Street food from the North makes its way South to On The Go

It smells like Delhi. A chaat street in Delhi. And we are not too far wrong as Raju Gupta and Vinod Gupta have recreated the chaat experience just outside On The Go restaurant. Kachoris, creamy curd, panipuri masala, and jars of red and green chutneys crowd the tables. “Yummmmm…” is the most overheard conversation. Kids run to the counter for more while the adults also do the same for second helpings.

The chaat festival offers pav bhajis, jhal muri and boiled peanut bhel. Chandni Chowk delicacies include dahi puri, palak chaat, dahi bhalla papdi chaat, raj kachori and laccha tokri. “You get these only in Delhi,” says Raju. “And Dilli chaats and kachoris are the best!” he claims.

I take his word and start with the raj kachori. Raju drizzles the red and green chutneys on the kachori, the size of a cricket ball, and tops it with mint leaves. The kachori chunks melt in the mouth; the tamarind and sugar chutney are a perfect match .

Dahi papdi chaat follows. Raju now spoons thick creamy curd on to the mathri pieces and offers it to me. The cool, sweet curd is refreshing in the hot weather.

“The curd is mixed with sugar. And the curd jar has been kept cool by putting ice cubes around it,” explains Vinod.

Vinod serves the pani puris in an earthen plate. The puri, with the spicy green water filled to its brim, is stuffed with potatoes and chana dal. I gulp it down; the spicy pani creates a delightfully warm sensation in my throat. And, I barely have time to breathe before he serves me one more puri; this time filled with the sweet red pani. “The secret of good pani puri lies in the flavour of the water and the right balance of masalas”, explains Vinod. The pani puri masala varies from one city to the other, says Raju. “In Bombay, people add onions and peas into the masala. In Delhi, we use only potato and chana dal.”

Vinod and Raju have come all the way from Mau district. Raju started selling chaats and bhel puris since the age of 12. Vinod entered the business at the age of seven. Now they work together in an outlet in Delhi. This is their first experience in Coimbatore. “We have received a good feedback. The raj kachori is the most popular,” says Vinod. To complete the experience, there is lassi, salted or strawberry-flavoured. And of course, masala chai.

But before that Vinod and Raju heat up the tawas to whip up a sumptuous fare of pav bhajis served with mutter gravy, samosas and dahi bhalla.

(The chaat festival will be on till March 30, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The dishes are priced between Rs. 20 and Rs. 140.)