Terming Pune residents gourmets will be an understatement as food has always been in their hearts since time immemorial. The slightest whiff of the ‘tarri’(curry base) in the ‘misal’ (the popular Maharashtrian food) can draw crowds in Pune and the biggest debate among foodies still remains to be which misal in the city is the best. Along with ‘misal’, Pune is home to an independent cuisine that sometimes sides with the rush of Mumbai and sometimes, leans towards the peace and quiet of Kolhapur and Sangli. Here are some dishes that you must try when in the city and some spots where you can relish them.
Aloo Fadfada and Aloo Vadi:
Colocasia is a personal favourite of the citizens of Pune. While others choose to avoid this humble leafy vegetable for its ability to give you the worst itchy throat if not prepared correctly, Punekars love experimenting with this vegetable to prepare the best soupy but sweet and slightly tangy curry called ‘aloo fadfada’. Restaurants like Poona Guest House are continuing the tradition of serving it in the most authentic way paired with ‘poli’. Another savoury snack found at every other confectionery from ‘Chitale’ to ‘Desai Bandhu’ is ‘aloo vadi’ where the colocasia is packed with a sweet flying and deep fried for the crunchiest finger food.
Many in Maharashtra joke that people observing fasts consume double the calories these days. And the hero who shines through these days is ‘sabudana’(saga). When in Pune, you have to visit ‘Appa Khichadi’ to relish their sabudana khichadi (a dish made from sago) and sabudana vada to fill your ‘hunger pangs’ while fasting. Waking up on Sunday morning with a growling stomach, most residents also opt for the favourite ‘vada pav’ to grab a quick bite which is tasty and at the same time filling. The hot vadas (flavoured mashed potatoes deep-fried with a crisp gram flour coating) straight from the frying pan with some red garlic chutney, fried green chillies and onion bhaji (fritters) on the side are truly a match made in heaven. Favourites may differ. While some opt for the sweet tamarind chutney Garden Vada Pav in Kothrud serves, for some loyalties lie with Joshi Wadewale.
Bun-Maska and Anda (egg) Bhurji:
The Parsi influence in the city adds many colours to its history, architecture, planning and most importantly food. Childhood memories for many range from grabbing Shrewsbury biscuits or potato wafers at Budhani or catching up with a friend sipping hot Irani chai with bun maska and burji (scrambled eggs with spices) on the side at Cafe Goodluck near Fergusson College or Marzorin Cafe in Cantonment Area. The Irani cafe culture has now spread across major parts of the city with small cafes serving soft loaves of bread lathered in butter as hundreds line up to get their corner seat and enjoy breakfast.
Misal, according to many, might be described as ‘all things good in a bowl’. You take some ‘so-spicy-it-will-make-you-cry’ tarri (curry), add some sprouts, add some farsan (fried snacks) and onion for the crunch, a dash of lime to mellow down the spice, some bland mashed potato to balance it out and drop some coriander as a final crown to top this heavenly dish. Days for some in the city still begin with this piping hot dish served with bread. Critics debating whether the best missal is served in Pune, Sangli, Kolhapur, or Mumbai can hardly wait when they are served with a hot plate at ‘Bhadait’ on Law College Road. Misal lovers brave the Sunday crowds till they manage to get a seat and get comfortable on those old wooden chairs at ‘Badshahi’ in Sadashiv Peth.
Pav Bhaji is the holy reunion of vegetables, spices and butter which has never tasted so good when topped with lime, onion and the little crown of coriander. Mumbai hogs the limelight claiming that nothing can beat the pav bhaji found in the city. However, pav bhaji holds a special place in the hearts of all Punekars at spots like ‘Relax’ and ‘Mayur’ that have watched generations walk in and leave with a full tummy.
Pohe are flattened rice flakes cooked to perfection with some turmeric, red chilli powder, onion, salt and sugar and topped with peanuts and coconut served alongside tea. Most of the Marathi households in the city have made this easy dish their most favourite breakfast. You can enjoy it at 4 am at Amruteshwar near Nal Stop in Kothrud or at any snack stall outside your college like Whistling Woods IMDR Canteen near Fergusson College.
The list does not include Jagdamb’s tambda rassa (curry base), SP’s mutton biryani, George Restaurant’s chicken curry and Basundi (dessert made from milk) at Durvankur because there is only so much one list can hold. But more interesting places shall follow soon, informing the readers about more spots to explore around the city!