Bangalore Street Food: VV Puram

4 Feb

VV Puram Bangalore Street Food

For someone new to Karnataka’s cuisine, VV Puram Food Street – a narrow alley lined with small eateries – offers a fine introduction to the state’s delicacies. Especially recommended during the avarekai season, when the shops here stock a gamut of goodies featuring the avarekai (hyacinth bean): chikkis, curry, dosa, jamoon – you name it.

Pictures and details from a debut group trip last month, made extra-adventurous thanks to our limited prior acquaintance with the language and the food.

Mission: Eat!

As soldiers presumably do in unknown terrain, we started off our quest with a reconnoiter. A stroll up and down the street – not more than fifteen minutes at leisurely pace – gave us these bits of insight:

  • several shops have roughly the same menu
    Follow-up question: which shops should we pick?
  • we do not recognize most of the items on the menu
    Follow-up question: how do we decide which items to eat?

For the first question, we agreed to sample small portions from multiple places. This way, as self-ordained food critics, we get to examine and compare the outputs of the shops.

For the second question, we relied on message exchanges with informed friends, and Google. If search trends show a spike for “difference between obbattu and uppittu”, know that we have contributed to it in some small way.

Uppittu Obbattu Search Trends

1. Avarekai Akki Roti

The first dish we tried was one that we recognized and, more importantly, were confident of not mispronouncing: akki roti.

This akki roti – studded with avarekai, served with a spicy saaru (curry) – was so delicious that we had to invoke all our will to stop from going for seconds. More restaurants to try, after all.

Akki Roti

Restraint proved to be a wise decision.

2. Hithkabele Holige

This listing on the big billboard had us stumped. From the look of the dish, we guessed hithkabele holige was the same avarekai obbattu that had been highly recommended to us. This begged the question "Why not call a rose a rose, why this alien alliteration?"

We were to learn later that:

  • holige is a synonym for obbattu/puran poli
  • hithkabele is avarekai soaked and deskinned [reference]

For once, we were hesitant to approach the counter to order the dish, fearing a gaffe. All too aware that the L in holige might not be pronounced like the L in Holi, and yet unable to get it right.

One daring soul stepped forward, got some confused stares from the restaurateur as he enunciated the name, while the rest of us stood apart enjoying the comedy.

[Request for VV Puram Food Street folks: It would ease things if you had a menu next to the counter that we could simply point to, for ordering!]

The effort wasn’t in vain. Fresh off the grill, fragrant with ghee and sweet aromatic bean filling – hithkabele holige was like heaven in a leaf bowl.

Hithkabele Holige Obbattu

3. Paddu

These muffin-shaped savories brought us back to comfort zone

Seeing paddu being cooked on huge molds is a visual treat. There is something therapeutic about watching the white batter puff up and turn golden, while the alert cook maneuvers the near-done paddus over the heat with a metal pick.

Paddu Bangalore Street Food

Paddu served with chutneys:

Paddu and Chutney

4. Bhoochakra Gadde

We were stuffed and ready to leave when something caught our attention: a cart on which was perched a fat two-foot-long stump.

This mighty specimen was bhoochakra gadde, so the cart declared in big bold lettering. Hypertension? High blood pressure? Going by the advert, none of these ailments were beyond bhoochakra gadde's healing properties.

Awed and somewhat skeptical, we turned to the internet for recourse – and found details even more formidable. This miracle root apparently has another skill to boast of: it’s a venom-antidote. Bhoochakra gadde's English name is no lighter: maerua oblongifolia it is, and I’d agree if you thought that’d pass off as a spell at Hogwarts.

Rs.20 for a paper-thin semicircle of bhoochakra gadde looked a bit steep, but we decided to get a taste in any case.

We asked for a half and were promptly asked back: "Sweet or khara?" This we were wholly unprepared for and must have looked so. The vendor repeated the choices and we remained blank. "First time?" was his next question. We nodded vigorously. With a swift motion of understanding, he broke the semicircle into two, sprinkled sugar on one quarter and masala on the other.

Bhoochakra Gadde

So what does bhoochakra gadde taste like? I’d say like a fresh coconut slice minus the creaminess, like a sugarcane chunk minus the sweetness. It’s really quite bland, and with hindsight I see why it’s sliced so thin –it mightn’t work any other way.

Verdict: we prefer the khara.

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