One of India’s biggest achievements, according to me, is the diverse culinary portfolio it has developed, owing to various influences, from Persian to Portuguese. The best way to experience the product of this cultural mingling is to visit the food markets that have organically developed over the years, into bustling bazaars of commerce and gastronomy, ready to parallel any big food court in the malls of urbanised India. While we all know the magic of parathe wali galli or chandini chowk, there are equally exciting markets around India that while being popular among locals, are not talked about by the rest of us as much as they should be. So here are some of the country’s most beautiful food bazaars, that along with having intriguing historic and cultural pasts, satisfy the adventurous foodie’s appetite.
I. Manek Chowk, Ahmedabad
Manek Chowk in Ahmedabad is one of those distinct Indian spaces which are jewellery markets during the day but turn into a foodie’s paradise just when the sun sets. An iconic area in old Ahmedabad, it houses within it historic structures like the Jama Mosque. Food wise, it offers a plethora of options. Famed here is it’s Gwalior Dosa, Meetha Pan, Rabdi Kulfi, and a huge array of sandwiches with different stuffing. Head on over the area post 10 pm to give yourself an entirely different meaning to a good night out in the town.
II. Police Bazaar, Shillong
The area boasts a good stock of street food as well as joints like Trattoria’s to suit your culinary needs. If you’re adventurous, you could try out Jodah, a traditional dish cooked with chicken blood, served with liver and pickled bamboo (those who’ve tasted it swear by its deliciousness). There is also a variety of barbecued meats like beef and pork, meat cutlets and curries, fresh produce and fruits like strawberries, raspberries, mulberries and Sohshang, a local tart berry available for people to try.
III. Sarafa Bazaar, Indore
Another iconic example of India’s jewellery market by day and foodie hotspot by night, Indore’s Sarafa Bazaar comes alive when the clock strikes ten. It presents a range of classic north Indian chaat as well as unique local specialities like Bhutte ki kees - corn cooked in milk and various spices, garnished with lemon and coconut. Other favourites include deep-fried yam called Garadu, a popular winter snack, and curd-based shikanji. Near Sarafa is Chappan Dukaan, translating to 56 shops, a row of chaat houses and food joints serving hot dogs, cutlets, and more.
IV. Ghantagar Bazaar, Jodhpur
The historic market-town of Jodhpur is a wonderful place to unwind after a trip to Mehrangarh For nearby. The market can be accessed through a set of stairs going downwards from the fort’s entrance, the walk also giving you a chance to admire the city’s famous blue houses up-close. The famed crispy onion kachori should definitely be on the food list, as well as thick, cold lassi at Mishrilal’s. In the area are also heritage restaurants and other regular joints that serve traditional Rajasthani food like Dal Batti and Churma.
V. Mosque Road, Bangalore
Mosque Road in Frazer town is a huge commercial centre, also popularly known as ‘foodie’s paradise’ to locals. It has numerous eateries and joints like Empire and Savoury that are open round the year, but the true magic lies during Ramadan season. During the festival, numerous stalls are set up making special Iftar treats like mutton kheema, sheek kebab, beef sukka, pathar ghost and much more. They also serve a range of desserts like firni and cupckaes.
VI. Ratri Bazaar, Baroda
An initiative of Vadodara Mahanagar Seva Sadan, Ratri Bazaar is one of the most popular night markets in the city, open till almost 1 am to serve hungry customers. Delicious Biryani from one of their many stalls as well as kulfi from Ashrafilal’s is a must-try, along with the Cadbury-pizza for those with an adventurous stomach. Also famous is Champak bhai’s paani puri, where he not only stocks your regular jal-jeera and meetha pani, but also has flavours like mint and garlic-lemon. Finish off your feast with a thick, cold and sweet glass of ‘cold choco’.
VII. Chowk, Lucknow
Extending from the Gol Darwaza to the Akbari Darwaza, Lucknow’s Chowk is one of its oldest marketplaces and still retains an old-world, antique vibe. It boasts an array of lip-smacking Awadhi and Mughlai dishes, especially for meat lovers. Things to try here are tunday kebabs, biriyani, shawarmas, basket tokri chat, sheermal and shahi Tukda, just to name a few. Eating nihari and kulcha at Rahim’s is also something locals swear by.
VIII. Territy Bazaar, Kolkata
Not many people know about Kolkata’s unique community of Chinese migrants who settled in the area in the 1950’s, bringing to the city their distinct cuisine and culture. Territy Bazaar located on Surya Sen road is a morning market, which starts around 5 am and lasts for a few hours, presenting number of interesting Chinese dishes for people to try. Fish momo dumplings, fish ball soup, breaded pork chops, sticky rice, sui mai, fried pork dumplings, sesame seed rice balls are just some of the items on the menu. The market is definitely worth getting up for in the wee hours of the morning, but keep in mind that it is shut on Mondays.
IX. Mg Marg, Gangtok
This picturesque market place in Gangtok is known for its beautiful street-way, with ornate lamps and clean roads that make it an ideal place to go food-hopping in it’s many eateries. The lane has a good mix of places where one could try traditional Sikkimese cuisine like 9’ine as well as modern cafes and bakeries such as Live n’ Loud (try their locally-brewed beer here). Taste of Tibet is a great place to get a steamy bowl of thukpa, and Hotel Sandhya - a hole in the wall joint is known for the best veg momos in town.
X. Mohammad Ali Road, Mumbai
The road is popular for its array of flavourful fares like kheema samosas, nalli nihari, colourful chicken kebabs in interesting flavours, mutton kheema rolls, fresh fruit salads and more. It also serves traditional sweet desserts such as the Aflatoon and the delicious Burhanpur Jalebi. Do try the masala milk at Noorani Milk Centre and Kebab platters at Shalimar. Like Frazer town in Bangalore, this street becomes a meat-lover’s haven during Ramadan.
Feature Image Courtesy: Madhya Pradesh Tourism
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