budget eating Foodie adventures

Bangalore Street Food - Johnson Market

Friday, May 17, 2013Me! In words

And in continuation with our street food discovery plans, right after VVPuram, next on the cards was the carnivore's delight - Johnson Market. I have always had food parceled from this area, but never really stepped in to eat except maybe to sit in the car when our rolls were being made at Siddique. This time round, with Anoushka still partying away with the grandparents, it was time to take a tummy filling stroll. We began around 7PM at Makkah Cafe - perfect time for a chai, harira and steaming hot samosas. 

If you stand at Fanoos facing the market, you just have to start walking into the lane with flower sellers at the beginning. Follow your nose and you will see hordes outside Makkah Cafe just before you hit the road again. This little hole in the wall actually has a little seating inside which is constantly full - I mean you have to be really lucky or stand next to a full table with a drooling mouth to get someone to move - and maybe even that will not work. When we arrived, the samosa tray was empty and I was heartbroken. But the man at the counter said "Two minutes - fresh aayega!" and two minutes later an ancient scooter loaded with a blue crate that could be seen steaming for miles off arrived. Two samosas were promptly put onto pieces of paper and shoved into our hands - no ceremony or service with a smile here. But that's the fun of it. 

These onion/peas filled samosas were crisp on the outside, steaming hot on the inside and with a glass of half chai, had all the pores opening up. The harira was boiling away in a kadai and the bubbles could be quite mesmerizing. The taste of course has to be had to be understood. Makkah Cafe is also famous for its naans - circular pastries with stuffing of coconut or fruits or khova. Heavy duty in themselves, these are sold by the triangle cut. There are also biscuits, nankhatai and some other goodies. 

The cafe's door serves as the menu card

The naans up front, the samosas at the back and more!

Despite many attempts, the samosas were so hot I just couldn't hold still and hence the blur

Coconut and fruit naans - both of which Sudhakar finished before I could my samosa and very sheepishly announced that they tasted brilliant

Harira on the boil

Harira and half chai

The base firmly set, we walked across to Fanoos - a very popular name in the area for rolls. It being a week day we did not have to battle endless crowds and blaring traffic. We actually were able to walk right up to the counter, spend sometime staring at the menu wondering how many things we could order without filling up too much. Finally we settled on having a chicken liver roll, beef shawarma and a sheekh roll - this last one was in place of the veal roll we really wanted, but was already finished for the day.

The vertical rotissers and the rhythmic slicing and chopping of meat and putting together of the rolls can be quite hypnotic. The aromas are quite heady and your stomach will definitely start to protest if the rolls don't reach your hands soon. They came soon enough, as we were ogling at the massive billboard size menu of Madeena Stores across the road. Every conceivable soda seemed to be available at this partially on-the-road-partially-in-a-booth kind of place.

The rolls at Fanoos are just the right size for a snack. The shawarmas at Kebab Magic in fact are much thicker in terms of filling. But we were good with that considering we still had a few places to head to. The chicken liver roll is great for those who like innards like Sudhakar does. The Sheekh roll was spicy enough to make you pay attention to it and look a little longingly at Madeena stores. My beef shawarma on the other hand had the mayo a tad too sweet for my liking. Even the pickles did not add that vinegary, tangy punch.

At Madeena stores, you pick up a token for your drink and the guy at the counter squirts in some concentrate, opens a spout that gushes cold soda, stirs up a little salt into your drink, another gush of soda and there you have it. The rose soda was subtle and not the roohafza mixed in soda that I am sure you are thinking of. The kokum too, thanks to the salt was not taking the enamel of my teeth. The pomegranate however reminded me of this antibiotic that was an integral part of my childhood - erythromycin - it was pink, frothy and was a yucky cough syrup. The pomegranate brought all that taste back.

The rotissers at Fanoos at work

Sheekh Roll to the right, chicken liver to the left

The massive billboard menu of Madeena Stores. We opted for Rose, Pomegranate and Kokum sodas only to realise that all three were red and my picture was not going to look very interesting. 

The rose, kokum and pomegranate sodas

Next we marched towards Siddique's and just at the corner of the beef market spotted this little cart called Fazal Kebab - they had phal, nalli soup, veal roll, almost everything I wanted to have, especially the phal. We went around the corner only to be told that they were all sold out of everything yummy for the day and had some chicken kebab left. Bah!

So it was off to Siddique's. Nothing has changed here over the years - its still the dump that it was, you dare not look down and a word of advice, you are safer off standing near this hole in the wall and eating, than standing on the opposite side. It looks deceptively clean, but can kill your olfactory senses in one whiff. And trust me its nothing nice. At Siddique's we ordered just the one thing - the Bombay roll - none of the other jumbo rolls would have been a good idea for us then, since Khazana was going to be the grand finale. Here too I saw phal and wanted, but Sudhakar insisted that Khazana's phal was unbeatable. If you are hungry, the jumbo rolls at Siddique is your meal and a treat all rolled in one.

The Bombay rolls are prepped and kept right in front of you. They are then fried, cut into bite sized pieces and served with ketchup. We opted for the beef mince one and loved every steaming mouthful of it. With each holding our share, it was time to start walking to Khazana - granted it was only around 8.15PM but these places are notorious for having the best stuff get over too soon.

Fazal's where everything we wanted was already over for the day

Siddique and their ridiculously easy on the pocket prices

At Siddique this is about as much as you should look, nothing below this level is recommended

The beef Bombay roll

And the grand finale was at Khazana - Sudhakar at one point used to practically live here and so long hellos were the order when we got there. As soon as we sat down, we knew what we wanted - a portion of beef biryani, veal kebab and phal. That's when they announced that phal was over - so much for my luck. Instead we ordered the chicken fry. 

A beautiful thing is written on Khazana's menu - "Almighty gave us exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve it to you. And prepare it well would be an understatement. On any normal day, one beef biryani a person is easily doable. Considering how much we had already put in our tummies, this single portion perfectly did the job. The veal kebab was a grease fest, but that's were all the taste lies, in the tenderness of the meal and the greasiness of the plate. The chicken fry had a crunchy batter to each piece leaving the chicken soft on the inside, something that many higher end restaurants fail to achieve consistently. By now we were way beyond satiated, despite which all plates were licked clean - ok I confess, I left a little on mine. As we slowly ambled our way out, the call of suleimani chai at Makkah cafe, where all the goodness became came through crystal clear and that's where we really wrapped up our eating for the evening. 

The menu at Khazana

The unbeatable beef biryani

Chicken fry

Veal Kebab

Suleimani chai at Makkah Cafe

We were three adults and all of this eating would have come to not more than Rs 200 a head. If you are looking for some great food, at brilliant prices and are not finicky about ambiance and crowds and to an extent cleanliness, Johnson market is a stretch that you must explore.

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