Vasudha Venugopal has a mouth-watering snack on Mint Street
The alleys in this area are lined with numerous steel shops with an occasional, ‘pure veg tiffin' shop standing out by its distinctive aroma of fresh food that you can pick up from afar. These centres that have been in business for over three decades now, and every packed inch of the lanes here has a story to tell – after all, this is Mint Street.
And as the city gears up for another busy night, amid sounds of tolling bells from nearby temples, a mass of humanity gathers around a shop at the street corner for a quick snack. Place an order here and a cook grabs a bun, deftly splits it even as he fishes out a steaming vada from a pan and presses it between the bread.
In the background, a man slices tomatoes, works on the tamarind chutney and pours red and green chutneys on your plate in an instant. And there you have it - the bubbly, hot, spicy Indian answer to a burger - the vada pav. Some prefer to chew on it at leisure while some just swallow it fast, even as a restless patient crowd waits for parcels.
“We have been here for over 50 years now. Everything around has changed so much, but we get the same crowd, every night,” says Bhavin Mehta, who runs the famous ‘Mehta Vada Pav' along with his brother. The hand-held feast is symbolic of a unique blend of cultures and Bhavin is quite proud of it. “We are Gujaratis selling Maharashtrian food to Tamilians and everyone here. Ten years ago, people would come here and order bread bhajji, but never vada pav because they didn't know what it was. I used to tell them, ‘try this, you won't ask for anything else then.'” A few shops away, his brother runs the original ‘Farsan' mart where the venture originally began. “I wanted to offer something that will appeal to all classes of people. There is much work that goes into preparing for this 6-9 business, that includes getting the buns adequately salted and ensuring the taste of the vadas and chutneys is uniform. Initially, people here used to find it difficult to believe that you can stand on the roadside and munch on food but now they are fine with it,” says Mr. Mehta.
Apart from the weekends, Fridays and Tuesdays are when the biggest crowds converge. Pravin Bhatt who spends a few meditative hours regularly at the ‘Ambe Mandir' next to the shop has been a keen observer of the crowds for a while now. “Taste ni vaat che (it is all about the taste). It reminds me of eating Vadapav in Dadar in Mumbai.