day and wait eagerly for the school to get over because 10 rupees meant I could have Choc√≥-bar. Having 50 rupees to spend back then was unimaginable. Looking back I don’t think I regret this.

People and their lifestyle may have changed but thankfully the love for street food remains. In every nook and corner of the city you can always spot a street vendor selling something or the other. I feel there is nothing that gives a better insight into a places’ cultural heritage than its street food. Our Jammu street food is no different. It is a clear reflection of the fact that we Jammuties like our food to be tangy and spicy.
The best thing about street food is that it’s made right in front of our eyes, which is so stimulating. Who hasn’t experienced saliva filled mouth as one looks on how the butter melts on the hot tawa and how the pav’s (buns) are generously smouldered with it.

The guy is cutting Khimbh and next to the banana's is the Kachallu
 One street food which is spotted in almost every part of India (except maybe south) is pani puri. Popularly known as gol-gappa’s in our part of the world, they are a clear favorite of all. People from all spheres are seen devouring its taste. There are some vendors selling gol-gappas since ages at their specific places. In every neighborhood there is a particular place and person who you know would be available from morning to evening to satisfy your craving for something sour and spicy. Close in competition are kachaloo’s. Kachaloo basically belongs to the family of potatoes. The boiled vegetable and pulses (black eyed peas and moong) is served in gravy of tamarind and various other spices. Old Jammu city is a famous shopping joint for ladies for clothes and accessories and equally popular for street snacks. The shopping in the old city area is utterly incomplete without a healthy dose of these spicy treat. What is all the more special about these savouries is that they are so light on the pocket!

Me and my friend enjoying Khimbh
 Another popular snack is the tangy kimbh. Kimbh is a relative of the orange family and is extremely sour so the dish contains an ample amount of red chillies. We had a dhabha just outside our college and Vikhram Bhaiya the chef used to prepare the spiciest Kimbh ever. It used to set our stomachs on fire and after that we used to walk almost half a kilometre in opposite direction (our college was in outskirts with no soul in sight) to a tinny-tiny shop that selled those round fruit flavoured candies.  

The unhealthy but very tasty Hot Dogs!

Hot Dogs may belong to America but we have our very own desi versions of it. Our version comprises of a stale bun with boiled potatoes, tikki and dollops of mayonnaise. Sounds awful but tastes awesome. Talking about buns, channa kulcha is another popular kind of food which as the name suggests has a filling of kabuli channa with liberally applied butter. The sellers are usually seen on cycles near the BC road and outside schools. Pav-bhaji on wheels sells like hot-cakes near the Bahu-Plaza area in evenings. The aaloo-tickki vendors are also very famous. Crisp aaloo-tickii’s with spicy chutney, a little curd and some salad is pure bliss. Then there are different types of pakoda’s and one special kind which is called gul-gulle’s soft spongy batter fried besan served with spicy radish chutey flovered with tamarind.

Gul-Gulle with mint chutney and salad

 Over the years Chinese food has been made very famous by the Ladaki students who come to Jammu for college and studies. Momo shops are mushrooming in every locality. These light and healthy snacks have a huge fan following. If you are a non-vegetarian you have to try fried mutton momo’s at Momo Hut. It is so tasty that just thinking of it has brought water into my mouth. Another popular dish of Ladakh available at Momo Hut is Thupka, it is momos and noodles all together in a pool of soup (chicken/mutton). The disk is very popular, healthy and supposedly helps keeping warm against the cold weather but somehow I don’t like it. Other popular Chinese snacks served are soups, Manchurian and noodles. There is this one shop that servers hakka noodles with gravy. The noodles are cooked in Indian style and there is nothing “hakka” about it but it is still so great.

The un-hakka noodles and gravy
 Walking on a hot scalding summer day can be a torture. But not in Jammu. Here, one is greeted with refreshing cool drinks after every few steps. Who wouldn’t enjoy a drink of sugarcane juice or rho on a hot day or the tangy jaal-jeera and other numerous varieties of juices available? 

Carrot Juice

And if you are not a juice person there is always kulfi falooda. There is a shop which has been serving kulfi since very very long. My grandparents have had kulfi there and it continues to be the most loved kulfi-wala in the entire Jammu. Even the workers and waiters have not changed there since my childhood days.

The Kulfi

Agreed it is cool and chic to sit and eat inside a fancy restaurant but it is also very boring. Street food is all about eating in the open air, dropping bits of food on your clothes and not worrying about it, no tissues or finger bowls. Just you, the open aroma, the food and the satisfaction the taste buds. Nothing beats the fun element attached with the street foods. Hope you liked the post.