Bakasura Beedhi

Those who read it as beedi, let me correct you, it’s beed(h)i. Like in South India, when we put an ‘h’ we mean the ‘h’. We would spell Vidya as Vidhya, Tandav as Thandav, Dil will be Dhil, and we don’t forget the ‘h’ when we pronounce Mukesh.

Coming the point, Beedhi means street.

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I am talking about what most people refer to as ‘food street’ at VV puram. To me it has lost half its flavour with that name, so I have renamed it gastronomically. 

This has been covered in Time-out and sporadically in other newspaper supplements when they’ve run out of pictures of fashionable drunkards. I have always felt that no coverage has managed to give people an actual idea of what a visit to this street means. To embark on this mission itself is stupidity but nevertheless. So, let me give you my version of it.

Firstly, it doesn’t fall on your way back home.

Secondly, they do not serve non-veg.snake-god

Thirdly, it is located in a boring Brahminical area where the only other thing you can combine to this trip is a visit to the umpteen temples located next to it.

Lastly, there is no bar in the vicinity.

So I am completely aware of the risk I undertake by recommending that you dedicate one evening out to this place, inspite of all these shortcomings.

To begin with, this place lies somewhere between Chamrajpet and Basavanagudi. Near Jain College. Near Lal Bagh West Gate. Behind JC Road. Close to Cauvery Petrol Bunk. Get somewhere close to any one of these and find your way.

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Tucked away in a part of Bangalore where people still haven’t changed their ways to suit lifestyles of the modern. 

The street runs for about 400 metres, with stalls located so close to each other, that the aroma from one stall might actually lead you to the other. I have been frequenting this place for over 16 years. And after lot of experimentation I have now developed The Ideal Path that could help you enjoy this place better.

First, make sure that you stay away from health and fitness magazines during the preparation period. And assemble a gang of four or five. And make sure that they don’t include killjoys who take pride in displaying their knowledge of good eating habits, and turn into calorie counting machines while you are at it. 

The golden rule is that never ever order too much at any stall. Order about one or two plates of each dish and split it among yourselves. I also advise that you skip your afternoon lunch. And get there by about 8pm. (The place is open only in the evenings, between 6 and 10:30pm). 

And prepare your stomach to hold everything that your tongue callously sends below.

The street starts with VB Bakery and ends at a corn cart. Get to the other side, and begin with the corn. It is easily the most unique offering of this place. You’ll find a fancy cart that has a small electric fan fitted on to it that kindles the charcoal. He has an elaborate menu printed all over his cart, that can end up driving you nuts, american corn ghee fry, baby corn chaat, corn mix and other non-innovative names. Screw it. It’s just the same ingredients in various permutations and combinations. 

charcoalStraight away ask for the baby corn masala. The final dish in your hand looks as good as the raw material. But it is nothing short of dynamite. Tender baby corns are thrown with their covering, into the burning charcoal. And removed when the covering is charred. The corn is now stripped off its leaf, cut into small pieces, and served with a squeeze of lime, salt and some explosive green chilly masala, on a harmless looking platter of a fresh corn leaf. The flavour of charcoal is so subtle, that had it been done in a five star, the chef would have had a program named after him on Travel and Living.

Once they disappear, keep an order of American corn mix on standby to quickly recover from the jolt that just ruptured the path between your nostrils and your brain.

The second one will calm you down a bit. Now, finish it with an total mix. I have no idea what the official name for these mixes are, neither does the maker. So, just rotate your hand around all the ingredients and tell him ‘all mix’.

What you’ll be holding is a medley of raw mango, baby corn, american corn and pineapple. All charcoaled and spiked up adequately. Beside him is a strategically placed fruit chaat vendor. Use his services, if you feel the need to instantly bring down the dizziness in your head.

Walk down the path without being tempted by anything else you see around, and stop at the most crowded dosa corner on your right. 

Order for a couple of masala dosas. And while you are waiting for them to be done, fix yourself a plate of idlis and gatti chutney. The idlis are not the best I’ve eaten, but the chutney definitely makes you lenient on the criticism. While you are passing judgements, keep an eye on your masala dosa taking shape on the smoky tava before you.close-up-dosas

Once the batter is spread out in concentric circles, watch the guy pick out a packet of ghee, that he will now squeeze out inconsiderately on to every dosa, through a pin hole prick on the packet, drenching each piece with ghee, as you go through a list of legitimate reasons to justify why you deserve this binge. And just when you begin to think that he’s overdoing it, he’ll invert the dosa, and repeat the act.

 

ghee-laden-dosa1You’ll be delighted when you notice that the dosa comes without a smearing of that disgraceful red paste, a recipe that most darshinis share today. 

Once you bite into it, the ghee oozes out from every pore of this delicacy but tastes so heavenly, that you instantly pardon all the evil that this humble dish has been cursed with.

Pick an odd assortment of the various vadas and bajjis on the counter, but resist all temptation to settle down here, and move on. Just make sure that you haven’t forgotten the Mangalore bajjis

Walk further down, and stop at the stall that has a curious looking dish being fried on a bumpy vessel that I find hard to describe. (See pic)baba-fried-idli1

Ya sure, the vermillion sadhu adds to the effect. It’s called fried idlis. Not too tasty, but I guess it must be appealing to some taste buds. But the tamarind chutney that accompanies it is uniquely sweet, salty, sour, pungent and spicy in equal measures. 

Walk further up to the ancient VB Bakery and pack some breads, biscuits and other condiments. By now, you’ll be sufficiently full, so chances are that you will not be packing more than necessary. The variety over here is quite tasty, but I’ve heard from some old timers that the quality has dropped. So skip it, if you belong to a generation of better taste.

Since you are in the area, walk ahead a little further, and on the right hand side of a massive circle, is a shop called “Vasavi Condiments’. During season, they make specialities with a green colored bean called avrekai. You get to taste it before you buy. So take your picks, and walk back to the street that is still waiting in the hope of your insatiable return.

I have delibrately left out quite a few dishes, so that you have some to discover on your own. Like the mysterious looking preparation in this picture.

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Oh! I forgot, stop by for some hot jamoons and jilebis, the exact location of which, I trust the sweets will announce on their own. 

Once you’re through with this, walk back all the way to the corn cart that started it all. Close to that you will find your finale point. The last shop on your left. Order for a ‘Butter Gulkand Fruit Salad with Ice Cream’. Ya! that kind of sums up what it contains. But you can still expect surprises. And finish it all with a Masala Pepsi, a jaljeera of sorts, and probably the only new age offering on this side of the planet.

 

last-shop-menu2So, the next time you have someone from Delhi raving about purani dilli ke parathe wali gully, you know where to take them.

 

May not be so elaborate, but then we’ve always been known for our modesty.

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The idli vada at SLV

This is to put an end to all arguments on ‘Who makes the best Idli Vadas in the world?’ No apologies to anyone who thinks it’s their mom, their neighborhood idli joint or that lone idli cart in the middle of the night, beside some gutter.


 

Let me invite you (like it’s my pop’s cafe), to taste what is undoubtedly the only dish that you would be willing to survive on, for the rest of your life. It’s a trip to Sri Lakshmi Venkateshwara Coffee Bar at Banashankari 2nd Stage, Bangalore.

The route to get here. Get to Jayanagar, ask for Banashankari 2nd Stage. Get to Banashankari Stage and ask for the Bata Store. Take the road from Bata Store that leads you to Banashankari Complex, and keep looking to your left. In case you feel like looking at your right, then stop at the gigantic park, and look at this unassuming baap of idli joints, to your left.

What’s even greater is that the owner doesn’t know that he makes the best idlis and vadas on the planet. So, he still makes it from the heart, as nothing has gone to his head. 

You’ll find a humble ancient Bajaj scooter parked there, which belongs to the owner. 

Behind the cash counter, you’ll find a man from Udupi, who’s neatly scrubbed with Hamam soap, and finished with stripes of ash and a dot of vermillion on his forehead. He’s incharge of the coupons. Buy yourself a coupon for a double and a vada, and a coffee to begin with. ‘Double’ here is the accepted term for 2 Idlis.

Push yourself through the crowds and give your token to the man behind the delivery counter. An equally well bathed man. You’ll hear a loud shrill voice announce your order ”ondhu double barli’ (may the double come).

Through the dingy dark opening behind the counter, you’ll see the steamer being opened, and 2 hot Idlis will be promptly scooped out of a brown dhothi cloth.

Your Idlis will now slide out in a shapeless steel plate to the man at the counter. Don’t panic, he knows the order of the orders. Your idlis will go to nobody else. He’ll now carefully pick a nice crisp brown vada from the dozens he has piled next to him, add it to the plate, and pour 2 ladles of coconut chutney on them and thrust it before you. 

In case you want sambhar, then get back to that neighborhood idli joint of yours. You are not lucky enough to taste a slice of heaven, beforehand. 

Push your way through the crowds again, as the whiff of the waft hits your face.

 

And settle down on the stone steps, beside those two early morning elderly joggers, who’ve gathered to crib about the welfare of the state. 

Now, let loose your 4 gm spoon, to sink into these soft cakes of paradise. And scoop out spoonfuls, one by one, to the rhythmic sound of the old lady who winnows rice in the neighboring provision store. 

Dodge them in your mouth, roll your tongue to not be stung by the heat of these dumplings, and let the taste of the chutney take over. Give your teeth some rest. Leave your tongue do the crushing. Swallow, and feel the steam go down your food pipe.

Now, alternate with bites of the crispy vada, to give your restless teeth some role to play.

Soon, you’ll run out of chutney. Get back, but not all the way inside. You’ll find a little boy standing near the cash counter with a bowl of chutney balancing over a red gas cylinder. Take a greedy helping, and return to your uncomfortable seat.

Once you are done, proceed to the delivery counter again with your coffee coupon. Return back in time to catch the climax of the conversation of the 2 joggers, trying to balance a steaming cup of filter coffee. 

Light up your smoke and enjoy.

If you still don’t enjoy this, then burn up a few thousand dollars and take a sky diving trip to the alps.

Also available: Chow Chow bath, Khara Bath, kesari bath, Masala dosa (Limited Qty), lemon rice, puliyogare (tamarind rice), Vangi Bath (brinjal rice), curd rice, buttermilk, tea, ciggies and water. (and everything as good as the idli vadas)