Monday, December 09, 2013

The food convert

Kebabs to Vada Paos
Biryanis to Bhakris
Dal Paranthas to Puran Polis
Tunde to Bedekar
Lucknow to Pune. It was quite a gastronomic shocker. And a confession ..I found the grandest Maharashtrian food too plebeian, compared to even everyday Lucknowi cuisine. 

First there's the pao factor
Everything has to be eaten with the quintessntial pao (bread) - vada pao, pao bhaji, misal pao, keema pao and if you've got nothing better there's maska pao.

Then there are the names
The nomenclature did me in. I mean why would you call a simple chhole tikki - ragda pattice (Yes Pattice NOT Patties)? And there was the weird sounding kacchi dabeli, which had nothing to do with Kutch. What a complicated name for a pao (again!) with some filling! and Jhunka Bhakar.. oh it was absolute gibberish.

And then ...
...very slowly, like most things simple and unpretentious, Puneri food wove it's magic. Before I knew it I was standing at a raodside stall watching the vendor deftly throw in ruby red pomegranate seeds and crunchy peanuts into my kacchi dabeli. When it rained I craved the vada pao. The December nip in the air drove me to the city seeking out famous misal joints. I'd sit there sweat pouring from my face despite the cold, nose running as I dipped into the devilishly hot misal served straight from a boiling cauldron... and then I would be done for the day.

The most famous Bedekar Misal is served with bread. and you can add that gravy to make it spicier. Whew!
Finally there's the thali.
What stole my heart completely, was the Maharashtrian thali. To begin with I love the concept of food without frills. At the thali joints food is served in a very Puneri, very no nonsense manner, none of the Awadhi formality here. By the time a Lakhnawi would get over with his 'tashreef rakhiyes' and 'naush farmaiyes', the thali joints would have welcomed, served and sent off a a bunch of customers and very happy customers at that. 

A typical thali joint would look like this. The plates are already laid out so food comes on as soon as you're seated. You don't place a order since the fare is standardised. This picture is taken at Durvankur.
Of course there's the issue of finding a place to sit. It's like you're the enemy till you're seated and then you transform into a cherished guest. Your plate fills up miraculously and you're plied with food in a typically Indian ' you-must-eat-till-you-can't-move' manner. The ambience is nothing to write home about but the food is right up there at the top.

Sample this...
The accompaniments.. Meethi chutney, teekhi chutney, nariyal chutney, shengdana chutney.... take your pick
The basic stuff
What you cannot see is the many kinds of chapatis.. Bhakri, missi roti, puri, along with the wheat rotis, and there's rice.. masala rice, khichdi, plain rice topped off with dollops of ghee.. no skimping here. You cannot even sample them all let alone have your fill of each. 

So if you ever come to Pune my advice would be skip the biggies, go for the traditional fare to feel like a true blue Punekar.

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th - 14th December 2013. Today's prompt is 'food'. For some scrumptious entries click here..


  1. i love the simple Maharashtraian food. vada pao, traditional thali, kothmir vadis, puran polis, sheera and taak(buttermilk).and loved your post.

  2. I love the maharashtrian thali but can barely tolerate pao. We used to get these various variants of pao dishes at work place in the evenings and or for breakfast and I used to have everything without the pao. The thali pic is so tempting... I feel like having that now! :D

  3. Oh yes, I too love the maharastrian food. Somehow the vada pal is my favourite. I am yet to taste the thali, but after reading your post it is for sure that next time I am in Pune will surely taste it. A mouth watering post though.

  4. The thali looks heavenly.....would love to try this when I get the chance! I had had vada pao once when in Mumbai but frankly don't know why all the hulla around it! U from Lucknow....sigh the tunde kebab...nothing in the world can beat them!

  5. Kalpana.. Thanks for adding to the post.. Taak and kothmir vadis.. Lovely.

    Shilpa.. I've grown to love the pao for it's easy availability and ease of consumption.

    Thanks gpadmanabha.. Give me a buzz when you're here.

    Aditi.. He he yeah Tunde is awesome but since I turned a vegetarian it has kind of lost it's charm.

  6. Thali looks delicious. Would like to try it once :)

  7. Maharashtrian food is treat for the spice loving ones. The bhakar vadis and alu vadis are my favourite. Also the coconut barfi! The pictures look delicious!

  8. Maharashtrian food is something that has grown on me too. I love the simplicity of it and how tasty it is without all those heavy masalas!

  9. Now I'm craving Maharashtraian food!!
    I love cooking and eating simple yet delicious food! :)
    And Pav bhaaji and vada pav are an all time favorite!

  10. Pune seems like the city for all those looking for gastronomical delights to visit. Lovely post

  11. Thali looks yummy. But I love the pao stuff - homesick now for vada pao and ragda pattice.

  12. Dabeli is my ultimate love. My no trip to Mumbai gets completed without eating two or three dabeli. Loved the post.

  13. Wow, that thali looks brilliant. Just like your post :)

  14. I would definitely go for the varieties of 'Paos' and the Kacchi Dabeli. The thali is a strict NO-NO for me as I can't eat too much. The husband would definitely be interested in the Thali. No doubt. Thanks for sharing! :-)

  15. you have no idea of the irony here.. i was sitting in Pune when this was published :D

    But didnt get to read it till now... when I first came from kerala to Pune, I struggled with maharashtrain cuisine to be frank.. but after that, really grew to love it. Even this time, was much the same.

  16. I am from Lucknow and I can imagine a similar transition if something like this happened to me (read Pune!) and tell me more? Where did you live in lucknow? Catch up on fb with me on this :D


  17. A Lucknowite.. wow.. Richa good to meet you. Yup see you on FB.

  18. yum yum yum...i belong to nagpur...and I can vouch for the deliciousness of these maharashtrian delicacies!!! love it!

  19. That's great Little Princess ... Maharashtrian food grows on you.


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