Thursday, October 27, 2011

Food street - thindi beedi

Food street, or thindi beedi (literal translation in the local language Kannada - also the local name it's known by) - God knows for how long I've been wanting to visit this place, and for some reason or the other the visit kept getting put Finally, last month, a bunch of us foodies got together and made a visit to the Mecca of local Bangalorean food.

Nestled in an obscure, one-way lane near Sajjan Rao circle in V V Puram (click for Google Map), this place boasts of being the nerve center for street food in Bangalore - and it's spot on. Now when I say street food, or anyone uses the term street food, it's always got to do with local food, so don't be dreaming of wings and satays and laksas here - it's pure vegetarian, and it's local...and I didn't miss meat one bit while I was there! Well, OK, maybe the thought did cross my mind once, but that was only BEFORE we started our eating frenzy, and moreover, I was truly excited about what this place had to offer. Below is a snapshot of the Google map for directions from Lalbagh west gate.

At the Sajjan Rao circle end, we have the iconic V B bakery, a landmark of the Bangalore past. But just because I said Bangalore past, don't be fooled into believing that it doesn't draw in the hordes today. It dates back to the early part of the 20th century, a time when this part of Bangalore was the actual Bangalore, the real Bangalore (along with Malleswaram), while areas where bakeries like Albert bakery (Frazer Town), Thom's (Kamaraj road), and All Saint's and Fatima (Brigade & Hosur road respectively) were part of the British cantonment area. We ended up having their honey cakes, cream puffs, and another kind of puff pastry that is locally called Bombay salt (it's a twisted puff pastry, but it certainly isn't salty). Delightful doesn't even come close to describe how the honey cake tasted. Another specialty of theirs is the apple cake, which we surprisingly didn't buy, but then again, we had to meet up with others and there was tonnes of food to be had.

Honey cake

Cream puff

Once we finished VB bakery, we started our walk up the street, stopping at almost every hole-in-the-wall to check what was cooking. There was a jalebi & gulab jamun shop that's quite famous, but he was closed that evening (damn our luck!). We crossed a lot of shops selling chaats of various kinds, and there were plenty of people, families and friends alike, gorging on whatever caught their fancy.

A couple of old timers enjoying their chaats

We then located what we had been told we needed to have - the dosas. Yes, at night. What? Just because a Shanti Sagar or Sukh Sagar or any of your local darshinis/sagars doesn't serve you a dosa post lunch doesn't mean no one eats them in the late evening. In fact, dosas are the perfect pre-dinner snack (any time snack actually) you can have since they're usually quite light and digest fast. Of course, if you have them in multiples of two or some such number, then, well... :) All the same, dosas are very popular in Bangalore, and apart from Mysore and Udupi, you get the best dosas in India here. There, I said it. Sue me. And yes, we eat our dosas almost anytime - as a snack or as a meal itself.

While our dosas were being made, some of the guys snuck off and bought some of the local batter-fried chaats, or bajjis as we call them here. The capcicum and raw banana ones were the ones that were bought, and both, apart from being batter-fried, also had grated carrots, chopped onions, a sprinkling of coriander and a dash of lemon juice and chilli powder - perfect way to get your appetite whetted.

Capcicum (bell pepper) bajji (left), and raw banana bajji

The dosas available here are the local variety - so no fancy Davangere benne dosa, or neer dosa, or Mysore open dosa. The regular stuff like a plain, masala, set, rava, and ragi dosa, and some local beauties like the akki rotti and the avarekaalu dosa. The latter, having avarekaalu, or the Hyacinth bean, is a kind of flat bean that is grown locally here in Karnataka and I haven't come across too many people from any of the other states who've spoken or know much about it, so if there's someone who isn't from here and knows that this pulse is grown elsewhere, please do let me know in what form it's cooked, etc etc etc. The wiki link I've provided says that people in coastal Maharashtra also grow it, and the Tamilians too use it a bit. Anyway, back to the bean, and it's typically used in a curry, but you'll also find this fellows in khara baths served in your darshinis/sagars, or served along with akki rotti.

A masala dosa being made

The avarekaalu dosa batter (left), and squirting ghee onto the dosa

The finished product

Plain dosa with two chutneys

While the avarekaalu dosa was slightly heavy, it was lso mind boggling when it came to falvour - especially when you scooped some of the curry along with the dosa. It was superb to taste and if there was nothing else available to eat, two of these babies and you'd be hunting for a bed to catch a few zzzs. The plain dosa was nice and crisp, and while it may just have been a plain dosa, it was good nonetheless.

More snacks were to follow - what I thought were onion rings, someone told me they were in fact curd rings. These rings were crisp on the outside, but just melted inside your mouth. Pav bhaji, bread along with a 'gravy' of mashed potatoes, onions, peas, and tomatoes...lapped up in no time and I needn't have to explain why. The akki rotti was a little different from what most of us there were accustomed to. The ones made in Mangalore and South Canara are more white, and not as pliable that it can be folded as the one we had (see photo below). Taste wise, it was nice, but not memorable.

Curd rings (left), and pav bhaji

A very different type of akki rotti (rice roti)

And of course, how could any street food in Bangalore be complete without the ubiquitous gobi manchuri, fiery red in appearance yet sweet with a little bit of heat from the chillies in it. And mind you, we Bangaloreans take our gobi manchuri very seriously - to the point where we'll kill for it! The floating pani puri - yeah, I know, and one look at the photo below you'll know why the name - wasn't much to talk about. The tomato slice chaat was a nice snack - puffed rice on top of the slices along with the usual condiments like grated carrot, chopped onions, coriander, lemon and chilli.

The ubiquitous gobi manchuri (left), and floating pani puri

Tomato slice chaat

One of the dishes that we had that I don't seem to have a photograph of is the gundi appa (see Ganesha hubba post). Also, there's supposedly a vendor who sells some of the fluffiest idlis in town, and serves them only with chutney. Legend has it that the old timer who runs the place is kinda a grouch, and if you ask for sambhar, he literally barks back at you saying he serves it only with chutney, so hopefully I'll get to experience this another time - the idlis I mean, not his bark.

Apparently a trip to food street wouldn't be complete if you didn't visit Shivanna's gulkand at the end of the street. A slightly eccentric chap, this Shivanna guy has his own unique way of keeping track of your orders and even taking your orders - from what I gathered, unless you're with someone who's already been-there,done-that, you're going to be waiting for a long time. Anyway, the gulkand was quite delightful along with the ice cream, but all the raving aside, I guess it's more of an acquired taste kind of a dish.

Gulkand with cut fruits & ice cream @ Shivanna's store

And just as we were finishing, the heavens opened up and the deluge was quite a strong one, leaving me drenched to the bone as I went to get the car parked a couple of streets away. But who cares about a little rain - and a near impaling on one of the barricades/divider with those spikes on it after a two wheeler lost control and hit me - it most certainly was an evening to remember, and for all the right reasons.


Captain Subtext said...

Can't believe this is the first time you've been to the street in Bangalore. I ensured I got to be there at least once before I left the city. But you guys seem to have had a lot more fun. The food street is Bangalore is the vegetarian version of the food street of Lahore.
Well, as much as vegetarian food can match up to the glorious plates of roast chicken, tender beef and everything in between.

EarnesTaster-UPN said...

even when it comes to street food, our country does a awesome job of reminding the world of the wonders of vegetarian food..the photo of "plain dosa with two chutneys" was very appetizing and good photos overall..In Chamrajpet,Karnataka bhel house dishes out the meanest plate of masala puri and near it ,a vendor ladles out small spherical batata vadas that are flavour bombs! Anthony Bourdain wolfed down multiple vada paavs from a famed joint in the Bombay edition of "no reservations" n called it one of the best things he had ever eaten!..Karthik,you didnt specify the location of the vendor supposedly peddling some of the "fluffiest idlis" in town!

Karthik Shetty said...

I didn't mention it because I haven't been there myself. But it's just before the Gulkand shop from what I've been told.


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