Okay, Bangalore: we need to have a cha(a)t with visitors from North Indian cities. Yes, yes our bars shut down much too early and traffic is too massive a nightmare for a city this small. But, if you hear one more complaint about how there is no good chaat to be found here, you must insist on the offender meeting you (or me) at dawn outside Vijaya Darshini, pistols at the ready.
Noobeshwar, I will say before I shoot them non-fatally, the problem here isn’t that we don’t have one Elco Bhaiyya dishing out pani puri made to your Bandra-bred tastes. It is that you don’t understand that you are now south of the Vindhyas and chaat is conceptually different.
Let me explain.
First, please let go of sweet and spicy, nylon-sev bedecked, crunchy puri-bolstered expectations. Bangalore “chats” is a whole new beast (feast) that caters to the South Indian palate. Replace puris with the sturdier, savoury nippat and bland nylon sev with khara boondi that promises a spicier crunch. Add in fresh chopped onions, tomatoes, shredded carrots and the occasional guest appearance by mushy peas and you have the makings for your standard Bangalore chat.
Second, don’t rush into it. Start things off gently. Perhaps with a bouquet-sized cone of peanut masala from the chats cart next to your office. See, it’s almost like bhel back home, but spicier, tangier. Less dependent on chutneys. There’s a crunch to it that is positively cathartic when taken as a break from never-ending spreadsheets. Perhaps you can try a boti masala next (it’s made with those interesting looking golden finger fryums that caught your eye while you were waiting for your chat). Who knows where that will take you.
Perhaps it will be the push you need to head to Sheshadripuram to take in its winding roads and leafy lanes. Make your way down to the decades old Chetty’s Corner and ask for a Nippat Bun Masala. Get the one with cheese if you’d like. I won’t tell. But don’t forget the masala cola. Bite into the fluffiest bun you have ever encountered (Instagram corgis, you have competition) before you experience the sudden snap of a freshly fried nippat. The textural contrast is delightful, but distinctly coupled by the shredded spiced vegetables and cheese. Take a sip of the ice-cold cola and marvel at how it all goes together.
Venture further into Malleswaram. Find yourself at Shri Sairam Chats and Juice. Ask for a plate of Masala Puri - the staple of any Bangalorean college career. This hot tangy mess is what your mother warned you not to eat on your way home, but you did anyway. The puris are buried under what seems to be a gravy of peas topped with khara boondi and shredded carrots. It’s meant to fill your belly and make your mouth tingle. You wish it were raining as you ate it because of how it warms your insides.
Wash it down with a final course of pani puri. While the pani is familiar, the fillings are not. Carrots lend sweetness and instead of the usual chana, you have mushy peas to spoon into each puri. It makes the paani puri denser and smoother, but this is still a one-bite delight. Plus, the pani is slow to trickle down through a puri filled to the brim, taking time to soak the puri into nothingness - it works for our languid pace of life. Chat and chill is the modus operandi here in our town. Restfully inhale a plate of our chats before you amble back to your manne in your new ooru. We are so happy to have you come home.
Getting there: Chetty’s Corners can be found all over the city. The one Sheshadripuram is on Serpentine Road, Kumara Park West. Shri Sairam Chats and Juice is on 15th Cross Road, 2nd Temple Street, Malleswaram.
Accessibility: Shri Sairam is at pavement level while Chetty’s is one step up from it.
Sushmita Sundaram writes about funny people, odd things, and anything edible. Follow her on Twitter at @sushmitas.
Wake up to daily updates on what to eat/shop/do in your city