Maybe due to the fact that it was officially considered a city just a few years ago, Poona naturally contains a quirk that a massive bustling town would. For every one mall, there are 15 joints offering crisp sabudana wadas with chaha. And all of them do fine business, even if they exist right across each other on a road. If the thought of crispy brown bhajias or wadas don’t churn your nostalgic insides, then maybe you need to experience the following for some very visual, mouthwatering memories..
Jaishankar Wada Pav, M.G. Road:
This guy with a thela sells wada pavs like lottery tickets and seems to have made enough money to own a fancy car. Always surrounded by a crowd, chances are that if you go visit him on a late afternoon, he’ll be "out of stock". His wadas are nice and crisp, almost seems like they’re made in assembly line, packed nicely despite people swarming around his thela like mosquitoes (it’s impossible to eat around that little lane). But the best part about him is his benevolence with the mirchi. He’ll stuff a thrifty bag made out of some medical/telecom examination question paper with enough mirchis to satisfy anyone who appreciates a good zing on his/her tongue along with a filling meal. The damage to your pocket is minimum, and the grub, worthy of all the trouble you might have in procuring it, in case you’re waiting around that thela. For people on wheels, he has boys to service your orders!
Supreme Pizzas, Junglee Maharaj Road (Yes such a road exists):
I am full of gratitude to a friend of mine, who introduced me to the place mentioned in the paragraph above, and this one. This small shack, complete with a paanwala beside the tiniest flight of stairs, serves barely 3-4 items on its menu: Pizza, Biryani, Pav Bhaji. Along with cold drinks, salad and masala papad ofcourse. If odd was an address it is somewhere bang in the middle of J.M. Road. Apparently owned by a Marwari (this info was specifically passed on to me, although the inclusion of papad on the menu is a good enough giveaway) it is a vegetarian joint, but by the looks of the queues, I bet, nobody seems to be complaining for the lack of variety or chicken in their biryani. The pizza is prepared perfectly Indian style – amul cheese, capsicum, onions chopped and placed generously across standard small pizza breads (which makes you want to eat 2 pizzas instead of one), grilled to perfection – so perfect that you could bite the pizza like a biscuit.. and still be amazed at how they get it right each time! A million Dominoes can’t match a Supreme.
Chocolate Sandwich, KP/F.C. Road
You can’t miss these little carts/booths, temporary set-ups along certain popular streets in Poona. This is a college-kid favourite. One can use nutella at home and make one of these delicious mid-day fillers. Bread, dollops of thick chocolate sauce, grated chocolate, bread, grated chocolate. Toasted. That’s all there is to it. One bite and you’re struck for life by a cupid called chocolate.
Sabudana Khichdi, Aundh
This area is dotted with car/bus rental shops and little snack shops that wake up before the first buses from Bbay arrive. You can watch jalebis being fried on one side. There’ll be steaming hot wadas on another side, rounds of tea and ofcourse Poona’s favourite breakfast – Sabudana Khichdi. Light, white and ideal for single meal dinners as well, these are sauted with potatoes and peanuts and spiced with green chillies. One can add vegetables too, having a local acquaintance preparing it would ensure you’re having the right recipe. Oh and for the savory lovers – there’s sabudana wada, an unmissable deep fried delicacy.
Lassi, Khalsa Dairy, Vimannagar
What’s a city without its own share of Sardarjis?! Khalsa is the one place that reminded me of Calcutta, purely because of the variety on offer. Sweets, snacks, milk, curd, chips, bread, lassi, sharbat… quite a high carb snack zone. But throw those worries aside, step into their shop and gulp down a glass of chilled lassi topped with malai on a sweltering April day. You’d thank me for saving you. Oh and their dholkas are soft and spongy too. There I took care of your Gujju cravings as well.
Phew. I know what I’m going to pine for over the next few days…For the love of a lip-smacking experience, do try to savour one of these the next time you’re in Poona.