Soon after moving to Bangalore, I was taken to V.V Puram, also known as Food Street/Khao Gali. This was a completely vegetarian experience, with divine dosas, chaats, hot bhajjis, and much, much more. It took until last month for me to return there, and this time we ate unique items like Rasgullah Chaat (a must try), Floating Pani Puri, and Gulkand with fresh fruits and ice cream. From vegetarian only V.V Puram, thanks to the enthusiasm of my foodie friends Ruth and Sudhakar, I experienced the wonders of both Johnson Market and Shivajinagar as well (all in one week, I might add!).
These are not places I would ever step into alone, and it is definitely necessary to have a guy handy. The streets are narrow, bustling and filthy. The smells, sights and sounds overwhelming but at the same time, fascinating. Especially for foodies such as us, it’s quite the sensory experience, as you gaze about in awe (what should we eat first, which sizzling giant kadai or tava or smoking charcoal grill looks most enticing) and disgust (for someone who does not want her food to look like it has any semblance to a living critter, seeing fresh, bloody meat hanging about and worse, the hens and quails you’re going to consume packed into their tiny cages, is not pleasant!). But there is no denying that the wonderful, not to be found at home food and the enormous variety, not to mention the ridiculously low prices, make you forget everything else!
Shivajinagar and Johnson Market offer the delights of local Muslim delicacies, from beef biryani to veal and faham (tandoori chicken) and teetar (quail). At Shivajinagar, my suggestion is to not go into any of the sit down establishments (they are all no-frills places but do offer seating and cutlery), but rather, just do a run of the street and enjoy the food therein. Personally, I found the biryani and faham at the restaurant okay, but nothing in comparison to the stuff on offer in the galis. We ate meat samosas, so hot you could not hold them without the assistance of several squares of newspaper and followed this up with Suleimani Chai, a perfect blend of lemon and sugared tea that is served in teeny glasses, which I could go on drinking all day. Then it was a pure and simple meat fest. Quail cooked whole and served with onions and sprinkled spices, chicken and mutton kebabs, beef kebabs with idiyappam (string hoppers) – we hogged! The quail one had to fight with, to get at the meat, holding the plate in one hand while standing, but I made a valiant effort and it was well worth it. My favorite from that particular night out was the beef kebabs and idiyappam.
Johnson Market is slightly more upscale and spread out, in that you need to know what you’re looking for to get at the best joints. For Suleimani Chai and sweet stuffed naans (I know them as dil pasand) go to Makkah Cafe. I ate a khova naan triangle and it was just wow! You get biscuits and samosas there too. Fanoos is famous in Bangalore for their rolls, but truth be told, I was not impressed. Given that one is spoiled for choice and stomach capacity is limited, there is just so much more to expend one’s prescribed calorie intake on. Across from Fanoos is Madeena Stores, where you can partake from a mind boggling range of sodas, made right there in front of you, with candy bright colors and squirts of soda from the machine.
Not to be missed is Siddiqu, for the Bombay (minced meat) Roll, and their giant rolls are also perfect for the very hungry. However, your trip to the area would be incomplete without a stop at Khazana, both as an experience and for its ah-mazing food. Its a hole in the wall, cutlery and serving ware are not even optional (I got heartily laughed at for waiting for a serving spoon rather than just using my fingers to serve myself a portion of biryani), but go there you must! I partook of tender, falling of the bone beef biryani, an incredible chicken fry (crunchy and packed with flavor) and veal kebab (small pieces of meat fried up).
Thanks to Ruth and Sudhakar for inviting me along on the adventure, and I feel so lucky to have experienced this side of Bangalore’s food scene…