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Foodie's fantasy street

When it comes to street food, nothing can beat Ibrahim Sahib Street

Served street-style with no frills. — Photo: Murali Kumar K.

THE SUN rises at 4 p.m. and sets at 11 p.m. here. No, we are not talking of a geographically freaked part of India. As the sun sets and paints the sky purple and gold behind the impressive mosque, the smell of food is simply irresistible. Ibrahim Sahib Street, parallel to Commercial Street, celebrates a food festival every evening that runs late into the night. And this is one food fest with no entry fee!

As you stroll from the Kamaraj Road end, the street starts with a dark parking area. After few metres of relaxed sauntering, one wonders what the constant clanging is all about. Welcome to rasta Indian-Chinese fried rice, noodles, and the mouth-watering gobi manchurian, where the expert cooks toss and mix oodles of noodles, and top it off with a loud bang of the vessel and a deft throw into the steel plate. Oops! Never mind the bit that just slopped to the ground ... the drama of making it acts as an attractive marketing gig.

Don't stop at one

The ground rule while eating at Ibrahim Sahib Street is that you never stop with one variety or one plate. Food here is very economically priced, so don't go berserk with the first plate. After the Chinese, you still have dosa, idlis, chaats, sweets and fruits to layer your tummy with.

Rukmini Madhusudhan, proprietor of a Chinese outlet that's been around for eight years, says: "Lots of TV channels have covered us but I haven't watched any on TV personally... where is the time? The whole morning goes on preparing for the evening and we close only at 10.30 p.m. Each plate of Chinese food is priced between Rs. 18 and Rs. 25," she says rather cheerfully.

Soon after the Chinese joint is an idli-dosa outlet, followed by another similar outlet diagonally opposite. Tuck into the two mouth-watering tiffin items, accompanied with dollops of coconut chutney. Four soft and spongy idlis come at Rs. 6 and look inviting enough. All dosas — be it set dosa, masala dosa, or plain dosa — are all priced between Rs.10 and Rs. 12.

Prabhu, who owns both of these dosa/idli hangouts, says: "We sell up to 250 dosas and 5,000 idlis a day." For shopping maniacs like Pooja, a college student, Prabhu's stall is a favourite haunt she visits at least twice a week. Prabhu also runs another couple of full-day outlets on Narayan Pillai Street and Jewellers' Street.

The idli shops on Ibrahim Sahib Street have no name boards. These nameless instant eateries run on patches of land a little larger than our dining tables at home. But they have to shell out Rs. 4,000 as rent for this minuscule space every month. Four people work here in harmony — one fills the idli plate with a `plop' to be steamed, the other makes dosas whenever ordered for, the third removes the steamed idlis with a perfect scoop and collects money from customers, and the fourth supplies dishes to customers and keeps refilling chutneys.

The jalebi shop next door awaits those with a sweet tooth. The translucent, yellow, juicy sweets that melt warmly in your mouth come from the expert hands of a Rajasthani jalebiwalla. He uses pure ghee and sells them at Rs. 100 a kg. He manages between 10 to 15 kg a day. A little down the road, there's a pushcart selling a plate of mixed fruits at Rs. 10. At the right hand corner, at the intersection, there is an attitude-filled teashop — Baskar Tea Stores — selling special tea. Apparently, the shop has been there for the last 20 years. Proprietors Lokanathan and Hemanth believe in quality. They buy their tealeaves from Mangalore and only Heritage Milk will do. They buy close to 20 litres a day. The special tea and coffee comes at Rs. 2.50 while the ordinary tea is Rs. 2 a glass. The shop is open from 8.30 a.m. to 10 p.m. "We have regular customers throughout the day like the shop owners and local people, and of course the shoppers." The special tea served here is orange, milky Iranian tea, which serves as a fast digester.

Chatpata chaat

Just when you thought you've eaten it all, you come across the chaat shop. Sagar and Maheshwari Chaats are two of the larger full-fledged hotels selling chaat on this street. Sagar's masala puri and masala-based chaat are great while Maheshwari's dahi-based-chaats like dahi puri and papadi chaat are knockouts. Six papadis in a plate packed with masala, coriander leaves, and other savouries dipped in fresh sweet dahi. And please, please... don't miss the heavenly pani puri. Maheshwari has a 30-year-old legacy to live up to.

If you still have some space left, check out the fresh fruit juice at Sri Ganesha's. All juices range between Rs. 6 to Rs. 15 per glass. There is also a benne dosé outlet tucked in a dingy part of the same street. Save it for another time...


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