Some Bangaloreans still live in independent villas with modest gardens, and still use the seven-digit BSNL number that introduced us all to telephones. They’re somewhat like the city’s characteristic smells, most of which have remained the same over the years despite the cosmetic changes in the city. The most overpowering smells in Bangalore, the ones you most identify it with, are that of idlis, dosas, bajjis, food from all over the south and beyond. It’s not surprising then that we have a street dedicated entirely to food—simply called Food Street.
Illustration by Jayachandran/ MINT
It takes some preparation to set foot on Food Street—it stretches over 150m and has more than 20 stalls. Let’s begin with the dress code. Well-fitting clothes are an absolute no-no; go with something that’s easy on the waist, and wear comfortable shoes, for you’re unlikely to find a chair to sit.
Food Street is less than a kilometre from the West Gate of Lalbagh in south Bangalore. Once you enter VV Puram, wafting aromas of all kind will guide you, and you’ll find yourself at the entrance of VB Bakery. On a regular evening, you’ll have to squeeze your way towards its counter; visibility of food items from the outside is almost always nil. Go for the KBC here—the Khara Bun Congress.
It’s a strange recipe—spicy buns slapped with a generous layer of butter, masala peanuts and chilli sauce. It might set your tongue and stomach on fire, and clog some arteries, but few people leave VB Bakery without a smile on their faces and tears in their eyes. Another must-try here is Dumroot, a kind of pumpkin halwa.
VB Bakery is the only large store on Food Street, with a bright signboard, and enough room to walk around. Further down is Subramany’s Chinese food. Not the most appropriate name for a Chinese joint, but Subramany does serve a fairly palatable Indian version of chopsuey and fried rice, although he won’t teach you much about the globalization of Chinese food. You might as well skip it, and also the Arya Vyshya refreshment stall close to it (Arya Vyshya serves akki rotis or rice rotis, dosas and fresh obattus or pooran polis).
In the same line is Ramu’s dosas, shop no. 309, which pretty much runs on to the pavement. Ramu has been serving dosas on this street for more than 20 years, and with the same élan, I’m told. His mannerisms—swift flicks of the wrist as he tosses not less than 15 dosas in a matter of a minute—are out of a Rajinikanth film. He’s generous with ghee, poured from a distance of at least 3ft through a fine hole made in a sachet. His speciality is the bhath dosa with rice fillings.
Opposite Ramu’s is a slice of Mumbai in Bangalore—the Mumbai Badam Milk and Lassi Bar. Its location is ideal, considering that a glass of cold milk shake is what you’ll need by now to soothe your burning insides. Further down, there’s the corn man serving mango corn and corn chaat, and Food Street’s most popular stall, Shivanna, also known as “balcony”.
The Shivanna family has been making and selling gulkand for about a hundred years now. The ingredients have remained the same—roses from Ajmer, amla from Kashmir, butter from Mandya, butterscotch ice cream, sliced banana and a cherry to top it. Shivanna’s gulkand, the perfect way to end this small tour, is a metaphor for the street itself—eclectic and seemingly chaotic, but gratifying to the raw senses.