I recently visited Indore, the commercial capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Indore is possibly the food capital too. Of all the highlights of the visit, eating blurs out all other memories! Indians are overly fond of snacks and sweets and at Indore more so.
I had taken the Duronto Express train from Mumbai to Indore. The cheerful looking colorful train set the mood for a fun visit and I was not disappointed. I reached Indore at about 11 a.m and was welcomed by family with steaming chai,warm jalebis and ‘Alu Kachoris’ and Poha. After this heavy meal, I was surprisingly hungry in about a couple of hours again and ready to eat!
I am told the ‘Indore ki hawa’ or atmosphere at Indore is naturally stimulating to eat more and food gets digested faster! Well, I don’t think I disagree as I almost always had room for more for each of the meals and the variety of food I had.
One of the highlights and must-do’s of Indore is a visit to Sarafa. Sarafa is an area in the old town on Indore near the Rajwada or palace of the Holkars. Originally a market of jewelers, Sarafa is now known as the foodie bazaar. Late in the evening at 9 p.m when businesses start closing down, jewelers down their shutters, Sarafa starts getting festive. Smells of gulab jamun, and hot frying oil start wafting and appetites are aroused. Traditional ‘Chaat’ houses open and sweet sellers sit with their huge assortments of freshly made gulab jamuns, rabdi, kalakand and malpuas. One can see people gorging on ‘Kachoris’, ‘Samosas’ and ‘Tikkis’. Along side the traditional chaat places, a slew of cuisines have set up shop in the form of Indo chinese stalls, Sandwiches and Pizza stalls.
For the uninitiated, NRIs or foreigners, it is hard to actually explain what ‘Chaat’ is. Well, Chaat is a variety of food that encompasses a range of savories that are usually sold at roadside stalls. Most savories also have a motley of ingredients in them with a variety of spicy sauces. Some popular ‘Chaat’ varieties in Indore are –
- ‘Samosa’ chaat – Samosas are dough stuffed with a spicy potato filling in triangular shapes and fried. Accompanied by a chick pea gravy, onions, coriander and tomatoes, makes it a ‘chaat’!
- Dahi vadas – Vadas are fried savories that can be made of many varieties of flours. Fried and then dunked into yoghurt sprinkled with chilli ‘chutney’ and tamarind chutney makes for delicious dahi vadas
- Pani puri – Known by various names in different parts of the country, Pani puri is one of the most popular dishes found at the roadside stall. Thin hollow dough crispies are stuffed slightly with a potato or boiled chick pea filling and dunked in sweet and sour spicy water, one at a time. Each individual stuffed puri is eaten whole at a time.
- Alu Tikkis – Potatoes are a favorite ingredient for all chats. Mashed potatoes roled into balls or chopped potatoes, are deepfried, sprinkled with spices and served hot.
- Papdi chaat – Dough crispies, this time flat, are know as papdi or puri again. Loaded with potatoes, onions, puffed rice and some sauces and ‘sev’ make for a papdi chat.
- Kachori -Kachoris are round dough balls stuffed with ‘masalas’ and some base ingredient of mashed peas or lentils or potatoes. Kachoris can be eaten dry or with the usual chat accompaniments of onions, tomatoes, coriander, ‘sev’ and chutneys.
Well, chaat is ubiquitous in all of India, but Indore certainly had a fabulous ambiance that made us want bite into sweet and spicy savories.
Apart from the chat and the roadside stalls, Indore is also very famous for its ‘Namkeen’. Namkeen is a term given to long lasting savories made of flour and subtly flavored with cloves, garlic and several spices.
Even more tantalizing at Sarafa were the sweets that were sold openly. Mostly made in pure ‘desi’ ghee, even looking at them was a feast to the eyes. You can get notably jalebis, imartis, gulab jamuns, malpuas, rabdi, kulfi, kalakand, and cold or hot drinks made of milk. A unique drink was known as ‘Shikanji’ which was a veritable mix of all the goodness in milky form there can be! Shikanji is made of evaporated milk, rabdi, shrikhand, and dry fruits making it very delicious. With the advent of winter, a host of other goodies such as mattar or pea kachoris, ‘gajaks’ and hot milk products are also available and must-eats!
Apart from Sarafa, another popular hang out for youngsters in Indore is ‘Chappan Bazaar’ which originally consisted of chappan or fifty six shops. Although the variety of food was similar to that of Sarafa, the feel of the place was new and less charming as compared to Sarafa.
One would think we would end up with upset stomachs at the end of all that feasting, but thankfully, we all returned well satiated. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I soon have a chance to go back again just for those steaming hot kachoris and melting-in-the-mouth malpuas.
If you were to visit Indore, some suggested places and food are –
At Sarafa –
- Alu Patis at Vijay Chat
- Dal Kachori near Vijay Chat
- Rabdi at Bhairavnath
- Jalebi and Malpua near the end of Sarafa near Bhairavnath
Some non Sarafa and Chappan Bazaar places are
- Aspee on Racecourse road for ‘Mirchina’ a local drink not unlike a spiced up Coke but milder and Icecream Soda
- Hira Lassi – near Shri Krishna Talkies
- Ravi’s Aloo Kachori – Anand Bazaar
- Damu Anna’s Kachori at Sikh Muhalla
My advice if you are planning a trip to Indore is to be that glutton you always wanted to be and have a feast!