Not just Mumbai and Delhi, in Bangalore too, when the sun sets, the khau galli comes to life. I have been hearing about this Food Street in Bangalore in several conversations with friends, and I finally make my way there one weekend. Known locally as Thindi Beedi, (literal translation) this street stretches out long and narrow in front of me, filled with eateries on both sides and with several thelas (carts) spilling over to the road.
We have been advised to check out all the shops before deciding on the night’s menu, and so duly make our way down the street with the same in mind. However, at the third stall, selling holige (a sweet made with jaggery, known as puranpoli in Hindi) our resolve crumbles. The cook stands rooted to his spot, patting the dough filled with the jaggery, his fingers flying over the hot stove, now putting one more on it, now turning a semi-cooked one or taking one off it. He has a helper who serves it piping hot to the waiting customers, after adding a generous dollop of ghee on top. And piping hot is how you should eat it, blowing the steam off one heavenly bite after the other.
Akki roti is traditionally made for breakfast or dinner.
The way to derive maximum enjoyment from Food Street is to sample judiciously and return to what you really like; as many stalls and as many types of food as possible. Of course, it could (and indeed does) happen that several of these small samples make a heavy meal in itself and there is just no room for seconds. There is street food of every kind here, from Karnataka specialties like akki roti (a thin roti made with rice flour and eaten with spicy chutney and curry) and holige, to typically north Indian chaat (I remember reading somewhere that the chaatwala is originally from Ajmer) and Bombay’s famous pav bhaji and vada pav. Then there are the shops selling only south Indian short eats, from steaming hot idli, vada, stuffed mirchi bhajji and paniyaram, while others offer a 'multi-cuisine' eating experience, which includes scrumptious Indian Chinese - the ‘Gobi Manjurin’ variety.
A vendor preparing sweets at Thindi Beedi.
The specialty of Thindi Beedi however is dosa.There is a huge a variety on offer, from the usual suspects like masala and rava, to ragi and podi roast, all the way to bhathmasala dosa – a name that invites closer inspection! My advice is to close your eyes to the ghee and butter that go into the making of both dosa and holige. Regulars also seem to believe that the right way to end a meal at Thindi Beedi is by washing it down with badam milk, served hot or cold. If that is not really your thing, then definitely go for a Gulkand ice-cream, or the very least, a masala Pepsi or goli soda at the Shivanna Gulkhan Centre on your way back.
Shops selling south Indian snacks like stuffed mirchi bhajjis are very popular here.
On a weekend night, the entire area has the feel of a mela - parents with children, groups of friends (one orders twenty pieces of holige in front of me, causing a mini stampede among the waiting crowds), balloon sellers and plastic toy vendors. Thindi Beedi is very popular with locals as a weekend evening destination for the entire family. Unlike most small eateries in Bangalore, this is open till late in the night, and there is something for everyone. The food (all vegetarian) is reasonably priced, with most costing between Rs. 20 to 30. And the best thing is that everything is fresh and hot, made in front of you and consumed before it has even had a chance to cool.
Getting there: Food Street is located at V.V. Puram, close to the Lalbagh West Gate. It is open all days of the week, from 6 p.m. till about 11 p.m. The weeks before Sankranti (mid-December to mid-January) are a good time to go to Food Street, since vendors are known to rustle up regional food specialties with avarebele (broad beans).