Sipping a cup of tea by the roadside!
Dinner under the open night sky!
To act upon these lines all you need is a street food joint. It gives you both food and food for thought. My relationship with street food dates back to my college days. Inedible food and unidentified vegetables on the plate asking “guess who?” were an usual affair then.
Watery dal, chapattis with uncooked edges in the hostel mess would lead me out to the market with the sole purpose of getting something edible. And for a student, the street food vendors were ‘Gods in disguise’. Even as I write, I can imagine their smiling faces with a halo around their heads. With a petty sum of money in the pocket, the street food vendors were our sole providers. Rolls, momos, maggi, burgers, chowmein anything under INR 40 for a meal was, both viable and buy-able.
It was during these errands that I started enjoying my time on the street. Momo stalls surrounded by girls and boys alike was a pleasing sight. It made, both the street and the food accessible for me, letting me taste freedom and independence in some sense.
Going out always has to have a reason. Aimless wandering seems a bit strange. It also depends on the area and the rumours around it whether it is ‘safe’ to venture out at all. But the moment it is about food and a foodie’s soul, the picture changes a little.
It is okay if you are out there to buy food. It’s okay if you are eating. It’s okay if you are at the juice stall or near the paranthe wala. Although, if it’s late at night the bhaiya offers to get the food packed for you, given the dearth of women around. But food somehow provides a purpose to our wanderings. Food is the most important thing for our survival anyway. We earn so that we can feed our stomachs, isn’t it? So food also justifies your being out in the open. If food can be the pretext to go out then why not? Let’s just use it!
And you know what? I already have! I have been to old Delhi’s secluded spaces and enjoyed the kebabs and the biryanis and the Mughlai cuisines. I went to the paranthe wali gali and savoured the sweet lassi and the stuffed and fried paranthas. And you need to see the list of paranthas to believe that it even exists. Nimbu parantha, mirchi parantha, badam parantha, rabri parantha, total 26 stuffings in all. Woah!
And Majnu Ka Tilla’s amazing Tibetan food is my all time favourite that I keep going back to. Lephing is my love! A filling bowl for INR 25/-. Amar colony’s Tandoori momos, CR park’s cutlets, chops and egg devils, Kerala Hotel’s meal, North campus’ bun tikki, chholey kulchey, Moolchand’s chur churn naan, you need to taste it to believe it!
Every place I have been to, I experienced a part of that place, just through taste of its food. Striking a conversation with the vendors exposes you to stories about food you have never heard before. The food and the vendors tell you stories, about the space, the people who live there, their history, lives and all this, at pocket friendly prices. I love the way they happily share the recipes. Street food opens up spaces. It makes you visit places which you otherwise might not visit. It helps you know your city better. The time it takes to hunt down the shops asking people the exact locations, the fun of getting lost in the lanes (if you are in Chandni Chowk or Mehrauli) and reaching your destination, seeing the food on the table makes everything so worth it.
And you know what my ‘to visit’ list gets a little longer everyday. I am yet to explore the Afghani food trail in Lajpat and Jungpura, Changhezi murgh of Daryaganj, kulle ki chaat, khurchan ki chaat of Chandni Chowk, the stuffed kulfis of Chawri Bazaar and many more. My mouth’s watering already! The food tastes yum and the independence yummier. Street food can do what anything else can’t. Effortlessly bring people out in the open. Make spaces more inclusive.
Now what are you waiting for? Go out, explore and eat to your heart’s content! This picture should do the trick!