Sunday, February 21, 2010

Flavors of Varanasi - Where to Eat

Varanasi is not just a city of temples but also a foodie’s paradise. You cannot turn in Varanasi without bumping into a thela (push-cart) of something tasty. The sumptuous and appetizing yet tangy and flavorful North Indian food and snacks are the best options to try at Varanasi. Be it the crisp Khasta Kachoris (puri stuffed with ground dal and hing) dipped in delicious aloo matar curry, spicy Papdi chaats, crisp Pani Puris with the awesome flavor of jeera, hot and tangy aloo tikiyas (crisp and with chhole) melting in your mouth, or the teekha Samosas served with mint, coriander and tamarind chutneys -- all these chatpate and mouth watering snacks will surely set your taste buds rolling, the moment you enter any lane in Varanasi.

    On the very first day of our stay in Varanasi, we found a thela under a large banyan tree diagonally opposite the Durga temple where we had some pani puris and hot tikiyas.
 

[ Chaat push cart diagonally opposite Durga Temple ]
 
    We tasted similar flavors at Deena chaat (Deenanath Kesari) at Nariyal Galli near Chowk. One unique item which I had never tasted before was the ‘Tamatar (Tomato) Chaat’. Served in kulhads, it is a mixture of thick tomato gravy (simmering on a hot tawa), chhole, peas, onions, a range of spices thrown in along with a number of different chutneys and a good squeeze of lime, topped with farsan and coriander. Its sweet, sour, spicy tang dances on the tongue and I will definitely recommend it if you happen to be at this place. They also have Chuda matar (poha and peas with dryfruits - completely different from the kanda poha my mother makes at home), Spinach papdi chaat and Gulab jamuns besides the regular chaat fare.
 
 
[ Deena Chaat ]
 
[ Tamatar Chaat at Deena ]

One word of caution, however, is that most of the roadside chaats are prepared in Dalda, Vanaspati Ghee which can be hazardous (besides being unhygienic, of course) to ones health. So be careful and think twice before gorging.

    Those having a sweet tooth need not worry either. There are a number of old sweetshops near and around the chowk area like the Madhur Jalpan, Ram Bhandar near Thatheri Bazaar and Shri RajBandhu in Kachori Galli to name a few. Shri RajBandhu situated in the lane leading to Manikarnika ghat, had a wide variety of sweets. We, however, purchased the famed Lal Pedas for our friends and relatives back home. What's more, they also had samosas and kachoris claimed to be cooked in Pure Desi Ghee. Though they were a little expensive than its roadside counterpart, they tasted much better and were definitely worth the extra bucks.
 
 
[ An Assortment of Sweets lined up at Shri RajBandhu] 
[ Famed Lal Pedas at Shri RajBandhu ]

    Bread of Life bakery at Shivala Ghat started by a German was probably the first bakery in Varanasi. Bread here is prepared in their very own bakery minus any chemicals. Visit here for their fresh chocolate cakes or muffin pancakes with maple syrup, croissants, fruit buns, pizzas and sandwiches. Mostly frequented by foreigners, do drop in here if you appreciate value for money with regard to quality, hygiene and cleanliness.

 
[ Bread of Life bakery ]
    
    Two things I strongly recommend you to bring back from Varanasi are the Gajak (a dry sweet, made of sesame/til seeds) and the Achaar (pickle). There are a number of shops selling gajak in the Chowkhamba lane and we took it from a shop (no name) just below the pole. The gajak tasted really nice and we regretted having bought just one box back home from Varanasi.

 
[ Gajaks at Chowkhamba ]

    You can find 3 to 4 old shops- Sitaram, Suresh, Siyaram - in the lane leading to Dashashwamedh Ghat selling achaars, morabbas pickled in mustard, special papads made of potatoes and also curd based papads …. all of them self-prepared by them. Their ‘Mix Achaar’, which lasts for as long as one year, is the pick of all the above items.

[ Papads, Achaars near Dashashwamedh Ghat ]

26 comments:

  1. love the photos of the chaat vendor. i was in varanasi years back and still remember it so vividly. i love your accounts. keep it up.

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  2. Loved seeing all those yummy treats!

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  3. You have an interesting space here :-)
    Thanks for this virtual treats !!!

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  4. Thanks for stopping by kothiyavunu and for ur sweet comment..Awesome pics!

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  5. Thanks for dropping by my blog! You have a wonderful place here with lovely pics, I simply loved seeing these yummy treats!

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  6. Thanks for stopping by :-) Will see you often !

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  7. Hi Arti, Thanks for visiting my blog! I was so happy to find you are also from Bombay! Hope to stay in touch!

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  8. Thanks for stopping by my blog.....You have a wonderful space here. Thanks for the lovely virtual treats.

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  9. Hulo Arti,nice to know ya....loved this article...feel like i walked the streets of Varanasi with ya and all that street food...looks so so v interesting surely.....

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  10. Nice article. You have covered it thouroghly and enjoyed reading about all the street food.

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  11. Thanks for visiting my blog, really interesting post and lovely pictures-the food sounds so delicious!

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  12. Wow Arti, those sweets look so yummy!!!

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  13. this was an interesting post! I ve learnt so much. tq. n tq for dropping by ^^

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  14. Thanks for dropping by my blog! You have such a wonderful space here with great travel anecdotes and yummy pics! Keep the travel diaries coming.

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  15. Hello Arti, nice posting. I have always enjoyed Indian food, its exotic spices, aroma.
    Love fish curries, samosas too. I bet you can cook very well too.
    Have a nice day, stay young and keep a song in your heart. Best regards, Lee.

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  16. I looove the chaat's I have had. I'm drooling just reading this entry. Happy Travels!

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  17. Looks like an interesting food.
    Nice place.
    Thanks for coming by.
    Have a great day.

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  18. Thanks for stopping by my blog.
    It was nice taking this little tour with you. Yummy looking food here.

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  19. Oh, that food looks so good. I almost felt as if I could smell it. It made me very hungry and made me want to travel to India. Thanks for the wonderful tour and all of the great pictures!

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  20. I am very much enjoying vicariously visiting India with you. Your vivid descriptions are making me want to find the nearest street vendor. I wish I could smell it all.

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  21. Yup great Pics... Used to go a lot to Varanasi, havent been there in the past 2 years. Surely miss the Chaat and Lal Pedas

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  22. WOWWWEST visual treats and good food guidance for all those who visits Banares!Amazingly the best of food can be found in the streets of India. Sometimes nothings beats street food and food joints that have been there for decades!!

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  23. Mmmmm yummy!!! Gajak is one of my favorites. I had a friend who used to bring supplies of it from his home. :)

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  24. Nice. You should visit Amritsar (Punjab) and relish Punjabi food - chats, kulchas and many hoer delicacies.

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  25. Hi Arti
    Nice post i have tasted all the things u mentioned as i m in BHU for 2 years for MBA
    next in my list is palang tod rabadi

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  26. Hi there,Can any one give contact details(phone number) of famous mix achaar shop in varanasi please at this mail id- info@itcimpex.com
    Thanks

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