“I’ll have some of the Radha Pallobi.”
A friend of mine, a newcomer to Market No. 1, Chittaranjan Park, had just wiped clean a plateful of Bengali sweets – chomchom, rajbhog, sandesh and yes, rasgullas.
“Splendid idea.” I told her. “You’ve had far too many sweets anyway.”
“Wait, what? Isn’t Radha Pallobi a sweet? It sure sounds like one!”
I shook my head and handed over to her a plate of steaming hot Radha Pallobi – stuffed luchis with delicious aloo dum. She was taken aback momentarily, but soon dug in with enthusiasm, much to the shop-owner’s joy.
My friend was no exception; most people on their first trip to C.R. Park are gastronomically overwhelmed at the sheer expanse of this mini-Kolkata. There’s the chaat corner, for instance. They have soft fuchkas – or panipuri – which they fill with a yum mixture of mashed potatoes, chillies and fragrant lemons. They have mangsho-ghughni – chickpeas infused with delicious spices, and hold your breath, mutton. And then there’s jhalmuri too – tall cones of puffed rice flavoured with green chillies, onions, tomatoes, spices and namkeen.
When you cross the chaat corner, you reach the section I call the carnivore’s delight. There are live stations serving mughlai parathas, double chicken and egg rolls, fish cutlets, devilled egg chops, and chicken tandoori. And after you have had your fill, you can browse through rows and rows of fish and pick the ones you want to take home and convert into divine shorshe-diye fish curry.
“Don’t you absolutely crave for all this in Pune?” my friend spoke through mouthfuls of soya chaap, simultaneously eying glasses of chilled banta (masala lemonade) being served across the street.
Wondering about her question, I mull over the street-food options in Pune. There’s the omnipresent vada-paau and dabeli, the glasses of kulfi-falooda, paau-bhaaji, bhuttas, and the mushrooming Chinese stations serving interesting combinations of rice/noodles with chicken, eggs and paneer. From my initial, nervous tryst with Maharashtrian cuisine, to a more comfortable place seven years later, things have improved.
But there’s no denying that whenever I am in Delhi, walking down the streets of Chittaranjan Park, the fragrance of the foods on offer brings a spring in my step. It’s the flavour that’s mesmerizing. It’s the flavour of nostalgia and memories featuring Mom – something no one anywhere can quite re-create.
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