Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Joy of The Jalebi

A version of this post first appeared in The Hindu

It is 11:30 in the morning and we are as famished as we are tired. We have been out since 4:00 AM, have driven over 250 kms, visited the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daula and the Taj Mahal, and are on our way to the erstwhile capital of Akbar, where we also plan to catch up on breakfast. But there is a problem: we have taken a wrong turn and instead of being on the road to Fatehpur Sikri, we are stuck in a narrow lane in the heart of Agra’s Sadar Bazaar.

On a Sunday Morning, all of Agra seems to have descended on the street: hawkers, shoppers, cattle, cyclists, pedestrians. So we crawl on the street along with them hungry, angry, and frustrated praying no one hits our brand-new car.

It is then that we spot it. A corner shop with wok full of hot, juicy jalebis and fat, round asafetida laced kachauris. We forget all about our misery & stop the car in the middle of the road for a dose of UP-special breakfast.

Jalebi & kachauri happen to be the most coveted breakfast the Hindi heartland. Rich, flavourful, and wholesome it is almost a staple with the locals. Every Sunday morning, irrespective of which part of the state you are in, you can see a long queue of men & children in front of sweet shops waiting patiently for their Jalebis and kachauris. 

The flavours of the kachauri keep varying as per region – tangy in the eastern stretches, asafetida laced and spicy in the western parts; served with dry potato preparation in the east and with oily gravy in the west – but the form of the dish remains the same. These crusty, crispy, beautiful domes of flour, filled with lentil mixture fried to perfection and served with potatoes on the side can turn the biggest prudent foodie into a glutton. Jalebis on the other hand remain the universal favorite. Unlike most part of the country though, in UP they are eaten in the morning and are essential to complete your breakfast. They are also fatter, juicier and much more sinful than their counterparts in other parts of the country.

Together they are to UP what Fish & Chips are to a Brit – inseparable with each other and staple of the locals.

By the time I reach the stall, dreaming & salivating, there are only four Kachauris left in the shop and there are at least ten people in the queue ahead of me. I almost break down in frustration and anticipation. I don’t know if it is pity or awe that my expression induces in the shopkeeper, but he decides to hand over the last four pieces to me along with a bag full of piping hot jalebis. On another day, I’d have insisted on waiting for my turn, but today I shamelessly grab them and run back to the car.  Being a UPite there is nothing more precious to me than my Jalebi-Kachauri breakfast.

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