At Bengaluru’s VV Puram Eat Street, everyday is a food festival

The last bit of twilight starts to fade. Several white fluorescent tubes on the VV Puram food street blink before glowing steadily. Some parts of the alley are tungsten-tinted due to the sodium-vapour street lamps. As night falls, the street awakens after the day’s slumber. But, on either side of the entrance to the temple of Sri Valmiki Anjaneya Seva Sangha , sleep two dogs and, next to one of them, a little boy on a folded dirty plastic mat — all three unperturbed by the increasing commotion around them.

Diagonally opposite to the temple, a saffron-clad man with a long beard and ash smeared all over his forehead, rolls out maida on a steel table. He picks up a brown, sweet-smelling lump of jaggery, elaichi and coconut from neatly arranged rows of the same; envelops them with the maida and rolls it again. He, then, places it on a scorching griddle.

T Murugan, over 70 years old, has probably made his 10,000th coconut poli. Or, his 100,000th. You can’t say, for, he’s been making coconut polis, along with many other dishes, for the past 55 years. When he started Arya Vysya Refreshment, it was one of the first food stalls in what is now known as thindi beedi or food street in VV Puram.

“The others who own kiosks in this street were not even born when I came,” says Murugan, while stuffing the maida with another sweet-ball. A neatly framed clipping of an old newspaper, featuring a much younger Murugan (with his beard black), hangs inside his snackbar, lending testimony to its age.

Murugan’s son takes care of the business now, but the old man still works everyday. He takes a brief tea-break before getting back to his routine.

Pani puri with a twist

The air is filled with the aroma of different types of food — freshly cut watermelons, peri-peri seasoned deep-fried spring potatoes, butter dosa among others — that call out to me like fiercely competitive hawkers but my attention is caught by a lady talking with a microphone in front of the stall that reads Bangarpet Chats.

Jyothi’s mic-amplified voice, of course, makes a lot of heads turn towards her shop. She lists out today’s special that includes chocolate pani puri and ice-cream pani puri, interesting flavours, not necessarily appealing though.

So, Jyothi suggests the shop’s speciality — white pani puri. The pani, which is transparent (hence, titled white), is made of 24 herbs, including white pepper, cloves and cumin, that are said to help in digestion. And, the puri is filled with mattar masala, chopped raw mangoes, grated carrots and sliced onions.

Subject to suspicion

Near the end of the street, in front of Idli Mane, are four foreigners, who have just finished their meal.

After learning my actual purpose, however, Antonia reveals that she’s from Germany. She is here with her colleagues (who work for an Indo-German education compan) for a farewell dinner. Asked what she liked on thindi beedi, she replies after a pause, “Umm… almost everything. Idli… pav bhaji… yeah, lots of things. I didn’t like the paan though.”

At the end of the street, past the gola stalls,and opposite to Shivanna Gulcan Centre, which serves, among other things, gulkand ice-creams, is a cart named Crazy Sweet Corn Centre that sells various mixes of grilled corn kernels. The menu lives up to its name and has some ambitious mixes on offer: Apple Corn Masala, Australian Cabbage Mix, Pineapple Mango Mix, All In One Masala among others. I get adventurous and go for All In One Masala. But Eshwar, who owns Crazy Sweet Corn Centre, cautions, “It will be a lot. If you aren’t very hungry, you can go for the Pineapple Mango Mix.”

I reluctantly agree. Eshwar is clearly a multi-tasker, as he deftly mixes grilled kernels, finely chopped pineapple, raw mango, salt and green chilli masala in a vessel while watching a Rajinikanth song on his phone.

Eshwar is spot on with his recommendation. The mix is sufficiently tangy, sweet, sour and spicy. As I devour the mix, I ask him when the street calls it a day.

“It doesn’t. It goes on till 12 midnight or 1 (am),” he informs.

It is close to 9 pm. Thindi beedi is bustling now. The little boy and the dogs in front of the Anjaneya temple are up — the boy pats, strokes and attempts to lift the dog that’s three-fourths his height. Meanwhile Murugan is still making polis with unassuming efficiency.

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Printable version | Sep 13, 2021 10:13:49 PM |

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