Snack on the go

Snack on the go

Where there’s a Setty, there are savouries and where there are savouries, there’s a Setty, writes Vijayasimha V about the roaring snacking culture of Bengaluru

Few neighbourhoods can do without the smiling Setty and his street-corner store. He is someone you can fall back on when you suddenly discover your groceries dwindling to a critical level.

The Settys are saviours during other emergencies too. Hunger pangs, mad cravings and uninvited guests.

There’s nothing like the crunchy nippat, crisp kodbale or crumbling chakli to settle the nerves of the cricket fan watching a cliff-hanger, a tense techie who is behind his deadline and the harried homemaker entertaining a flying visitor who seems to be grounded on the couch.

Momos and manchurians may have caught the fancy of Bengalureans, but the Setty savouries are mainstays on kitchen shelves and the cabin baggage of those returning to the US after their annual visit to the city.

Some of the community’s specialities are just light bites made from the most inane ingredients like lentils and puffed rice, but turned into titillating tidbits with deft hands and some imagination.

For instance, while the nippat can be just popped into the mouth, the ingenuous Setty, in his hole-in-the-wall outlet, crushes it on a plantain leaf, smears chilli and tamarind paste from his ceramic jars, garnishes it with a mixture of finely chopped onions, coriander and grated carrot, finally crowning it with puffed rice — all in one motion — before handing it over to the salivating customer.

Their trigger foods like spiced peanuts going by names like Congress, Chintamani and Bonda, salted and spiced fried lentils, curd kodbales and a mixture of spiced lentils and peanuts called hurgaalu, keep the jaws engaged between meals.

The Settys, or the Arya Vysyas, are a Telugu-speaking trading community and their love for snacking is legendary, devouring and dispensing their delicacies with equal gusto.

So, where there’s a Setty, there are savouries and where there are savouries, there’s a Setty. Nowhere is this starker than in Visveswarapuram, an old locality in South Bengaluru, where the Vysyas have been living for generations in gracious bungalows amid temples and tree-lined avenues.

But the star attraction of this busy pocket is Market Road, better known as ‘Thindi Beedhi’.

This snacking stretch is literally up the Setty’s street, boasting a mind-boggling choice of eateries every step of its 200-metre length. 

(This column looks at some food fetishes and secrets from a city of gastronomes and beyond.)

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