Bhutte ka kees (l) & Garadu are popular street foods in Indore. Photos: Shirin Mehrotra
“This is Sarafa market, you will feel a different vibe here in the night,” said Amrita, my friend and host in Indore, as we drove through the tiny by-lanes during the day. In a city where food is a conversation starter, my hopes were high and I couldn’t wait to dive headlong into the street, which has many seasoned food writers swearing by it. I walk in at Sarafa, armed with my curiosity and appetite.
The shops that had gold and silver jewellery shining through their windows now had their shutters down, and the street was lined with makeshift food stalls. Amrita has the itinerary chalked out listing down everything I must try with room for whatever catches my fancy.
We start with hare chhod aur hare batle ki kachori. The flaky kachori stuffed with sweet and spicy mash of green gram and green peas is a reason why winter is the best time to be in Sarafa. In other seasons, the fresh produce is replaced with urad dal. The chutneys – spicy green and sweet red – are the heart and soul of the kachoris in Indore and there’s a rare uniformity of taste almost everywhere.
Bhutte ka kees is next on our list so we walk past stalls selling sandwiches, kulfis and even Chinese food – rather new addition to add to the variety - to get to our destination. There, towards the end of the street, sits our man with a large dish of bright yellow bhutte ka kees.
Kachori (l) & dahi vada at Sarafa market. Photos: Shirin Mehrotra
We’re served a plate topped with spices, lime juice and a generous garnish of green coriander. One bite and I am already marvelling at the sheer thought put behind this culinary excellence. The grated corn (usually sweet corn, now that it’s largely available) is cooked in milk for hours till it’s soft and fluffy and the special Indori spices take the sweetness of the corn a several notches up.
Garadu(a variety of yam) is another winter speciality. The root is chopped up and fried twice before being tossed in spices and lime juice. The crisp and spicy snack can give any potato wedge worth its salt a run for its money.
Food is not just about business for the people in Indore. It’s a creative outlet, case in point wafers bana ke – simple potato wafers crushed a bit and tossed with chaat masala, red chilli powder, lime juice and coriander; a tell-tale sign of the Indori love for innovation and everything chatpata (spicy).
We paired it with sabudana khichdiat Sanwariya. The khichdi too is unlike anything you’ll find in Maharashtra or UP. The sabudana (tapioca pearls) is kept on double boiler where it slowly gets steamed. This is then mixed with fried peanuts, sev, green chillies, green coriander, jeeravan masala (the go-to chaat masala for Indoris) and served with a spritz of lime.
Hara chana on the streets of Indore. Photo: Shirin Mehrotra
The seasonal winter produce attracted us too – kabeet (wood apple) ki chutney was a revelation with its crunchy seeds and sweet and sour flavour, 10 flavour pani puri with kanji (fermented mustard seed drink) gave us nice kick, and we made a pit stop at the cart selling roasted and salted green gram before arriving at Joshi Dahi Bada House.
One of the oldest at Sarafa Bazaar, the dahi badas here are as famous as the owner Omprakash Joshi’s marvellous show. He takes a plate of dahi bada, throws it in the air and catches it right back without spilling even a single drop of dahi. The showmanship hidden in the streets of India is what makes its street food so fascinating.
After a two hour walk in the Sarafa market, we walk out with a Cheshire grin on our face and Anna’s meeta paan in our mouth to call it a night.
To sum up, this and what and where to eat in Sarafa market.
What and where to eat:
Hare chhod aur hare battle ki kachori at the shop right at the entrance of Sarafa Bazaar