I admit, I am somewhat obsessed with Varanasi. Those quaint, serpentine lanes, those strange ghats which have witnessed few centuries of human foolishness- I love them. But this time when I went there (probably my 3rd visit ), this was planned to be a journey where I’ll witness the Varanasi gastronomic wonders. The first part of my experience (with desserts) can be read by clicking here . And my quest for Kachori is written here.
Somebody told me “Beneras gaye aur kachori nahi khaye, toh kya jhand gaye ??? ” Now, definitely I didn’t go there for “Jhand” and was looking around for Kachori. Firstly, Google couldn’t help much (or I couldn’t find it properly) but the next best was was to reach there and look out for yourself. And, I am much comfortable for that. Please understand, if there’s a whole lane called “Kachoriwali gully” in some city, then you’re bound to get some damn good stuff there. But destiny had probably something else in mind.
Okay, first things first. There is this very very famous lane named “Kachoriwali Gully”. It’s one of those serpentine famous Varanasi-ish lanes with few stalwarts food-joints like Blue Lassi Shop , RajGharana etc. Now, I reached there around 7 in the morning, hungry after the early-morning. But you can’t keep a bong away from food and upon asking probably 10 people, we reached a shop called Gupta ji kachoriwale. It’s at the fag end of Kachoriwali Gully, much after the Kasi Viswanath temple. Now, kachori in varanasi (or probably in the entire northern India in that matter) is made out of atta and not maida. Hence, the normal color is darker. But, we’re not racists and a good fragrance of hing can make even a sad man happy. However, this shop, though having a hell lot of visitors, is just a roadside stall with the preparations going on the pavement and the gentleman was coming out with countless number of piping hot kachoris from his Kadhai. We asked for 2 at a time and probably that rang a bell with him somewhere. “Are you tourists sahab and are you going to write about food ?” was the question and I was kinda taken aback. I admit I make quite a scene shooting everything once I reach a street food vendor, but how on earth could this guy know ? Well, rather than answering, he handed over the kachoris.
The kachori was rustic, with a strong flavor of hing and the sabzi (a little watery) had few urad dal dumplings (mini version of bong Dhoka) and abundant amount of green peas. Both were piping hot and enjoyable. We had probably 4 each, and continued the madness wit our camera. Most probably, the owner Gupta Ji understood something and treated us with few of his hot Jalebis on our way back. But, was this the best Varanasi had to offer ? I was not so sure. We at Kolkata can and do come out with better staff than this. This can’t be it.
With a sad face, I was coming back to the hotel, but on our way back near the Godhuliya more, a strong smell hit me, my heart rather- like a bullet. It was like my long lost love was calling me and who am I lesser mortal to ignore that ? On the roadside, the champion was waiting for me. One glance, a loooong sniff and I understood I’ve arrived at the right place. He sets his thela just in front of the Ghoonghat suit Ghar and starts the magic. The kachori is actually great, the hing flavor was much stronger and the sabzi had chunks of paneer and the same urad dal dumplings- the difference was with the taste. It was pure heaven. I’d suggest, instead of going by the names, visit this guy and you won’t be disappointed.
Our next stop was a place called Lanka, very near to the BHU- a shop called Pehelwan Lassi Bhandar. Now, this guy is extremely famous to the local community and he’s actually having a crowd waiting at all times for his kachoris. And, we were very happy that we’ve finally reached the right place. He’s having a proper seating area (at least chairs and tables inside) and immediately upon seating, we were served kachori with sabzi and some jalebi (they sell it by the the weight BTW). The first bite and I was stunned. Ho could somebody make such a dry kachori ? It was like those khakhras (only a bit thicker)- dry and crispy. The sabzi was the saving grace- a spicy mashup of something (I could figure out only aloo with some dal). Maybe this style is their USP or we reached on a bad day, it was not my type. The adjacent shop (with the same name- probably some not-so-distant cousin’s) though served us one of the good Malaiyo and that was the only saving grace.
While walking, we found numerous small shops on roads selling chana-kachori and being the seasoned glutton, I dropped in. They were basically mini-kachoris (crushed with bare hands before serving) with some sabzi poured over them and served with a super-spicy mint-coriander chutney, topped with sliced onions. The result was fiery, though enjoyable. If spice is your life, opt for them, you won’t be disappointed. This served as their standard breakfast and almost everybody, even the school going kids had one plate in hand …..
So, either I couldn’t find the the proper hidden gems (which I’d love to go some other time) or we’re used to a damn good quality kachori in Kolkata, I was frankly not much impressed. But, food, as I say, is extremely subjective and I am quite opinionated about it. But one thing I must say, everywhere, almost everywhere, the hospitality was impeccable. We were welcomed, they answered my shitty mindless questions and in most of the places, we were awarded with 2-3 jalebis for our madness (they didn’t take the money actually saying “Kya saab, kha ke to dekhiye …”). Now, “dekhiye toh dekhiye” and what else can we do than to thank them…..
So, the journey continues and probably, on my next visit, I’ll finally find out those true maestros who’ve made Varanasi famous with their Kachoris.
Bon appetite !!!
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