As a food writer, I'm often asked to name one city in India that I think has been grossly underrated as a 'street food city'. A city that gets overshadowed by the more popular Mumbais and Delhis of the country, often eclipsing the rest with their respective 'Khau' and 'Paranthe Wali Galis'. And my answer is always the same. One that always takes the person asking by surprise. That city is Ahmedabad. Yes, Gujarat's wonderfully 'with it' food city often falls off the radar in the roundup of India's best cities to enjoy a night out in, gorging oneself silly on some stellar street food. And that has always both surprised and saddened me. It's just that Ahmedabad has so much to offer the culinarily curious.
From the wonders of Jasuben's pizza at Law Garden to the crisp vadas and hot dhoklas of Municipal Market, Ahmedabad, in my humble opinion is chock-a-block with delicious roadside food items. All sold at a very reasonable price and all making the city a gastronome's paradise with its sheer variety of places to eat at.
But undoubtedly, one of my favourite places to eat whenever I find myself in Ahmedabad is at the many joints that dot Manek Chowk. Surrounded by a collection of historical buildings, all nestled in the very core of old Ahmedabad, Manek Chowk is a warren of street food places with some truly divine food on offer.
Take, for instance, the khatta meetha bhaat. A rice preparation very similar to a Mumbai-style tava pulao, this sweet-n-sour-n-spicy dish is much more than the triple word alliteration that it is! Given the average Gujarati palate's penchant for a bit of sweet added to savoury dishes, this one ticks the box. Available at almost every street cart, stall and eatery in Manek Chowk and made freshly on order using copious amounts of tangy tamarind paste, amchur, and sugar, well offset by a sprinkling of spicy pav bhaji masala and still crunchy veggies, khatta meetha bhaat is an explosion of taste and texture. Further pimped up with a scattering of ruby red pomegranate seeds, golden raisins, whole cashew nuts and chopped coriander leaves.
So, taken in was I by the rice dish the first time I tried it, that I remember badgering the reluctant stall owner for the recipe. Something he grudgingly agreed to give me by letting me observe how he put it all together. Now, unlike a traditional pulao, the rice here isn't cooked alongside the vegetables and spices. It is in fact, boiled separately in advance, allowed to cool and only then mixed in with the other ingredients and condiments atop a large circular tava. Just like one would make fried rice in a wok.
Although I've tweaked the original recipe a fair bit, its soul is as Amdavadi as it can get. Straight from the gullies of Manek Chowk to you...
How To Make Amdavadi Khatta Meetha Bhaat | Amdavadi Khatta Meetha Bhaat Recipe
Recipe by Raul Dias
- 2 cups cooked basmati rice
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp jeera (whole cumin)
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
- 2 large tomatoes chopped
- 1 green capsicum diced
- 1/2 cup peas (parboiled)
- 2 tsp pav bhaji masala powder
- 1/4 tsp red chilli powder
- 1/4 tsp haldi powder (turmeric)
- 1/4 amchur powder (dried mango)
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- (For garnish)
- 2 tsp golden raisins
- 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
- 10 whole cashew nuts
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
- First cook two cups of basmati rice in eight cups of water to which some salt and a few drops of oil have been added so that the rice grains are separate. Keep aside.
- Parboil peas and set aside.
- In a pan melt butter on medium heat and sauté jeera for a minute till browned.
- Add onion and sauté for a few minutes till translucent.
- Add ginger-garlic paste and fry well for a few minutes.
- Add-in the tomatoes and capsicum along with pav bhaji masala, chilli powder, haldi powder, amchur powder, tamarind paste, salt and sugar. Fry on low heat for 7-8 minutes making sure the capsicum is still a bit crunchy, but not raw.
- Add-in the rice and peas and mix gently for two minutes.
- Adjust salt if need and garnish with raisins, pomegranate seeds, cashew nuts and chopped coriander.
- Serve hot with tomato raita and roasted papad.
About Raul DiasA Mumbai-based writer, Raul is an ardent devotee of the peripatetic way of life. When not churning out his food and travel stories at a manic pace, he can be found either hitting the road for that elusive story or in the company of his three dogs!