Chatpata Banaras ( Varanasi)
In these two days, Banaras had already left us awestruck with the way it brought life and death together in its lap. The past blogs on the city must have left a desire in you as an urban traveller to get up and close with its culture. And what’s better than food to bind it all. People here are fond of food, their routine has instances that bring the daily life to a different level with discussions over tea, simple pleasures they seek in simple yet unique foods. I would take you through my experiences which surely would bring you to the city once in your lifetime .
Streets here in Banaras have this predominance of food carts everywhere. From tea shops to paan shops one can see business everywhere, which explains the love for food in the city. We kept looking around and eagerly awaiting for our first food stop when we made our way through some narrow streets of old varanasi quite clueless where we would head to and to our relief( we were hungry) we reached a lassi shop….BLUE LASSI SHOP…and to our curious heads came a question..why is it called Blue Lassi…it could have better names like banarasi…ganga…etc etc…And the walk operator informed us that its called Blue lassi shop because its walls are BLUE in color …Then came a huge list of lassi..to chose from ..When we randomly chose one from each page and eagerly waited for our share. The lassi was so divine and not be missed when in Banaras. They had modern time fruits like blueberry flavored lassi . This reflects the modern influence to historic Banarasi lassi.
Our expectation and hunger increased after our first tryst with luring lassi, we got hungrier and greedy for more , with no idea on how our stomach would react to this explosion of flavours.
With our hungry souls we again made our way through the narrow streets and reached thathera bazaar. With our excitement on all time high and we landed in a shop to have Samosa chaat. An indian pie filled with spicey poato filling and rolled up in a triangular pie which is then deep frid and served hot.
A spicy Indian all time favourite snack tastes best in banaras. It was crisp and had the right mix of sweet and sour. Can still have my mouth watering when I remember the burst of flavours each bite carried. The only thing which stopped us to have a second helping was the urge of eating more such delicacies during the walk…else each of these were worth a few more servings!!
After the hearty Samosa chaat …the next destination was at a tea shop. Only thing we expected was a hot cup of tea to settle down the spicy samosa chat. But the city just wraps you up in small things like a cup of Chai. The shop was busy with customers even at that strange hour of the day and busier were the staff boiling big pots of tea and toasting the slices of bread over the naked flame of tandoor in some strange looking wire mesh holders. I stopped at it and curiously asked how was that toasted bread served. The shop keeper told that i must wait and try it with my cup of tea. Eagerly waiting for it and over yet another session of discussion we learnt a community culture of banarasee( this is how the locals are popularly addressed). They love to sit and have cup (read many cups) of tea over a discussion. This is called ADDEE LAGANA( to sit in a group to discuss over a cup of tea), and air is filled with the echos of topics from politics to social issues and its popular to have three to four sessions in a day. Popular saying goes Do Teen addee naheen lagayee to kahe ke Banarasee ( two to three sessions are must to be identified as Banaraseea)Then arrived a smiling staff with kulhad of chai(earthen pots meant for serving tea)and to our delight we were served malai toast ( toast of bread topped with fresh cream and sugar). This reminded me of my child hood days..Oh my god it was yumm and despite a full stomach we galloped two of them. Super tasty toasts, A must have.
The best part was despite our continuous eating expeditions we were not heavy and we burnt it out in no time before we walked and reached our next destination of sweet shop making best Lal Peda in Banaras. A huge Kadhai( a large vessel with a slightly concave base) holding litres of pure milk been cooked for hours before it reduced to almost a little thick reduction which is sweetened and served as small pieces. The shop was aptly named RASAVANTI( IN Thatheri Bazaar )
The best part was despite our continuous eating expeditions we were not heavy and we burnt it out in no time before we walked and reached our next destination of sweet shop making best Lal Peda in Banaras. A huge Kadhai( a large vessel with a slightly concave base) holding litres of pure milk been cooked for hours before it reduced to almost a little thick reduction is sweatened and served as small pieces. The shop was aptly named RASAVANTI( IN Thatheri Bazaar )
The touching point or I must say the highlight of the trip till moment was DEENA KAKA kee kachori, not only for how tasty it was but for the fact that despite he had closed for the day he specially went in his house and served us some hot kachori where we could not stop at one( Mind, we were stomach full till throat ) We were completely floored by his wise looks and his love for the art of kachori making!!
Our journey to more good food did not end here. With our filled stomach and hunger to explore more we were busy the rest of the evening, exploring the city. Towards the end of the day we headed to the thandai joint before it exhausted his daily stock. He usually wraps up by 10 in the night. We landed at BABA Thandai at Bans Phatak. He offered us a few options of size of serving, and as we had to go out on a chaat spree post that we chose a small glass. But the monsterous desire of having it all forced us to have another helping.
The Bhang was a topic of dispute as to who all chose to take it and rest who all are ready take the aftermath.
Quite a few amongst us( a Happy Me as well) happily galloped a small serve of bhang, a dose which definitely could drive out the Baba inside us.
In the ideal situation one must enjoy a stomach( read soul ) full session of chaat, then have thandai with bhang and then a beeda of paan (Indian style beetle leaf ) to have the best of experience.
The banaarsi paan is mendatory in varanasi and they melt in mouth making the phrase true literally.
Our last destination for soul rapture was Kashi Chaat Bhandar. Buzzing at that late hour in the evening it had something very banaarsi about it. staff busy plating up the best of Chaat, people busy eating. the only noise we could hear was of orders and execution of orders.
One must try all that they have.I know though its hypothetical for a single person, try to take a sneak peak at other’s plates too !!
Tamatar Chaat, Palak Chaat, Dahi paapdi, Batashe….You imagine and you have it..
I am sure this write up would either make you feel full as if you were a part of this journey or even hungrier and wishing to try all these.
Despite no intention to take to these many words to write on the food from Banaras I ended up at a long long post and now I know what food does to you. It allows to forget the boundaries!!…….Would like to end it here and bring the shopping excerpts in another post.