Indore is the commercial capital of Central India which is famous for its rich food culture and cosmopolitan nature. Anyone who has ever been to Indore will definitely agree that Indore is the street food capital of India famous for its street food bazaars like Sarafa Bazaar, Chhappan Dukan, Chhawni, Sikh Mohalla to name few. In true sense entire Indore’s streets are full of food joints and every street has its own food legends and fan following.
A typical day of an Indorian starts with omnipresent Poha and Jalebi and as day passes Samosa, Kachori, Sev Parmal etc acquire mouthspace and day ends with delicious Paan at Parshwanath, Anna Bhaiya or Karnawat or with Masala Milk/Shikanji at Laxminarayan Dhoodhwala, Naguari Shikanji etc. Further, every meal of the day is accompanied by some sort of snacking everyday of the year.
Indore, situated on the breezy Malwa Plateau, boasts of phenomenally rich food culture mainly because it’s been a melting pot of different cultures for centuries. Ujjain, which is just 60 KM from Indore, has been a centre of world culture and capital of Gupta Dynasty who ushered golden Era in India. Vicinity to Ujjain has crucially influenced Indore, its culture and heritage. Also the fact that Indore lies between two Jyotirlingas Mahakaleshwar and Omkareshwar, has made it an important en-route location for Hindu Pilgrims. Result is Indore demonstrates a profound cultural mix which is a mélange of cultures from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Malwa’s own ages old culture and thus a vivid and vibrant food culture. Fertile black soil of MP also contributes significantly to this by producing everything in abundance making this city a sheer paradise for every food lovers.
Indore has a special place in my heart and I must admit after my mother’s homemade food, Indore is profoundly responsible for developing my test buds. My tryst with Indore and its food started in 1999 and it’s getting stronger and stronger every passing year. So, this time when I reached Indore with my camera and notepad, I wanted to capture the candid food culture of Indore and in this first series dedicated to the city, I will take you to the only night food-street of India i.e. Sarafa Bazar which starts at 8PM and goes till 2 AM in the morning. It has most hygienic and wide range of palate satiating dishes to offer confirming the delight of eating out. And Guys, it’s strictly a veg only and hence being a strict vegetarian, I found myself most at ease here.
The streets behind Rajwada (kings palace) in Indore are crowded jewellery Market in the day time and hence name Sarafa Bazaar which started in early 19th century however no one is sure of the origin of the night food bazaar. Some believe it started some 100 years back and was encouraged by jewellery shop owners so that their shops were secured even post midnight. With this in mind they willingly started offering front space of their shop to food vendors and thus Night Food Bazar came in existence ensuring the streets are empty only for few hours in early morning.
Food vendors, many with legends attached to them, starts converging to Sarafa bazaar around 8 PM and thus bring with them myriad foods, fragrances and definite hustle-bustle amidst cheerful chaos of everyday festivity. Food menu here is full of variety, you name it and certainly you gonna get it. Many among them are only found in this market namely Bhutte Ka kiss, Garadu (Yam root) Chaat, King Size Jalebi fondly known as Jaleba, Basundi, Milk based Shikanji, Alu Pattis etc. Some other item have become iconic in status are Sabudana Ki Khichdi, Dahi Wada, Kulfi, Malpua, Barf ka Gola etc. Other regulars like Pani Puri, Alu Tikki, Samosa, Kachori, variety of sweets are also present. In recent years a lot of space has been acquired by Chinese Food, South Indian, Sandwiches, Pav Bhaji vendors also thus keeping a pace with changing customer demands.
The phenomenon called Sarafa Bazaar, the pride of the Indore, is rarely visible anywhere in India. The sheer indulgence for every foodie. I am listing down few must visit shops which offer most scrumptious food and also affectionate hospitality treating every guest as their personal guests.
Joshiji ka Dahivada
This iconic shop in the middle of Sarafa is a permanent outlet serving not only the magical Dahivada but also one of the original dishes of the Sarafa the Bhutte Ka kiss. The owner Om Prakash Joshi is a magician in his own fiefdom as he creates a mystical aura around his Dahivada while serving it. After pouring dahi (Curd) over Vada he flips it high in the air without spilling a single drop and as soon it lands back in his hand, he uses other hand’s fingers to sprinkle different spices on the top without mixing them together. It literally cannot be explained but only can be seen and enjoyed in awe. So when you visit him, do ask him to perform his magical trick for you, as it’s only on demand these days.
His another dish Bhutte ka kiss made from shredded corn with spices and coconut is most relished dish of the Sarafa. This one of its kind mouth-watering dish is hardly available anywhere else. Bhutte ka kiss and Dahivada make Joshi a legend in Sarafa and for everyone who visits him.
Sanwariya Seth ki Sabudana Khichdi
Sabudana Khichdi is originated from Maharashtra but certainly found its home & achieved pinnacle only in the streets of Indore as no city in Maharashtra or anywhere else can boast of as many vendors of Sabudana Khichdi as Indore does. It’s available in every nook and corner of Indore and best is concocted by Sanwariya Seth of Sarafa Bazaar.
Sabudan Khichdi is a common food for Fasting days in India and hence also known as Fariyali Sabudana Khichdi everywhere in Indore. Famously the punchline of this shop revolve around this and goes like “Upwas mein best….sanwariya ka test (Test of Sanwariya….best for fasting).” The test of this dish at sanwariya is so dearly tempting and juicy that everyone, irrespective of fasting or no fasting, flocks to this shop to have his share of heavenly feeling. It’s again a permanent shop of Sarafa which serves 40-50kg sabudana khichdi in a day and relished by all.
The owner Jagganath Ji Vyas who belongs to Rajasthan state of Rajput Warriors established this shop way back in 1983 and now with pride his son Om Vyas is carrying the legacy forward. Sabudana must have reached Indore with Maratha Warrior from Maharashtra who ruled the city for centuries, however this delicious dish got its most beloved chef in a Rajasthani from Indore and this is the breathing symbol of eon old cosmopolitan nature of Indore in true sense.
(Foodie’s Note: When you are done with sabudan khichdi here, do buy few packets of potato wafers flavored with hellishly hot red chilli, which will burn all your senses in and out and still leave you to crave for more)
In the great Sarafa Bazaar’s night food market, where every day is a gala day of lavish spread of food items, Agrawal Ice Cream is famous for its desserts items Ice Creams, Kulfi, Faluda and Shrikhand. This 55 years old shop is located just opposite to the Police Station of Sarafa and commands strong fans following.
They still prepare Ice Cream in old and traditional ways which is known as Fresh Saanche ki Icecream (Freach Mould’s Icecream). I met Mr. Mukesh Agarwal who is the son of founder Shiv Narayan Agarwal Ji who came from Amravati in 60’s to start this shop and now Mukesh’s sons are also involved in this family business. Again Amravati is in the south of Indore in the state of Maharashtra, corroborating the fact that Sarafa is by everyone, of everyone, for everyone.
There most famous concoction is the Hapus Icecream made from the pulp of Alphonso Mango, The king of Mangos. They source pure pulp of Alphonso directly from the Ratnagiri which is the only place where original Alphonsos are grown. The quality and test of this particular ice cream is so rich with Alphonso flavor that it feels as if you are eating fresh Alphonso. Their other claim to fame is saffron flavored Shrikhand which also have the small pieces of pistachio and cashews.
If your sweet tooth craves for ice cream then it’s the place on the earth you must go to relish ice cream of olden era. And I must thank Mukesh Ji for extending his earnest hospitality and next time for sure I will visit his shop empty stomach to relish his Kulfi Faluda and other delicacies.
Jai Bhole Jalebi Bhandar
OH-MY-GOD could be the only expression on anyone’s face while ogling at single 250 gram Jalebi being fried in Pure Desi Ghee at this shop and they famously and fondly call it Jaleba the king size Jalebi. This Jaleba was first fried and sugar-coated by Sohan Lal Vyas who hails from Rajasthan in the year 1988. When he first started to dish out this Jaleba in late evening hours from his corner shop, people mocked at him because till then, in Indore, Jalebi was a regular food item to be relished only in morning with Poha (Puffed Rice dish). Mr. Vyas’ good sense prevailed and finally foodies of Indore accepted this savory which is now one of its kinds. With his expert hands, he can prepare one Jaleba of upto 500 gram sizing up to table tennis bat, which is unique, unparalleled and unseen.
This gastronomic piping hot grandeur is a must-have original when you visit Sarafa. Make sure you order only 100 gram Jaleba in one go!!
(Foodie’s Note: If your palate craves for more and stomach allows, you must try Malpua also at this shop which is again mind-blowing!)
Jain Shri baraf Gola
“Arre kya Dhansu Gola gola hai”
“Khaya tha bachpan mein yaad aaya 55 me”
These punchlines tell a lot about the owner of the shop and his marketing mind as no one can miss these line written atop his push-kart. Jain Sahab as fondly known is a man full of vibrancy and has been dishing out colorful Baraf ka golla since many decades. I remember my first visit to this kart in the year 2000 and how affectionately the Baraf ka Gola took me in his embrace. And since then I must have visited his shops for umpteen times and while juicing out Gola I always kept reading those dhansu lines.
So this time when I reached the place which is designated for him, I found a push-kart but he was not there. So just to make sure it is his kart, I searched for the punch line “khaya tha bachpan mein yaad aaya 55 mein” and bingo!! The line was still there vouching that it’s his lorry. Next I asked the teen-aged boy who was busy in crushing the ice about the owner and here Mr. Jain appeared from the behind putting his hand on my shoulders. Yeyy! I really acted like a child seeing him, such is the aura around him, his vibrant shop and his colorfully testy Gola that actually brings out child in you.
Being there was like going back into the whirls of the memories when as a child we used to crush ice and after pouring Rooh-afza used to relish home-made Gola. Orange, Kala Khatta, Khas, Pilawalla (the yellow One), Red Rose etc are the name of the flavors that Mr. Jain prepares at home with his own recipe and also pours some home-made masala on the top of Gola. He claims that with this masala, his Gola never causes any cough or cold.
This Baraf ka Gola is bang opposite Agarwal Icecream Shop and finding myself standing between these two shops was tad too nostalgic and childish feeling for me and in my spot-on dream I weaved my own world full of ice creams, slush, kulfi and colorful ice candies and envisaged myself truly as protagonist of Candy Crush Saga. He he!!
Guys, do visit this shop and when you lick the juice out of gola as if no one is watching.
Anna Bhaiyya’s Pan
As you move out of Sarafa Bazaar and reach Main Rajwada square my strong suggestion is to wind up your indulgence with Anna’s Paan (Betel leaf delicacy). This will certainly heightened your savory senses and ensure the entire Sarafa experience is deeply engraved in your memory.
Anna Bhaiyya’s paan shop is a more than 100 years old shutter less shop which was started by his Father Late Mr. Lala Ram Ji Chaurasiya lovingly known as Lalla Seth and now third generation is also involved in this pride profession. Forefathers of Anna Bhaiyya had the opportunity and distinction to serve Kings of Holkers as well. The shop has also hosted luminaries like first Prime Minister of India Mr. Jawahar Lal Nehru, queen of melody Lata Mangeshker etc.
Indorian have a special appetite for Paans as the city boasts of many famous Pan shops such as legendary Anna Bhaiyya, iconin Parshwnath and omni present Karnawat. They have championed the art of making delicious and mouth dissolving Pan but Anna Bhaiyya’s Shop stands tall and notches above all.
Family of Anna Bhaiyya belongs to the clan of chaurasiya’s from Raibareilly district of Uttar Pradesh and this clan is synonym to the art of Paan making. While interacting with him he passionately disclosed the aspect of evolution of Paan in india. As per him earlier there was nothing like Meetha Paan (Sweet Betel Delicacy) and it’s just a 40-50 years old phenomenon. He listed down some important milestone of this evolution: 1st being the advent of Chaman Bahar and Belgam Paan Masala in sixties, 2nd in early seventies when Baba’s Paan Chatni made the enroute to Paan’s ecosystem, and in between these two milestones somewhere in mid sixties Gulkand (Jam of Wild Roses) came and meetha paan started to roll out from Paan shops in full swing.
Anna Bhaiyya and his family members are the masters in the art of Paan making and his special serving method is a part of Rajwada’s folklore as he never let you to touch the Paan and always pops it in your mouth with his hands only. When his Meetha Paan rolled and twisted with all the ingredients enters your mouth, palate feels refreshed and juicy flavors burst in your mouth making you feel out of this world.
So here ends the tale of Sarafa Bazaar for now. For me, however, this journey was full of nostalgia and brought me closer to my favorite city Indore and its vibrant food culture. I visited this place in the summer and hence missed winter only spicy Garadu Chaat and also as my stomach was full I couldn’t relish other famous shops of Sarafa like Vijay Chaat House, Nagauri Shikanji, Bairav Nath Rabdi Guru and Swadisht Samosa. In my next visit, I will cover these shops and conclude this story of Sarafa.
As a concluding thought I have to admit that the taste of all delicacies is still same as it was 15 years back when I entered this unique and vivid night food street bazaar first time. And I strongly feel that McDonalds and KFCs of the world must visit this place to understand how such standardization is possible without deploying modern technologies. I think it’s possible because food vendors here are passionate about their heritage and have highest order of pride on what they do and serve. May this tradition continue forever!! Amen!!