Friday, March 29, 2013

Mumbai street vendors: khatta tidbits

- By Aishwarya Pramod

The school bell rings one last time signalling the end of classes, and food vendors outside school get ready for a rush of orders. Bhel, frankie, pakora, dabeli, vada pav, bhajiya pav, sandwiches, groundnuts, and singhara are some of what's generally offer, depending on the day of the week and the vendors in the area. And inevitably there is one thela selling amla, kairi, starfruit, bor, imli, and other sour treats.

                                  Schoolgirl at thela
Up until I was about 12, I was a goody-two-shoes who made a beeline for home straight after school - not looking at a single food stall. But a friend of mine who was crazy about kairi eventually began dragging me after school everyday to see whether the thela-wala had come that day. Pretty soon, I was hooked to kairi and amla (with salt and enough red chilli powder to set my tongue on fire). And this was someone who'd never considered herself a fan of anything sour in general.

Here's a picture of kairi (raw mango) slices. The thela (cart) also has groundnuts, and two related kinds of berries (called ber or bor) - a small dark red dried berry, and the larger, brighter Indian jujube.

Here's a larger photo of the same thela - and in between a bunch of saunf (fennel) and a bag of imli (tamarind) pods is a bag full of the small, bright aamla (Indian gooseberry) which I ate in such copious quantities in school. Moving down, there is a bag of bright green karonda (Carissa carandas, a type of dogbane, Wikipedia calls it loftily) - a small fruit which is when raw can be used to make pickles. Below that, there is also a bag of large aamlas, which are typically urer and slightly more bitter than the small ones. I have a bottle of pickled aamla at home, to eat with curd rice.

Of course, it's not just school kids - everyone likes these snacks. 
 
                Check out the food colouring added to the kairi...
...and the six different flavours of imli (tamarind).
Here are some more fruits available on Mumbai streets...


Starfruit and cucumber being sold on Marine Drive.
A closeup of the starfruit with chilli powder and salt.
And here are two I've never tasted. The thela-wala told us that this small yellow fruit is like an extra sour mini-mosambi (sweet lime). On the right are wood apples - he told us its skin was so hard that it needs to be broken with a small hammer.

You can see the handle of the wooden hammer 
he uses to break open the wood apples :)
A college friend's mother was complaining to us about how in her time, after-school snacks meant eating these roadside tidbits, but "kids these days" eat packets of chips and burgers and ice cream. Well, alright, that may be true, but we still love those khatta things too. May these thelas bring happiness to continued generations of school kids!

7 comments:

Haddock said...

Nice pictures.
The face of the guy who used to serve us Ragda Pattice during our recess is still fresh in my mind. And the taste still lingers. It was 75 paise per bowl but that was about four and half decades ago. Yes the ber was a craze even in those days.

anomadsjournal said...

Those all look amazing! I unfortunately seemed to miss the thela-walas while I was in Mumbai. Are they usually only out in part of the year?

Manju said...

The pictures made me to drool :) Thank you so much ! I had pleasant memories of my school days when I saw this post. Nothing can be as tasty as these goodies, I wish I could go back to my childhood days ! and Hi, I am Manju and I enjoy reading your blog now and then :)

Ayesha Dhurue said...

These photographs are simply amazing. They made me look back my school days and the now that I see children outside their school savoring these surprisingly tasty flavors, its amazing.
I really liked what you've come up with here. It isn't the usual bits that we get to read, its something really different that occurs so quickly in our lives. Surely when I pass by a 'imli-wala', it is your post that will make me go and have a bite.

Anonymous said...

Yummy.. reminds me of school days :)

Smrity said...

Wow! Reminds me of my school days...

Nostalgia....

Anonymous said...

Outside which school is this thela waala? I want that imli :/