Top of the chaats

Aloo Tikki at Agarwal Sweet Palace Photo: K. Ananthan   | Photo Credit: K_Ananthan


Bharathi Park Road


Coimbatore hadn’t heard of the Kutchi Dabeli till Subhash set up Vikash Mithai Mandir on Bharathi Park 7th Cross Road. “Dabelis are like idlis and dosas in my hometown,” says Subhash, who came down to Coimbatore from Gujarat in 1988 to work with Sri Dhirajlal D Mithaiwala. In 2002, he started Mithai Mandir in Saibaba Colony because a lot of people felt there were not too many chaat shops there. Since then, people have been treated to a variety of chaat items, savouries and sweets native to Gujarat.

Mithai Mandir serves ghaatis, papdi-fafdas, dhoklas, kachoris and samosas, and even ‘home made pickles’ that come all the way from Gujarat. Basundi, badam milk and shrikhand are also immensely popular here.

But it’s the dabeli that earns Subhash his fame. A non-chaat-lover might think the vada pav and dabeli are the same. Oh no. Dabelis are more piquant, and the peanuts (and sometimes, pomegranate seeds) make the dish more special. A mixture of boiled and mashed potatoes, raw onions, roasted peanuts and dabeli masala is placed between a pav (smeared with pudina, garlic and khajur-imli chutney) to result in the sweet and tangy goody.


R.S. Puram


“It’s the lasoon chutney that makes the difference,” declares Ramji Gupta. The vada pav he whips up at his shop – Calcutta Chaat – is as authentic as the ones you get in Maharashtra. Calcutta Chaat doesn’t have fancy interiors. If you don’t mind inhaling cigarette smoke while biting into heavenly vada pav, head to East Lokmanya Street. Around the corner, right next to a small tea shop, you will find Ramji Gupta’s chaat shop. Speaking of his signature dish, Gupta says, “Apart from our special lasoon chutney, the panch phoran we add also gives the dish its special taste.”

“I lived in Bombay for eight years and had a thela in Chunabatti,” says Gupta, who originally hails from Uttar Pradesh. “That’s where I learnt to make vada pav. After that, I took my thela to a footpath in Bangalore.”

In 2005, Gupta and his thela arrived in Coimbatore. “We were selling chaat on the road. In 2006, we set up this shop.”

Gupta’s team makes samosas and sandwiches from 8 a.m. onwards. But it’s only after 2 p.m. that people start gathering around the street corner, for pani puri and papdi chaat are served only then. Vada pav is made through the day. When asked how many vada pavs Gupta makes every day, he says, “At least 300. In the evenings alone.”


Bharathiar Road


It is noisy. The ugly bus stand heaves next door. The stream of traffic is never ending. Still, we keep going back there because it has arguably the best bhelpuri in town. As soon as you enter the no-nonsense downstairs section of Adyar Ananda Bhavan, to your right are two men, expertly mixing, tossing, sprinkling and serving up chaats in brightly coloured plates.

The crispness of the bhelpuri is its crowning glory. There is nothing like soggy puri, sev or papdi to take the joy out of a chaat. There is a crunch in your mouth that lasts till the last spoonful. Even after it has been smothered with the green and the tamarind chutney and the onions and the little pieces of raw mango. The secret of such authentic bhelpuri in South India? The chaat counters in all A2B branches are in the capable hands of North Indians, mostly from Bihar and Rajasthan. Of course, other specialities await chaat seekers. But check out the bhelpuri.


DB Road, R.S. Puram

SIGNATURE DISHES Aloo tikki and badam milk

If aloo tikki has a local address, this has to be it. Take a bite and you travel to the gallis of Delhi where they serve similar stuff. Two crispy potato tikkis fried in ghee form the base. A paste of safed mattar follows. A dollop of mint chutney and sweet chutney and a sprinkling of chaat masalas later, it is garnished with deep fried lachcha potato. Also check out their other chaat offerings such as pav bhaji and raj kachori, made by the smiling Dev Anand, Suraj, Gangaram and Bansi. End your chaat session with their soothing badam milk that comes loaded with slivers of sweet almond.


T.V. Samy Road, R.S. Puram


It’s a corner shop, but has been a favourite with chaat lovers in the city. For 17 years, Food Garden has wowed palates with its crispy vegetable bhel puri, buttery pav bhaji and dahi puri that tastes just as sweet even at 9 at night. The curd for the dahi puri is made from buffalo milk especially procured from a farmer in Annur. Balasubramani, the bhel expert, furiously stirs together puffed rice, onion, carrot, coriander, cucumber, tomato, groundnut, diced mango, gulkand sweet chutney and pudina chutney for a filling treat. The masala puri’s lovely too, finished off with grated carrot and coriander. They cook just enough to ladle out about 200 plates of chaat during the week and about 250 during the weekend, says owner V.S. Senthil. There’s always a steady stream of loyal customers, and so, sometimes, you return disappointed.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 10:11:10 PM |

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