Local hidden gems

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My husband is a huge falooda fan. One of his friends recommended a local street shop called SK in Sadar Bazaar in old Gurgaon, for some lip-smacking falooda. So, we decided to check it out.

When we reached SK, I was totally surprised to see a shop so tiny and yet so popular. There was, however, no falooda; it’s only available in summers. We took a quick look and just when we were about to move towards our car, the shopkeeper offered me a small wooden piece to eat. “Try kijiye, madam,” he said. “Huh? What is this? This will break my teeth!” I laughed a sarcastic laugh, looked at my husband, and asked him to try first. But, he asked the dukaan-wala again, “What is it, bhaiya?” in total bewilderment.

It was crunchy and sweet, and we didn’t want to stop eating it! “Yeh Gud Gatta hai, madam,” the shopkeeper said. Gud means jaggery and gatta means a kind of a knot. Gud Gatta amazed us, and since then, we also love to see the same reactions from our relatives and friends when they see it. Now, a visit to SK is a must in winters. Apart from Gud Gatta, we also make sure to buy some ghee rewadi (groundnut chikki) and gajak (thin jaggery sheets made with sesame seeds, rose petals, etc.)

Local bazaars in every city has something special to offer, it only depends on how willing you are to get lost in the crowd and try something new. It might be new to you, but, the street food that you tried, can be something that’s been sold since decades.

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Another local snack item that I absolutely love to eat is Rasikbhai Chevdawala’s green chutney. Originally from Rajkot, Rasikbhai Chevdawala’s flavoursome snack items are available in many cities in Gujarat and also in Mumbai (Chedda stores in Matunga has it at their payment counters). To me, this green chutney that’s made with peanuts, green chillies and some other ingredients, tastes like a lemon chutney. It’s sour and grainy, and I can’t stop eating it. You’re supposed to have it with potato chips. I make sure to have a box of this green chutney in my fridge. You can add some yogurt or water to a small amount of the green chutney and add it to your bhel. It tastes divine!
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Once, my cousin sister from Chennai came to visit us in Gurgaon. So, we decided to hang out at Galleria market, but before that, we made a quick stopover at Vyapar Kendra in Sushant Lok for some pani-puri (a popular roadside snack item). My cousin gave me a quick shout-out, when she saw a small stall selling Sakthi’s spice mixtures. “I use Sakthi’s rasam and sambhar masala, and it’s amazing! Do try it,” she excitedly said to me. That cousin of mine is an amazing cook, so I had to take notes. I was surprised, as something that’s popular in Chennai, can also be available in Gurgaon. The next time when my rasam and sambhar powders were out of stock, I went to Vyapar Kendra and got these spice mixtures. Today, I must say, I’m fixated to them! They add a great taste to my South-Indian curries, and I can’t stop bragging. I also got some other mixtures, like the one that goes with lemon rice.

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Talking of spices, once my neighbour aunty (in Surat) asked me to get two jars of Roopak’s Puri Aloo Masala from Delhi NCR. She’s someone I look up to, especially when it comes to cooking. When I asked its speciality, she said, “All you have to do, is add a spoon of this masala, and your potato curry is set!” Later on, I also met many other local women, who couldn’t stop praising of Roopak’s spices. I also tried the brand’s mango pickle, and it was great. Many NRI women make sure to buy a huge stock of Roopak spices, before leaving India. A few years back, I was shopping in Karol Bagh, in Delhi, and I found a big store of Roopak. Standing at its door, I could see stacks of spices, pickles, etc. kept inside. I’ll never forget that sight. It was truly a spice mecca. I make sure to use this precious spice mixture sparingly.

These are a few local gems that I love, dear readers. I feel lucky to have discovered them. They complete my pantry. What are your favourite local goodies?

Language note:
Dukaan-wala – Shopkeeper
Bhaiya – Brother
Falooda – A lip-smacking Asian dessert that comes in a glass that has cream, vermicelli, sweet basil seeds, rose syrup, crushed ice pieces, etc.
Bhel – An Indian snack recipe made with puffed rice, onion, tomato, spices, lemon, coriander, etc.

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