I did undertake the Indore journey having seen inviting clicks on Instagram of grub at the Sarafa Bazaar night food market. But, a train journey from Mumbai to Indore and fascinating conversations around food with fellow travellers beckoned a culinary exploration beyond Sarafa's nocturnal food escapades. I loved how people stared at my friends and me in amazement at the mention of our reason to travel to Indore being only to try out its gastronomic offerings. They then were happy to pitch in their knowledge of local food to help us have a memorable time in Indore.
So here are some food/places we tried out based on recommendations recieved on our train journey that formed an interesting part of our culinary exploration of Indore:
1. DAAL BAFLA THALI
Most epic plate of food that we had during our travel to Indore was the super spicy daal bafla thali at Hotel Rajhans. So no chapati was served with the thali but what came with it was a mass made of wheat flour dripping with ghee called Bafla as seen in the centre of the thali.
For the bafla wheat flour is mixed with water, ghee and spice powders to arrive at a dense dough. This dough is cooked in boiling water for few minutes then baked in oven fired by not charcoal but cow dung cakes. It is then finished by deep frying in ghee to give it a crispy crust. The right way of eating it is crushing the bafla with hand and topping it with extremely piquant daal, kadhi, sabzi & chutney.
The bafla is quite similar to the Rajasthani baati except for boiling stage that is surpassed in the baati preparation.
2. EGG BENJO
Indore loves omelettes! I can take the risk of making this statement as there are numerous food kiosks around the city dishing up egg benjo or a sandwich of fluffy masala omelette in butter laden bun bread. The most popular and addictive egg benjo we found was at Johny Hotdog at 56 Dukkan and it was priced at INR 30. Beware there are food stalls calling themselves Johny Hotdog but the original one is the stall is run by the owner Vijay Singh Rathod for more than three decades now and is easily identifiable by his pleasing, middle-aged personality labouring at the griddle to serve up some flavourful benjos.
3. INDORI POHE & USAL
This is a simple yet delightful breakfast treat. The pohe are sweet, tart and not at all greasy. We were given to understand that their exceptional flavor stems from the fact that water used to soak them before cooking is imbibed with sugar, lemon juice and salt. Extremely finely chopped onions (making you feel they didn't exist in first place) used along with mustard seeds in the tadka and potato chunks further add to their sweetness. A garnish of crispy besan sev (fried Bengal gram flour vermicelli) brings a nice crunch to the pohe. These pohe are served with a fiery vatana usal (a spicy Indian counterpart to the western baked beans if I should say) that is sure to make you sweat. The combination of the two makes this a standout breakfast for just Rs.20 at the humble Prashant Refreshment eatery in Indore.
4. INDORI SABUDANA KHICHDI
This is a milder preparation in terms of oil and groundnut content than its Maharashtrian counterpart. Mildly piquant from restrained use of green chillies and the Indore- speciality jeeravan masala, this makes a delectable breakfast.
5. SHEETAL GAJAK
One of the finest gajak or traditional sesame-jaggery sweet of the state is found in this store. The regular version is flaky and mouth melting. To add further richness the place offers gajak embellished with dry fruits like cashew nuts and pistachios.
6. INDORI SHAHI SHIKANJI
This is not a lemonade but a type of thickened thandai. This is a rich, creamy saffron infused preparation of reduced milk or if I can take the liberty to say rabdi, curd, dry fruits and sugar. This can be found at numerous places serving up sweet meats and kulfi.
7. OM NAMKEEN
The place is a heaven for all sort of savoury snacks like chivda, sev, fried daal, nuts and much more. The flavours in each type of snack are mind boggling leaving you spoilt for choice. Pick from the traditional chilli, garlic, onion flavours to more contemporary flavours like tomato, cheese, wasabi and more.
What do you think about Indore's food offerings? If you feel I have missed out on some foods/places do let me know, I will be happy to explore them on my next trip to Indore.
Till then, HAPPY TRAVELLING...
- Regional Indian Food & Travel enthusiast