Street Food from across the Border?


Update for Week ended 5 October 2012

In my childhood, whenever I visited Bombay, I would always ensure that one of my “must do” was to eat the hotchpotch of fried flour cakes, puffed rice, boiled potatoes, chopped onions and a myriad of tasty and tangy sauces, the Bombay Bhelpuri. And we had our favourite little store in the compound of a building, which was more a stall than a store. And the special instruction for my Bhelpuri was “pure meetha” – only sweet. What it meant was that the fiery green chutney made of mint, coriander and chillies was to be excluded, that is it… it was not a dessert, but minus the fire. But these days, I notice a different version of the omnipresent and must have street food, which sounds like an import but I am sure it is not – the Chinese Bhel. This is made of finely sliced cabbage leaves, green, crispy and carefully stored in a steel container, dabba, while the other ingredients that find a place in this hotchpotch are a vinegary version of the green chilli sauce, some fried noodles, crunchy and golden coloured. The last ingredient that brings it all together is a red, fiery, garlicy, sweet and sour Schezwan sauce. They are all assembled in a  bowl and given a good stir and coated with the red sauce to then be carefully plated in a heap on a plate for the hungry street customer. Have you tried it? Well, maybe not, since the stylized Bhel-shops that have got sanitized all over Bombay don’t serve this yet…. So you won’t find it at the “Chaat stalls” in the new malls nor at the wanna-be-hip store on Hill Road in Bandra, or even at the Bhel Mecca of the sixties and seventies – at Nana’s Chowk. Yes, you are likely to find this on pavements in Central Bombay run by an unsuspecting  matronly auntie wearing a colourful sari, with her hair tied into a tight bun, a large red bindi on her forehead, and the green bangles jingling on her thick wrists and forearms, as she carefully tosses the bhel together!

This week at D Street was kind of lacklustre and almost ho-hum boring – like the not so happening cabbage. But it was after a euphoric week, when the D Boy z had tossed their SENSEX into the green territory to nearly reach the 19,000 levels . And then someone announced some more reforms and the D Boyz felt so elated that they descended to the streets to ask the local auntie who had just set up a “beach umbrella on the street stall” to stir up some lipsmacking Chinese Bhel. She tossed more than a handful of the thinly sliced green cabbage and the boys drooled over their snack. The SENSEX drooled too as it shot above the 19,000 levels. And when she finally added the red hot Schezwan sauce, and the D Boyz dunked into their little plates of the sweet, sour and very very spicy Bhel, their eyes watered, letting their fingers punch in wrong codes and let the SENSEX slip (some people say that the N Boyz of the B K Complex Boyz fame got a concoction of wrong sauces in their bhel, and hence took their NIFTY diving faster than the SENSEX, but thanks to the Matronly Auntie on D Street who advised the B K Complex auntie how to rectify the error and all was well, though some red sauce had been spilt). SENSEX moved and ended at 18938….

Talking of Schezwan meals…. well, I had an opportunity to dig into true Chinese Sichuan (which is how they spell it) which was chilli, chilli and more cilli, tempered with some pepper, pink and Sichuan…. So our drinks had chilli, the starters, entrée, main course all had kilos and kilos of the red chillis, and my ice cream was buzzing with schezwan pink peppercorns…. All this left me hiccupping for 2 hours that night. Don’t ask me of the morning after, please!

Have a nice week… and share your experiences with the new Street Chinese Bhel.

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