A country without good street food is a country not worth visiting. We like watching Eat Street on Fox Traveller channel, Sunday 9pm, about street food trucks in North America – even Vancouver is coming up with some interesting street food. Who woulda thunk it?! Our Indian street food is legendary. Every city’s got a khao gulli (literally translated to Eat street). You’ve got Mumbai’s Pav Bhaji and Vada Pav, Delhi’s aloo tikis and chaat stalls, Calcutta’s chinese food stalls and jhal muri gully, Chennai’s Kai Yendhi Bhavan, Parrry’s Corner and the alleys around Mylapore temple, famous for its Rose milk and pakodas. And a small food cart in Alleppey served up the best kerala parotta and mussles and clams curry I have ever tasted. Street food in Vizag is pretty poor. One usually abandons all sense of hygiene when it comes to Indian street food but I just wouldn’t risk it on the Sulphur soaked streets of Vizag. But there are two chaps who have entered our streets – a pani puri guy who will punch and fill your gol gappa (not a euphemism, these are real words) before you’ve scoffed the one in the your hand (more on him when he lets me film him at work). And after that spicy treat, you move over to the Bombay Falooda stall.
Falooda is a refreshing badam (almond) milk with vermicelli and icecream dessert. It’s basically an assembly job starting with vermicelli at the bottom, then the tapioca pearls which look like fish roe or caviar, two ladlefuls of cool creamy thick badam milk, a dollop of ice cream that floats and slowly melts in to milk. Then comes the assorted khish-mish (sweets and nuts): cashews, pistachios, raisins, small square cut jellies or tutti-frutti as they are known here, and rose syrup. If you live in India (or the middle east where it is also popular) and haven’t had one of these at all or recently, you must have one. It is so refreshing and comforting, like you are in a little cold cocoon of your own, shielded from the humid summer. Street desserts never tasted so good.
The assorted Kish mish are neatly arranged on the front counter and each are dipped in to with a precision pinch of the fingers.
The stall itself is a cute little blue autorichshaw which holds the cool boxes that contain the ice-cream and badam milk. There is no apparent electrical source that’s keeping the boxes cool. It’s just the materials used, such as layers of insulating thermacol that keep it cool. The whole thing folds up and can be transported anywhere. What I like best about his set up, is the very clean looking tall glasses on display on the counter, with cute little flower prints on them. It shows that a little thought has gone in to the presentation and the element of cleanliness is vital when you’re eating food that’s not cooked, on the street. You also get a long metal teaspoon that lets you dip in to the bottom of the glass. We suspect that the man of the hour, smartly dressed in his safari suit, used to be a cook in the Navy, now retired. According to my husband, the proportions and manner in which he constructs the Falooda is unmistakably done in “the Navy way”.
I really missed street food in the UK. The most I ever ate by way of street food was on the Embankment – a man frying sausages and onions stuffed in to a hot dog bun. Or roasted chestnuts. The hot dogs were warm and filling on a cold winter’s night, although too bland for me in flavour. And sadly, I don’t like the taste of chestnuts. Having said that, London is still great place to be in.
Somehow things in India are a lot more loud and colourful, constantly over the top and entertaining. The Falooda man’s stall is a classic case in point. Located under a large shady tamarind tree opposite the Scindia Junction market, there is always a steady stream of customers waiting to cool off . In the day it’s shoppers and students and in the evening, the place is crammed with hungry sailors on liberty before they head back to their ships. He sells other stuff as well such as Lassi and milk shakes. Although, I’m yet to find out why all over India, these little food carts are prefixed with the word “Bombay”. The spelling of Falooda, Pan-jabi and ice “crem” are also up for debate. His slogan appears to be “Panjabi Kulfi, Bombay Mastani”. Kulfi is a frozen milk dessert flavoured usually with almond, pistachio and rose milk. So perhaps, Kulfi from punjab with the fun of Bombay?