During my recent visit to Gujarat, I explored the state by road — covering the Kutch region, as well as the Ahmedabad to Modhera stretch on the other side.
Gujarat has always been on the international map for its art and culture, and this is topped by the hospitality and warmth of its people. I had always heard about and seen a bit of the state's colourful crafts and art, but this visit gave me a chance to see them at close quarters. What took me by surprise was the variety of street food available — from khakra, fafda, dhokla, dabeli, surti locho, khaman to chai, the list goes on. When it comes to the diversity of street food, Gujarat is unbeatable.
While travelling on the train as a kid, all I wished was that we had a Gujju family as co-passengers. The reason obviously being their dabba that was filled with goodies unlimited. On this road trip, I knew what I had to focus on. My first pit stop was Ahmedabad and, on a friend's recommendation, I headed straight from the airport to Jail Bhajiyas — yes, these amazing bhajiyas at the RTO circle are made by the inmates of Sabarmati Jail. Their Methi Bhajiya was worth our wait — served with kadhi, they were very satisfying. Priced at just ₹40 a plate, these bhajiyas won my heart.
As I was still craving for more, I decided to head to Oshwal, another snack pit stop. Their snack menu was exhaustive and extensive at the same time but I decided to go with Sev Usal, which is a medley of various sweet, spicy and tangy flavours. Priced at ₹80, a generous helping ensured that my tummy was overloaded. Topping it with a glass of buttermilk, I was sorted for my journey ahead.
As we passed the State and National highways of Gujarat, I realised that even ₹30 or ₹40 in the pocket was enough to ensure that one would not go hungry. Every time we stopped at any marketplace by the highway, I was taken by surprise at the variety of street food available, with stalls filled with dhokla and khandvi. The cone dabeli came as a surprise.
A variation on the usual dabeli which is stuffed in bread, the cone dabeli is the creation of the new generation of street vendors. Paired with a cup of hot chai, moments became memories. The chai had a distinct and different taste, and being a tea person, I soon lost all count of how many cups I had had. The best was sharing a cup of chai, and sipping it in the pyala.(I saw this again after ages.) And not to miss the traditional crunchy snack that is synonymous with Gujarati cuisine, the fafda. These names reminded me of the famous dialogue from Three Idiots — tum log ka khana itna khatarnak kyun hota hai ... dhokla, fafda, handva, thepla ... aaise lagta hai jaise koi missiles hai.
I soon figured that snacks were an everyday part of the Gujarati household and not munching on them was practically a sin. As the saying goes, when in Rome do as the Romans do, so when in Gujarat, I completely adapted to the Gujarati love of farsan or snacks.