A couple of my friends studying at SIMC PG started off as “foodies”, and then decided to DO something about it. It’s a lovely project they have come up with, and I’m glad they considered me worthy enough to help them out with it. The project is simple- share your best street food experience in Pune, over a period of one month. Because there are a lot of options, they decided to limit it to the top 30 places only. In a nutshell-
The #TastyThirty Project- 30 days. 30 places. Rs. 3000.
It had been a long Monday for me. With 3 hours of sleep the previous night, a movie shoot, and a bad cold, I was trying to get myself some shut eye when they called. And things I am passionate about, I won’t ever say no to. So it was no surprise when I met them an hour later at MG Road, Pune.After having apologized profusely about the sneezing, I headed down with Rohit Goidani and Sneha Iyer to our first stop that evening, the Chat stall at Hanuman Mandir. Here’s how it went-
Hanuman Mandir Chat Stall
Set up along the main wall of the Hanuman Temple, this stall is famous for it’s Aloo Tikki and Pani Puri. We were here at 5:15pm, and the place was crowded. There was a group of school girls who were enthusiastically ordering a variety of chats while we stood in one corner, trying to make up our minds. We settled in for the Aloo Tikki Chat after we figured we’d never be able to agree on a common dish. Priced at Rs. 30, the Aloo Chat doesn’t have the aloo tikki (patty) that one would expect. Instead, we got potato pieces mixed with onion, puri (crushed) and chole. The puri was soggy, the potatoes were a little warm, and there was not enough salt. For all the hype that’s been created around it, I don’t think it was that good.
The last time I came here was back in 2008. When eating sandwiches from the roadside stalls was considered badass, and if mum got to know, we’d be grounded for a week. I’m assuming the day our mothers stopped bothering about what we ate outside, was probably when we stopped frequenting these stalls. Anyway, it was a pleasant feeling, asking for the Veg Club Sandwich with extra cheese after all these years.
A1 Sandwiches has been running successfully since 1986, and opens every day at 4:30 in the evening, and goes on till 11:30 each night. It’s a pity they don’t have delivery, or else I would have managed to order this home too. Almost 350 sandwiches are sold every day, with the Veg Club Sandwich and the Toast Sandwich being the bestsellers. Priced at Rs. 40, the Veg Club sandwich comes hidden underneath a layer of finely grated cheese. And from what I remember, this tasted, if possible, even better than the one I had eaten back in 2008! The bread, butter, vegetables are all fresh. The ketchup and cheese give it a perfect taste, but what makes this dish delicious is the chutney they use. The green chutney prepared everyday is unlike what you have at other sandwich stalls. “USP hai, USP” quips the shopkeeper enthusiastically, while applying chutney to the bread slices. And we believe him J If you haven’t tried Anil A1 Sandwiches yet, I suggest you head over to the stall RIGHT AWAY. They also accept party orders, btw
Next, we headed down to Karachi Sweet mart, which is situated right at the beginning of Shivaji Market. This shop opened back in 1947, and has been dishing out mouth watering sweets and snacks since then. I remember eating their Dhoklas as a child, and just to relive those childhood memories I got the two of them here to eat some tasty dhoklas with me. One plate of Plain Dhokla comes for Rs.20 only, and the quality of the same has been maintained over the years. Fluffy, spongy, sweet yellow dhoklas. And the chutney served is sweet, and makes it taste even better. Searching for mouth melting dhoklas that won’t taste bland? You know where to head to.<I also sampled a piece of the Bengali Pedha, which was good (a little dry, like the sandesh). Priced at Rs. 300 per kg, I think it’s worth a try>
Who HASN’T been here? This place is known for it’s bhel in cities all over India. We had the Pani Puri, which without any doubt was BRILLIANT. There are very few places where I actually dare to have the pani puri. This one here is hygienic (as compared to other roadside stalls), and tasty. Must try, in case you haven’t already.
Yeah, never heard of this, I know right? But it’s the same Dabeli guy who keeps shuffling along Centre street. We were lucky to catch him at the end of Centre Street(he seems to have settled there permanently) He’s been making Dabeli for the last 19 years, and has also opened a bigger shop near Babajan Chowk recently where one can sit and eat fried snacks. The plain Dabeli is priced at Rs. 12, while the Cheese one is for Rs.25.He styled the Dabeli for us (he wanted the food to look flattering) and by the time we started eating, the Dabeli had turned a little cold. The dabelis used to be much better, but that’s because he used a lot more oil earlier I believe. This one is good, but could have been spicier, and could do with a little more salt.
Pakodas at…the UnNamed Stall
Right next to the Dabeli guy is a lady who makes pakodas, and is extremely possessive of her stall (she didn’t let us click pictures!) Rohit is quite a charming gentleman that way, he got her to give us 3 types of pakodas to sample. All for Rs. 10. She told us the stall had been around for the last 12 years, and because they faced a lot of competition, she woulodn’t allow us to take pics. Though she was pretty inquisitive about the college and the project. By the end of it, she giggled shyly and pointed out to the stall when Rohit asked her the name of her shop- “Shree Swami Samarth, bus yehi naam hai”The aloo pakodas were not too good, nor were the plain onion ones. The dal pakodas were good, yes, but the flavor wasn’t strong enough. Maybe some chai and rains would get you in the mood, you never know.
Poona Cold Drink House
This place turned out to be quite a disappointment. I had once been here back in the 1990s, after a long day (and evening) of shopping and walking around the whole of MG Road. I don’t remember much of anything back then, but I do know that it had been a refreshing experience. This time, I decided to try the Chocolate Milkshake. As I said earlier- I was disappointed. For Rs.70, the quantity is quite a lot, yes, but it’s too thick, with absolutely no flavor of chocolate. The milk and the ice cream are a little too creamy, and instead of making you feel refreshed, they made us super sleepy.The milkshakes are a definite no-no, but I wonder how the rest of the stuff is. The place seems pretty popular.
The Pune Zarthosti SevaMandal
The name sounds pretty heavy-duty, doesn’t it? It’s just another innocent looking stall on the footpath on the main road. I have passed the stall/shop several times during my frequent visits to MG Road, but never stopped to eat here. I wasn’t surprised to see a small crowd here (it’s always packed) As soon as I made my way to the counter, I was shocked to see the prices. 10 bucks for a veg spring roll? Hell yeah I’m having it. 10 bucks for an orange slush? Get me that too, duh.We ended up sharing the Orange slush (which was bloody brilliant) and the spring roll. I didn’t quite like it much, cos when I hear spring rolls, I want noodles. And this one has none. Might as well call it a veg roll. But for what it’s priced at, I’m guessing it’s worth it. Other stuff looks great here too, I’ll try them one by one
Garden Seekh Kebab
This guy sits with his mutton/beef/chicken meat, coal and skewers in a dark corner of a footpath, right opposite JJ Garden. On a cold night, the heat and smell of the kebabs is pretty welcoming. He serves only non-veg tikkas (with 2 pavs), so do not come here if you don’t eat meat. Mohammed Farooq has been sitting in that place for the last 15 years, preparing kebabs for his customers while enthusiastically discussing a topic as per his liking. Yesterday, it was all about posing for our photos, and knowing which paper would the photos be published in. He happily posed for us while making the kebabs. Sweet chap.The chicken tikka plate was absolutely worth it. For Rs.75, I doubt I’d get chicken tikkas anywhere. The chicken was well cooked, and the flavor of the masala had seeped right in. Do try it, it’s healthy even!
JJ Garden Vada Pav
I like the fact that they are humble enough to stay at their stall and produce hundreds(maybe thousands, they wouldn’t tell) of vada pavs every day, after all these years of fame and fortune. Started in 1972, this famous vada pav joint has made news in Delhi. A friendly chap, he told us about a few men coming down from Delhi eating at his stall recently, since they had heard the vada pavs there were great. The owner showed us a newspaper clipping he has stuck to the wall behind the counter, trying to prove his point. And of course we believe him. No one staying in Pune has not tasted them (if you happen to be one such case, kindly go eat one now, before someone finds out), and not fallen in love with them. There is MAGIC in the food, you know, it makes you happy. Very few foods can do that to you. Experience it while you can.Try the vada pav with the green chutney, it adds on to the flavor. And if you want to explore a bit further, team it up with a piece of green chilly. Perfect!
There are a few places remaining, which I shall be talking about later. This was a great experience, and I don’t see why you mustn’t be a part of it too. Go on, try the stuff, and do feel free to share your feedback