When LK Advani’s rath yatra rolled through his Gandhinagar constituency, Ahmedabad was declared ‘the experimental theatre of Hindutva’. However, in its 40+ years as my town-in-law, it has proved that it is actually the experimental theatre of food. Esther David, my guide to Amdavadi culinary-shaadi, first told me of ‘pasta-bens’ and an entire GenX never having tasted dal-bhat-shak. That ‘DBS’ staple had been replaced by PBS, ‘peeza-burgur-smoothie’. The disruptor-in-chief was ‘CTF’, a wannabe all-American soda fountain called Chills Thrills Frills. Then, during Covid every Ba also became a Sushi-ben or Mexikan-masi. Game-changer CTF has retreated before the onslaught of Churros/Tortilla/‘Frenkie’ outlets.
The now-global ‘Induben’ is to khakras what TurmericRam is to bhujia, rolling out an infinite variety. But it was at an impostor Bikaneri that I found Vit D Khakra and Oats Patra. However, for the Real McGujju experimentfest we immersed ourselves in Manek Chowk, chauffeured there by brave Farzad, unfazed by the crazed adventurism of his aunts.
This daytime gold-silver trader hub turns into a halogen-blazed, crowded, raucous, frenzied food bazaar. The silver-tongued showman dispensing ‘Smoke Biscuit and Fire Paan’ is ‘Insta’-ready with his drum of liquid nitrogen and a strip of LED lights ‘better video leva matey’; he’s already a YouTube sensation. ‘Gujarat Jamun Shots’, fruit ones apart, offers Oreo and Cold Coffee shots. Also ‘Dadagiri’ – that’s ‘hari mirch’.
The alley is packed with long tables a-litter with giant dosas filled with pizza toppings or even chocolate, ‘bun peezas’ topped with dosa fillings and, of course, ‘Sechwan Paneer’. China has won the Indian street-food battle, but lost the war – look at the LACs of atrocities we’ve wreaked on its ancient cuisine.
At Manek Chowk, it’s as if a Mount Cheesuvius has erupted, and rivers of gratings flowed down its sides to smother everything in sight, from masala kulcha to ‘Menchurian’. The ultimate abomination is the ‘Pineapple Ice Cream Senwich’. White bread filled with canned pineapple wedges and a slice of ice cream, then blanketed in a blizzard of grated cheese. Make in India, Jai Ho!
Alec Smart said: “Cheetah-Cheetal, separated by just one letter. Hounded for life.”
This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.
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