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Best Places To Go On A Culinary Trail In Indore

A city that is known for its vibrant food scene, Indore merges spirituality, nature, and food to create a potpourri of experiences that is impossible to miss.

Bindu Gopal Rao

Braving the huge crowd, I muster some courage with my mask on to enter Om Namkeen in the busy Chappan Bazaar in Indore. Hoping for my stash of travel souvenirs, I am amazed to see the shop teeming with customers. The countertop is lined with a mind-boggling variety of snacks or farsan as it is locally called. There are several varieties of sev and the customers are busy tasting and ordering their choice. Jostling to get my voice heard in the din, I manage to finally pay for my purchase and make my way out. “It's always like this here, the Indore folk are very passionate about snacking,” explains a local.

And it’s not just snacks—food is a culture in Indore, something ingrained in its ethos as I discover. Being my first trip to Indore, a clear agenda I had was to explore the city with a focus on its famed food scene. 

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My introduction to the cuisine was the quintessential breakfast poha and jalebi that Gourav Malhotra, executive chef at The Park Indore, insisted I try. “This is a staple here and what makes it different is that it is topped with sev. Indoris love the zing in their food and must have jeervan as the masala in all their dishes. This is like a local variant of the garam masala and we also have it as an element of the buffet so that it can be sprinkled on top as well,” explains Malhotra.

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Well, that was some food for thought. And braving the summer heat, I set out for some history lessons at the Lal Bagh Palace and Central Museum which gave me an insight into the Maratha rulers and the Holkar dynasty that ruled the region. I then headed towards the Bada Ganpati temple. Located amid a bustling street, this temple is said to have been built by Ahilyabai Holkar, the Queen who ruled Malwa after whom the airport is also named. Indore is known for its temples including Kajrana, Annapurna Temple and the Hanuman temple. The city in fact is dotted with temples and spirituality is a stone’s throw away from any place here.

As I was zipping through my sightseeing trips, I could not help but notice the number of food carts that dot the streets here. “Street food is everywhere in Indore. However, the best ones are at Sarafa Market and Chappan,” says Parisha Arenja who is showing me around the hotspots and has grown up in the city.

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It is a little past 9 pm when we make our way into the Sarafa Bazaar, which is the centre of the food action. In the narrow alleys of the space, which is a jewellery market by day, the flavours of Indore come alive. There is everything from chaat, shrikhand, ice cream, juice, pav bhaji, dosa, paneer tikka, paratha, Chinese fare, momos, rolls, and kulfi stalls trying to catch your attention. 

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However, I wanted to explore some of the more unique dishes that are typical to Indore and stopped to try the famed bhutte ke kees, a mix of mashed boiled corn, ghee, gram flour, and spices. Likewise try the garadus, which are deep fried yams tossed with spices to make a crispy treat. There is also some drama around food at Joshi Dahi Vada where you can see how the flying dahi vada is made. The store owner is game and will oblige you with his skills as he deftly makes the dahi vada by inserting the spices at one go with his fingers and then tossing it in the air before serving it to you.

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If you have a sweet tooth, I recommend you try the large thick jalebis that are a specialty here. There is also the rasmalai and rabdi that is popular here as well as a range of lassis that you can try. Kulfi is a big draw too and there are many flavours available as are the paans—you have a chocolate paan and strawberry one as well. I also tried the Coconut Crush at Navin whose name plate reads ‘YouTube The World Famous Coconut Crush’, which is a mix of the malai and coconut water that is flavoured with fruits as well.

The best part is that despite the volumes of food that is sold and eaten, the streets are cleaned, and the garbage is removed twice every day. Little wonder then that the city has won the Swachh Survekshan 2021 award, for the cleanest city in the country for the fifth consecutive year in a row.

The next day I stopped at Chappan Dukan (that translates to 56 shops), a more organized food space where you have shops on both sides of a vehicle-free street with a cobbled floor seating in between. And my first stop was at Johny Hot Dog, which is nothing like the typical hot dog you may know. Interestingly, this was the dish that was the most-ordered dish on UberEats in the entire Asia-Pacific region. The hotdog is made by stuffing crisp potato patties inside a soft burger bun and topped with finely chopped onions, ketchup and green chutney, and is a burst of flavours.

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When here, you must also try the trademark khopra patties which are a big draw at Vijay Chat House. These are deep-fried tikkis stuffed with grated coconut and spices and are served in a small bowl dunked in green chutney. And to settle it all, wash it down with shikanji. Well, this is not the lemon juice you would associate the word with, but a combination of milk, rabdi, dry fruits, and lassi. 

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For my last meal in Indore, I am back where I started my culinary journey at Epicenter, the all-day diner at The Park to sample the famed Sunday Brunch. The concept is interesting as it is linked to the address of the property, and Brunch 159 is called as such because it is one place, has five different cuisines and has nine exciting live stations. As I sampled a delicious spread of lip-smacking food that tickled all my taste buds, I knew it was the best way to end my culinary trip to the city that takes its food very, very seriously.

Photo: Shutterstock and Bindu Gopal Rao
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