Welcome to Indore, the city that is often rated as one of the happiest cities of the country in newspapers. And why not? The city’s light-hearted people, vibrant food culture and slow life makes it a fun place to live and enjoy life. But for me, the highlight has always been its historic yet constantly evolving food scene. Local food here will not just win your heart, but please your taste buds, enrich your soul (hell, yes!) and leave a mark on your mind.
I wanted to revisit the busy lanes and tiny food stalls that I explored as a teenager, when I visited the city a few months ago. After attending a family function, I had three days on my own. In spite of wasting a day visiting the loo (I surely had an upset tummy), I was geared up to hit the local food bazaars with my cousins.
First up, we had Poha and Jalebi from a nearby food stall that we have in Gumasta nagar. Later, we reserved our morning routine for the spiritual deities. We went to Khajrana Ganesh temple; fresh flowers, coconut and a box of sweets in my hand. It is said that people often come here to fulfil their wishes. And I had a small list to be taken care of, too.
My cousin had a little fight with a tempo wallah while driving on the road, and the way they were exchanging words angrily! Sweet! Indoris are too sweet to make a fight look ugly. Whereas in our Gurugram, even a gaze from another car driver gives me shivers. Okay, I didn’t say it.
So, it was me and the chilling weather of February and a lot of leg-pulling and giggles coming from my cousins when we went out to enjoy the food of Indore. I was their guest, and my cousins did a fairly great job as food guides.
Also, I would like to mention that Indore has come to be a pretty clean city. They have their segregated trash system in place, and you will hardly see any plastic trash in the city. In fact, no store is allowed to sell stuff in plastic bags. Even the most crowded of the food bazaars had big dustbins kept in front of their food stalls. The city has actually gone a lot cleaner, and that’s commendable.
And, so, here I bring to you, a round-up of the places I went to eat (it’s a serious business, I tell you!). Try not to let the hunger pangs hit you. My good wishes are with you! Also, I might have missed many, many places… but probably that’s why I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Indore in the beautiful state of Madhya Pradesh!
Who doesn’t like to have lunch at a cosy bakery that serves delicious food and freshly baked goodies? We had a South-Indian meal, and it matched our expectations! This bakery (we went to the one at RNT Marg) has an old-world charm, and it was so good to see people selling cookies with a humble smile. I loved the vibe of this place. Before stepping out, however, I bought a few boxes of cookies for my husband. In my bag were Jeera cookies, Nan Khatai, Butter Atta, and Honey Oats cookies. The honey and oats cookies sold on the counter was the best. I was especially surprised to see the prices; coming from Gurugram had its advantages.
Joshi Dahi Bada House
This old food stall in Sarafa market offers a quick respite for people who’re busy shopping for real/artificial jewellery and silver items in this busy lane. I got to taste Bhutte ka kees, which almost melted in my mouth. And then came up the Kachoris; yum! Mind you, these busy food stalls are not meant to be fancy, so don’t expect immaculate and perfumed tables, if you know what I mean.
After shopping in Rajwada, we were too hungry to catch an auto and head home. My cousin quickly took me to a place nearby. I could read a huge board of Vijay Chat. My cousin Sonu and aunt Shobha (whom I call badi ma) promised me that I will love the Khopra Patties, and surely I did! The hot patties laden with spices, grated coconut and crumbly potato was a win-win! Ignore the crowd when here. Frankly, it was too good to be back in these busy lanes; I didn’t miss my swanky food hubs of Gurugram! I promise!
All right. So after visiting temples and spending hours shopping at Rajwada, we finally went to the Rasgulla House (at Gita Bhawan Square) before heading home. At first, I really didn’t understand the fuss about it. I mean, I like Rasgullas, but I can hardly eat more than one. What would be so great about this place, I questioned myself. It was almost evening, and there was hardly any rush at this shop. I could only see old people work here (it’s their family business, said my cousin), and was dumbstruck by the calm I felt here. The magic happened when the old uncle simply served some Rasgullas in a steel dish, and I took a bite into the utterly soft Rasgullas and couldn’t control myself from eating too much! I had 4 to 5 Rasgullas at one go, and oh boy! I couldn’t stop, didn’t want to stop, come what may! You see, this is the charm of the oldest food stalls here that believe in serving good, authentic food, nothing more. These Rasgullas top my list of my favourite food items of Indore, and my aunt gave me a big box back to Gurugram as well. My cousin had a few Rasgullas almost every day when she was pregnant, and I was just not surprised. Have it and you’ll experience heaven on earth. Enough said.
As a teenager, I remember coming to the Chappan Dukan (where they say originally stood 56 food shops), late in the night, and during our busy afternoon outings, relishing various kinds of Maggi noodles, Sabudana Tikkis, Flavoured milk shakes, and much more! This time around, I had Cheese Dabeli, Twisted Potato Rings and a few other things (seriously, I don’t remember the names!). Before going back, I made sure to have some Cholia or Hoole (young green chickpeas) that were roasted and flavoured with hot charcoal and salt. Food hawkers like this become a part of your food memories. My brother has spent seven wonderful years in Indore, and he loves Johnny’s hot dogs (you cannot eat just one!), Dal Bafla (Shree Prathvilok’s), FYI’s awesome Maggi noodles (it has a creative menu that will get in a laughing riot), etc.
It was my last night here in Indore, and we cousins had to include Sarafa to make my trip all the more fun! Where should I even begin? We parked our cars, and it was almost midnight. And we started with Fafda chat. Next up was Sabudana Khichdi. Then, Garadu (fried yam; a winter food speciality). Next, it was Biryani. And we couldn’t stop eating whatever the vibrant bazaar had to offer us! You know, this bazaar is actually a jewellery market that converts into a food bazaar in the night. People of all ages come here and enjoy the food to the fullest! And for us, the winter chill added all the more fun!
My aunt was too sweet to leave me without any food items in my luggage bag; she took me to Om Sweets, and it was almost the last food shop I went to. There were hundreds of snack/namkeen samplers kept on its counters, and I being indecisive, it was tough to select what I like. I anyhow managed to pick up a few snacks that included Fariyali snacks too (for those fasting days).
I missed out on a hell lot of things, but thanks to my upset tummy, my cousins had to spare me from going overboard. Can’t wait for my next trip! Also, try not to rate every item that you taste here. When the food critic gets in you, can hardly let the flavours do its trick.
Indore is all about its street food that is historic in its own way, and the people here surely value them too, along with the new restaurants that have come up. For instance, tiny sweet shops like Sawariya Sweets that sell pure ghee sweets like the Kesariya Peda (has natural food colour in it) that may be highly priced but is totally worth it. My cousin Khushbu loves it because of its natural ingredients like milk and saffron. These are a few of the things that you can take home, and also Jeeravan powder for that matter. Sprinkle this masala on poha or khichdi, and enjoy the flavour of Indore!
PS. While flying back to Delhi, I had two jute/cotton bags full of food items. You can understand my plight.