Every time someone asked me what I missed most about Bombay, street food came somewhere on top of that list, so this came as quite a nice surprise. We headed there one Sunday night and walked from one end to the other sampling from several stalls, taking photographs and enjoying the unique spellings.
I have been hearing about the Food Street in Bangalore in several conversations with friends and I finally make my way there one weekend. Known locally as thindi beedi, a literal translation, the street stretches out long and narrow in front of me, filled with eateries on either side and with several food carts (thela) spilling over to the road.
At the entrance to the road stands the corn seller, stocking over ten varieties of corn, including the slightly puzzling ‘lemon butter baby masala corn’.
We have been advised to check out all the shops before deciding on the night’s menu and duly make our way down the street with that in mind. However, at the third stall selling holige (a sweet made with jaggery, known as puran poli in Hindi) our resolve crumbles. The cook stands rooted to his spot, patting the dough filled with the jaggery, his fingers flying over the hot stove, now putting one more on it, now turning a semi-cooked one or taking one off it. He has a helper, a chhotu (small one) who serves it piping hot to the waiting customers, after adding a generous dollop of ghee on top.
The best way to derive maximum enjoyment from Food Street is to sample judiciously and return to what you really like; as many stalls and as many types of food as possible. Of course, it could (and indeed does) happen that several of these small samples make a heavy meal in itself and there is just no room for seconds. There is street food of every kind here, from Karnataka specialties like akki roti (a thin roti made with rice flour and eaten with spicy chutney and curry) and holige, to typically North Indian chaat (I read somewhere that the chaatwala is originally from Ajmer in Rajasthan) and Bombay’s famous pav bhaji and vada pav. There are shops selling only South Indian short eats, from steaming idli to fried bonda and vada while others offer a “multi-cuisine” eating experience, which includes Indian Chinese – the ‘Gobi Manjuri’ variety.
The specialty of Food Street however is dosa – there is a huge a variety on offer, from the usual suspects like masala and rava to ragi and podi (gunpowder) roast all the way to bhath masala dosa – a name that invites closer inspection! Regulars also seem to believe that the right way to end a meal at thindi beedi is by washing it down with badam (almond) milk, served hot or cold.
It is a Sunday night and the entire area has the feel of a mela (fun fair) – parents with children, groups of friends (one orders twenty pieces of holige in front of me, causing a mini stampede among the waiting crowds), balloon sellers and plastic toy vendors. The Food Street is very popular with locals as a weekend evening destination for the entire family. Unlike most small eateries in Bangalore, this is open till late in the night, and there is something for everyone. The food (all vegetarian) is reasonably priced, with most costing between Rs.15-30. And the best thing is that everything is fresh and hot, made in front of you and consumed before it has even had a chance to cool.
Food Street is located at V.V.Puram, close to the Lalbagh West Gate. It is open all days of the week, from 6 p.m. till about 11 p.m. (although sometime the stalls shut earlier due to police interference). The weeks before Sankranti (the harvest festival celebrated in mid January) are a good time to go to Food Street, since vendors are known to rustle up regional food specialities.