Lip-smacking flavours of desi snacks

Lip-smacking flavours of desi snacks

Lip-smacking flavours of desi snacks

Pop in a gol-gappa and the tongue reacts to the distinct flavours of this tangy delight which only just beats the taste of aloo chaat, tikki chaat, papri-chaat, dahi-bhalle and others which fall in the category of street food. A mere mention of these spicy delights is enough to make one’s mouth water and the sight of chutney-topped dumplings is all it needs to make foodies stop by for a quick-binging session at the nearby street food vendor.

Be it bhel-puri, kachori, samosa, kulche chhole or the more filling versions such as chhole-bhature, pao bhaji, chowmein or momos, it is extremely difficult to resist either of them. Imagine all these and many other lip-smacking snacks available in one place!
Such was the scenario at the recently concluded National Street Food Festival at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Organised on a smaller scale during previous two years, the festival in its third edition broke all records to emerge as a celebration of the tradition of street food that has dominated the Indian streets since ages.

Organised under the aegis of National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), the National Food Festival this year was a memorable affair with more than a 100 street food stalls, from across the country, attracting a footfall of thousands!   

Stalls selling Bihar’s famous litti-chokha (including litti-mutton) and Karachi’s Mughal cuisine were hot favourites, with people jostling to grab a plateful of the ‘staple’ our Bihari brethren swear by. Interestingly, youngsters who like spending less, could not stay away from the kebab fish fry available at the Karnataka stall because “We hardly get such juicy fish fry at such reasonable price in Delhi,” said Hriday, a student at Amity University, Noida.
While Delhiites couldn’t get enough of kebabs and tikkas, even Chinese snacks like chowmein and momos and Italian pasta (prepared in Indian-style) made way to their bellies willingly. The very-English appetisers such as grilled sandwich, burgers and pizza had few takers as compared to those vying for the moong dal ka chila from Lucknow and palak and pyaaz bhajia from Indore.

While the foodies had their day under the sun, the arrangements and facilities turned out to be a dampener for the participants. A few stall owners complained that they could not get the raw material in time. Another participant from Chandigarh selling chhole-bhature was critical of the basic civic amenities, like lack of water and dirty toilets. “We will think twice before deciding to participate next time if this is the condition of toilets. We have women along with us and proper washrooms are a major concern. Also, there is shortage of water,” said an agonised Deepak Gupta.         

The visitors, however, enjoyed themselves as flavours of street food from across the country were served to them!

A winning recipe to steal hearts

One might look and dimiss him for just another food-loving Bengali, but Sudipta Banerjee is no ordinary street food vendor. A qualified chef, the chubby and chirpy man started his journey to the kitchen after completing his Class X. “I was fond of cooking and gradually it developed as my passion. While studying in college, I joined a hotel management institute and learned the basics of the craft,” shared the man who took up a job with a 3-Star hotel in his hometown Siliguri but ‘did not like to work in restrictions’.

“One day I saw a street vendor tossing chowmein on a road side van and I asked him what all did he put into it. I then asked him to prepare it in a different way and days later the vendor informed me about the positive response of his customers,” he says standing in front of four stalls which often mark the highest sales at National Food Festival.
From yummy Bhetki (fish) Korma to delectable sandesh, Sudipta’s stalls boasted of a huge variety of food items. But even larger was is his fan following amongst foodies and vendors alike, who hail the humble man as their teacher who is ready to extend a helping hand to those in need.

Women power holds fort

Maa ke haath ka khana’, is something that every child longs for, especially those staying away from their mothers. And many living in the Capital, miles away from home, could actually fulfill their desire thanks to the food festival where women street vendors from different States lovingly prepared dishes that revived the memories and flavours of Mom’s cooking.
Chopping and cutting spinach since two in the morning to prepare sarson ka saag, Manjeet Kaur, Kamlesh, Manju and their co-workers from Ludhiana managed to draw Delhiites to their stall with their delectable cooking. A dollop of white butter in saag, teamed with crisp, hot makke ki roti was the most sought-after dish on a cold Delhi winter day! 

Another all-women group from Odisha made the foodies taste some authentic snacks such as kakra peetha (made from suji and coconut), baigan vada (similar to brinjal pakora), ras bada (made from moong dal) and dahi bada (urad dal). Even as one tried to identify the ingredients, the women selling Hyderabadi biryani, in non-vegetarian and vegetarian versions, brought the taste from the City of Pearls alive. Happy and smiling like a satisfied mother who’s just received appreciation from her family, the women were overwhelmed by the response of the food-loving Dilliwallahs, even going as far as to share their secret recipes readily.

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