INDIA. Madhya Pradesh: During my recent visit to Indore, while exploring the clean and well-organized city, passing through its bazaars, streets, palaces, and monuments, my guide said, there is only one place, where we will go tonight. I looked at him and sensing my curiosity, he said it’s a ‘Sarafa Bazaar’. Sarafa is always associated with the market which deals in jewelry, and my expectations from this bazaar were the same. With doubts and confusions, I agreed to go with him. However, when I finally visited the place, all my doubts went away.
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A night full of life
An all-night street food market, Sarafa was almost 200 years old market. This market was built during the rule of Ahilyabai Holkar. To provide security to the jeweler traders, from thieves, Holkar decided to start a food market that would operate outside the shops. Interestingly, the idea worked for fending off the thieves. To maintain the ‘cleanest city’ tag, in the morning when jewelry markets open, shopkeepers already find their places clean.
Situated in the older part of Indore, right after crossing the famous Rajwada palace, paved winding streets takes you to this food paradise. People of every age and community, bright lights and the hustle-bustle of dishes, and mouth-watering platters of different food items, welcomes you. In the bazaar, only vegetarian street foods are served. You can find wide varities of food in here.
My guide told me an interesting story related to this bazaar. According to him, on Sundays or holidays, most of the women of this city refuses to make food at home. The women insist their husbands take them to the Sarafa Bazar so that they can take a day off from their daily routine. At first, I thought that the guide was joking. But after reaching the place, I got to witness it myself.
A love affair with the food
Sarafa Bazaar comes to life after 8 pm, it has various stalls and Joshi Dahi Vada-walla is among the most famous ones. His Dahi Vada is the most favorite food as the vadas are not oily and the dahi (yogurt) is quite thick. The owner throws the dahi vada bowl in the air to prove how thick the dahi is. To witness his show, you will find a crowd in front of his stall. He has a secret masala (mixture of spices) powder which he sprinkles on the vada which makes it more delicious. Pav bhaji is another popular dish which is like by many. One can find multiple stalls offering the delicacy.
Bhutte ka kees is a famous local delicacy. Just like its unique name the preparation of this dish is also quite unique. First, the corn is cooked with milk, coconut, and ground and tempered with rai (Mustard seeds) until it gets a smooth texture. Its flavor and texture are quite unique. After tasting Poha-jalebi, Sabudaana khichri, I had stopped near the Garadu stall, which was selling a variety of yams. Cut in small cubes, fried, and then topped with spices, chilies, and lemon juice, this crispy snack will definitely remind you of your favorite aloo chaat. After roaming for a while, a board that had Khopra Patties (coconut patties) written over it instantly attracted me. After taking a bite, I realized that these patties were filled with potato balls along with a core of stuffed coconut. These fried patties are usually served with tamarind chutney.
In this bazaar, you cannot miss the Dal Bafla here. Dal Bafla is quite similar to Rajasthani dal baati churma. The bafla is prepared with a combination of wheat and semolina. Then this oven-baked ball is crushed and dipped in ghee before being served. A dal, churma, coriander-mint chutney, and mango pickle is served with the bafla. It is very famous in Indore and like poha-jalebi, it is also one of the city’s specialties. While I was enjoying the dish, a lady came and suggested me to try ‘Doodh Chana’. Intrigued by the name, I decided to eat it. In this dish, instead of water, Kabuli chana (garbanzo beans) is soaked in milk for several hours, and then after adding spices it is fried. Soaked in milk with spices, doodh chana is an incredibly soft and delicious dish.
You can also find Kanji Vada, a variety of chaats, and pani puri in this market. Coconut shake, kulfi, fire paan, chocolate paan, coconut paan, petha Paan, (a thin layer of green petha, filled with cashew, almond, and gulkand and held together with a clove). One can find almost 20 varieties of paan and ice creams here. I had tried the lip-smacking Hapus Ice cream with Shrikhand (the combination of saffron-flavored shrikhand with pistachio and cashews, and Alphonso ice cream).
One cannot miss the big Jaleba in rabri which is doused in pure chaashni (sugar water). It is a truly delectable dessert. One Jaleba weighs around 500 grams. It is so heavy that even 10 people can’t complete one Jaleba. Malpua, Gulab jamun, Egg Benjo, Indori shikanji are among the desserts which you can find here. Indori shikanji is a classic dessert that is made of milk and dry fruits with just a hint of tanginess from the buttermilk.
Passion for cooking
The best thing about this place that makes it special is the way sellers insist you to taste the food first before buying it. Even if they are busy and they have to handle a big crowd, they would happily talk about dishes and the preparations. To them, how they love to cook, matters the most and not how they make the money.
Sarafa Bazaar is indeed a pride of the Indore city and is a must-visit place for foodies. Finally, after stepping out of that lively food bazaar, I was sure of coming back here again on my next visit to Indore.