It is almost noon and the Badi Chaupad is as busy as it gets. Two-wheelers, autos, buses, cars, rickshaws and e-rickshaws are at loggerheads with each other; pedestrians and cyclists jostle for space. Shops overflow with fabric, garments, shoes, bangles, utensils, and of course shoppers. In short, there is chaos all over.
But somewhere in this chaos exists a tiny island of calm – an unnamed pushcart selling modest dal pakodis. The cart appears every morning at the junction and feeds everyone who passes by. From indifferent locals to excited tourists, from hungry students to famished housewives – no one can resist the charm of its piping hot pakodis.
To the world Jaipur may be famous for its laal maas and mirchi vada, but for the locals, Jaipur is synonymous with dal pakodis. These pakodis, or the deep fried dumplings, are made with ground moong dal and seasoned with coriander seeds, green chilies, coriander leaves, onions and salt. The homemade mixture rests in a large pan and is beaten vigorously before being dunked into smoking hot oil. Each batch consisting hundreds of pakodis lasts barely a few minutes.
“If you come here on Sunday, you will see buses full of villagers alighting at the crossing and reaching straight for these pakodis. One plate keeps them going for the entire day”, says Mr. Verma, a resident of Jaipur, also a regular at the stall. “The thela happens to be my first stop in the market too.”
The aroma tells me a fresh batch has just been fried and I promptly ask for a portion. My portion is handed over to me on a piece of newspaper, garnished with tangy and spicy green chutney. The pakodis are small, crisp, and piping hot. It is impossible to eat one without burning your fingers of scalding your palate. But I cannot wait and decide to give it a go anyway.
The pakodi is hot, but it is also small so it does not really burn the palate, rather it causes an explosion of flavours and textures in the mouth. There’s heat of the chili, crunch of the onion, strength of asafetida, tang of dry mango, softness of the dal, bite of coriander seeds – all at the same time. In a matter of seconds I have forgotten about the heat, dust, crowds and noise. As I reach out for another portion, I know why the tiny dal pakodis rule the roost in the Pink City.
Jaipur is the capital city of the state of Rajasthan and is connected with all major cities by rail, air, and road.
Badi Chaupad is the nerve center of the original Pink city, teeming with merchants, shoppers, tourists, and locals. The unnamed pakori cart stands adjacent to the Ganesh Temple, a few steps away from the Iconic Hawa Mahal.
The pakodis are sold by weight, Rs. 40 for 100 grams; you can ask the man to give you a portion for Rs. 10 or Rs. 15 too.
This piece first appeared in The Hindu.