Cheat Sheet Fact of Life: The Indian street food is innovative and yummy.
I was initiated into eating street food by one of my cousin sisters. She stayed at our home during her polytechnic studies. During summer vacations, we used to travel to her hometown, Hyderabad, on a train. The focal point of the train journey was the samosas at Aler station. All through the 3.5 hours journey, we used to wait for the Aler station. It would not matter how uncomfortable we were among other passengers; drenched in sweat, fighting for the share space for our butts, or standing holding on to the seats, the samosas had to be relished.
At Aler station, the smell of the samosas, dominated by the smell of caramelized onions, would waft into the compartment. After that, we would hear the voice of the vendor, ‘Samosa, samosa, garam, garam samosa’. Our sensory organs would perk up, expecting something delicious and unhealthy.
The vendor came in front of us, with his brown basket, covered with newspapers on all sides. At our call for samosas, he would place the basket on the floor, which brought into our view, the triangular shaped samosas, which were half the size of my palm.
My sister would ask, ‘Bhaiyya, how much is the price? Are they hot?’
He used to say, ‘I got them out just now. Rs. 10 for five’.
My sister would open her purse and buy five samosas, which the vendor gave to us wrapped in a newspaper, carrying the news of the past in black and white print. Before we devoured the samosas, the newspaper greedily drank the oil, sticking on to the samosas. Then we slowly savored the samosas, biting into the crusty bland brown skin first, before getting to the spicy interior. After that, with our tummies were satisfied and a smile on our lips, we resumed the journey. The samosas at Aler were our little secret, never to be revealed to our mothers’. Those forbidden samosas were the best that I have ever tasted in my life.
After the summer vacations of the 90’s, I did have occasional street food with friends, during my engineering days, at Gokul Chat in Koti, in the early 2000s. After a gap of 6 years, I was reinitiated into street food by my hubby. The area we live in Bangalore is infested with the street food joints, making dosas, Vada pav, samosas, bajji, momos, pani puri and what not. Yesterday, as I bit into the Schezwan paneer masala dosa, I thought about why it was so delicious. I saw the cook sprinkling water on to the sizzling black pan, to make another dosa. I wondered if he cleaned the pan often, and if all those remains from the previous generations of dosas, gave an additional taste to the dosas.
The variety of street food in India is enormous, with innumerable innovations. Take for example, the Schezwan paneer masala dosa, which is a fusion of South Indian, North Indian and Chinese food. Compared to the bland crepes of Europe, our street side non-descript chefs make their own international class dosas, which taste out of the world.
Bless the Indian street food, which brings unexpected flavors and calories into our otherwise routine lives!