Saturday, October 23, 2010

Samir's Journey of Life −8

The first law of dietetics seems to be: if it tastes good, it's bad for you...
Manek Chowk Experience:

Manek Chowk is one of the most unique places of Ahmedabad that transforms itself from an extremely busy trading centre during the daytime to a happening food paradise at night.  It is named after Baba Maneknath.  The story is something like this: Ahmed Shah was traveling and he identified suitable place for the construction of a new city. Baba was living there with his disciples. The wall that Shah’s men would build during the day would develop cracks at night. Badshah then sought Baba’s guidance; he was advised to start the construction of the city from a different location, as the proposed location was not auspicious. Manek Burage is the place from where the construction of this city alternatively started.  The ruler decided to dedicate an important road junction in his memory for the people of this city to remember —thus the name of the crossing called “Manek chowk.”  On every Vijayadashmi the family members (currently the 12th generation) of Baba Maneknath hoist a flag in his memory.
During the 4th APY we experienced this gastronomic delight (on the eve of Dusherra).   I must say that as compared to Bhatiyar Galli, this place was cleaner and the food appeared more palatable.  The scale of this place is wonderful, there is a center square (chowk) and the surrounding buildings gives a sense of enclosure while the meandering street connecting different nodes also creates a mystical character.  The closed shops give a variable backdrop to the kiosks and make shift food joints that come up at night.  Each vendor has a different arrangement of lighting; the intensity and emission lines vary, creating interesting visual patterns. 
Mood lighting at entry(L); Digestive pill shop at exit (R)
Why do I call this place Gastronomic delight is something to be experienced, not written or talked about.  Where else in the city one would get Ice cream sandwich, chocolate sandwich or pineapple sandwich (with real pineapple not jam) or a chocolate pizza?  One thing is for sure: a Chinese or an Italian would commit suicide, once they eat here.  Imagine a pizza having chocolate gravy in place of tomato gravy and topped with cheese?  A Chinese would die since he would fail to understand ‘seeze bun rice’, I took some time to decipher this – its Schezwan Rice!!!  And imagine a dish called ‘Cheeze Chinese Bhel’, even if we interchange items, they sound funny, such as cheese and bhel or cheese and Chinese or Chinese and bhel.  Having said all that, I would still recommend that one must try such food items at least once. 

Yummy Ragda Pattis (L); Big Manek burger (R)
Chocolate Sandwich: a generous layer of butter (read mutton tallow) topped with thick layer of chocolate gravy, garnished with chocolate beads and topped with very generous layer of cheese.  Wow, doesn’t it sound delicious? (Frankly to me its sounds yuck as I don’t have taste buds for any thing sweet!).  The Bhaji pau was so tasty that it will honestly make Honest Pau Bhaji run for its money.  The Ragda-pattice looked irresistible, very colorful and appetizing.  Another food giant will not know where to run is McDonalds, the big Mac will look minuscule in front of the ‘big manek’.  To top it all the most shocking item was on the south Indian menu ‘Gawlia Dosa’, its some thing you can only believe once you see.  One has to be a Sumo wrestler to be able to eat this stuff.  It’s a Sada Dosa with a stuffing of 100 gms of butter!!!!!!!!!!  Imagine gulping 100 gms of butter?  I find it difficult but one of my friend in APY did have one such Dosa (I have not heard of him or seen him after that night)
Chinese Menu (L); Chocolate Sandwich (R)

At the entrance of Manek Chowk one notices a collage of many Hindu deities’.  The genius who came up with recipes (chocolate pizza kind) is also respected as ‘god’.  It is interesting to see that at the exit there is a shop selling all sorts of digestive pills and powder (churan).  It specially advertises a product ‘gas-go-gayab-lo’.  The name is suggestive of what it does.
God-man and inventor of wired recipes (L); Hindu God-Goddesses at the entry to Manek Chowk
I got really inspired from the weird recipes and attempted some thing that was supposed to be Middle Eastern food.  I wished I had access to ‘gas-go-gayab-lo’ pills before trying the recipe.  It would have given my guinea pigs and me a comfortable and easy time.
Ahmedabadi version of ‘Middle Eastern’ food. 
I wanted to cook authentic Middle Eastern Hummus and Falafel.   But I ended up making Ahmedabadi version.  No offences to the Middle Eastern food lovers but in the city of 6 million people, when I looked for fresh Parsley, Iceberg Lettuce and Falafel pita wrap, I could find none.  I must have gone to not less than 9 shops but probably it was my not lucky day.  Hence I had to settle for alternatives therefore I call it Ahmedabadi version.
4 cups of chickpeas (soaked over night)
3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt as per taste

Method of preparation:
Boil the chickpeas for 15 minutes on high flame for 5 minutes and later on low flame.  Keep some water (1.5 cups) aside to be used while blending and drain the remaining water.  Mix the remaining ingredients with chickpeas along with 1.5 cups of water saved from boiling chickpeas to the blender and whip it for a few minutes until it is turned in to smooth and consistent paste.  Pour the paste in a flat plate and make a little depression in the centre.  Pour some olive oil in the centre, garnish with dried parsley and red chilly fakes - its ready to eat.  You can eat with hot-fresh naan or pita or as a dip for falafel.

Falafel – Pita wrap:

6 cups of chickpeas (overnight soaked)
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium onions, chopped
3 table spoons finely chopped coriander (replacement for fresh parsley)
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
3 table spoon flour (atta)
salt and pepper as per taste
2 tomatoes chopped
a small cabbage chopped (replacement for fresh iceberg lettuce)
Pita bread (replacement for falafel pita wrap)
Tahini paste

Method of preparation:
Boil the chickpeas for 15 minutes on high flame for 5 minutes and later on low flame.  Mix all the ingredients (except flour) in the mixture to mash in to a course paste.   Make patties and cover it with the flour.  Deep fry the patties until golden brown.  Put it over a tissue for the excess oil to soak.

Take the pita bread, cut a small sleeve and apply some tahini on the inner layer, put small pieces of the falafel topped with tomatoes, cabbage and put a generous layer of hummus.  Garnish with some olive oil, parsley and paprika (to make it more spicy).  You could even try making Falafel burger using a bun.

Ingredients for Hummus (L); for Falafel (R)
Making a paste in mixture (L); Making Patties (R)
Deep frying (L); Falafel Pita wrap stuffing (R)
Finished Hummus (L); Finished Falafel Pita Wrap (R)
Caution: if you repeatedly taste while making hummus and falafel, by the time you complete the dish, you will feel bloated and lose the appetite.


  1. This post was Yummm....
    I could have drooled over the pictures more but the photoshoping was over done and hence few of them are pixelated.
    Your own dish looks waaaaaay better than any of the earlier posts, maybe its the lighting and the details that is captured.
    Manek chowk is a treasure chest for indian street food and could be a great spot for food/people/space transformation photography and frankly I feel this time you havent done justice to the place by your pics... how about you revisit it once more solely on the purpose of capturing the essence through your lens.
    Burp.. the end of the post was satisfying. :)

  2. Manek Chowk was good to visit. It was all tempting food. But the taste of only 'bhaji-pav' was good and to a certain extent 'kashmiri pulao' was okay. Asarfi kulfi is the same everywhere, always good. The best of all was the 'kadhi' of 'fafda' at Chandravilas.

    Otherwise it was all very ordinary and run of the mill stuff. If you really ask me - the hygeine was abs pathetic. It was so dirty all around. Right from TABLES to CHAIRS to SPOONS to PLATES - was all very very dirty.

    Had it been the case with any of the so called good restaurants that we go to, we would have had a bad fight.

    Overall - had a gr8 time because of the company.

    As far as "hummus" & "falafal-pita wrap" is concerned - lets see when do you treat me for such sumptuous food..::))