Varanasi – The city that runs on high vibration

“Ye sheher nahi hai shakhsiyat hai.” (It’s not a city, it’s a personality.)

Said my host Saurav as I sat in the beautiful haveli of the father of modern Hindi literature Bhartendu Harishchandra. It’s my second visit to the city – just a few months after my first – and I am still trying to grab the pulse of Varanasi (or Kashi or Banaras), the oldest living city in the world. We sit under a beautifully lit gazebo in Bhartendu Bhawan discussing the city’s culture, its love for literature and performing arts and the famous Banarasi thaath (the lavish lifestyle, not literally but figuratively). The caretaker of the house makes baati chokha (rustic meal of Eastern UP) as Saurav recites Andher Nagri Chaupat Raja, Bhartendu’s famous satire. I am transported to an era that’s forgotten; it can’t get better than this. Continue reading

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A comprehensive guide to eating chaat in Lucknow

Log bohot chatore hote hain,” (people really love to eat chaat) overheard outside chaat shop. Aur Lucknow ke log to kuch zyada hi chatore hote hain (and people in Lucknow even more so). The chaat of this city turns you into one. I think the word chatore must have been coined in Lucknow seeing the love people have here for chaat. It comes from the word chaatna or licking cause you will definitely want to lick clean your plate of chaat, and it’s a socially acceptable practice. The evening plans in Lucknow are made around eating chaat. Shopping is fun here cause you can take a quick chaat break. As a kid my only reason to accompany my mother for shopping was a post shopping treat of pani ke batashe and hot aloo tikkis. For the uninitiated, chaat is sold mostly in the evenings so don’t come to Lucknow expecting to eat chaat in the middle of the day.

Dahi chutney ke batashe at Jain Chaat

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Lucknow’s big fat Tuesday – Bada Mangal

Two Tuesdays ago when I was driving home from Lucknow airport with my father, I saw a few pandals on the road serving food. My dad, whose love for pooris and kachauris is not a secret, suddenly had a happy grin on his face, “I am getting the aroma of pooris being fried,” he said. While I had a confused look on my face, dad went on to tell me the story behind these pandals and the story of Bada Mangal.

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Fursat Chaat Walk in Lucknow

In the last week of August, during my trip to Lucknow, I had organized a Fursat Chaat Walk. The idea was to take people around to places that define chaat in Lucknow; places that are not well known among tourists, but are thronged by locals; places that have been around since past 100 or so years. My dad – who’s been born and brought up in Lucknow – chalked out the map for the walk and picked places where he used to eat as a kid and in college.

Before I go ahead and tell you more about the chaat places that we covered, let’s talk a bit about the walk/drive; yes, it turned out to be a mix of both. My friend, blogger and now a successful food entrepreneur Amrita Rana joined in from Mumbai and we were accompanied by a few members of Lucknow Chefs (a local Facebook group). And…ehm…the walk was covered by the reporter of The Navbharat Times. See, that’s Amrita and I on the front page :D.

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Announcing the first Fursat Food Walk – Chatori Walk in Lucknow

Crisp aloo tikiya sizzling on the iron skillet, batashe filled with flavoured pani and soft wadas dunked in sweet dahi – this is what I picture at the mention of chaat. For me chaat is synonymous to Lucknow and I am biased about the chaat from my city. I am not sure if it originated here, but the way Lucknowis talk about chaat, it sure looks so.

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