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..

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