From West to East
What a day of adventure!
Our day began at InOrbit Mall with Emily, Brooke, and tall Rachel. We are going to a wedding tomorrow and the ladies needed to pick up a few items.
As we went from store to store I was in a state of bewilderment. It felt so weird to be in such a “western” environment yet there is such a mix of culture. For example, the women’s department contains two sections: Western Wear and Ethnic Wear. I walked through aisles of decorative kurtas lined with gold and scarves of every color of the rainbow. But looking at the prices I couldn’t help but think that I could get similar clothes at the bazaar for half the price. This was industry. Granted the stuff on the streets probably comes from the same place, but there is so much to the experience of bartering for goods on the street!
After two hours of mulling around, I was malled out! We sat down for a tea break and actually struggled to find chai in the mall. There was plenty of fast food and coffee drinks, again, the wrath of the western culture. I getting westerned out, if that even makes sense!
I was happy to move along with our night! We had heard about a street-food fair at a hotel next to the Convention Center near the mall. With gusto we grabbed a rickshaw who dropped us off at the Convention Center. Little did we know the Center had quite a few buildings. We walked around in circles for a while and finally spotted the hotel across a lot with the help of a passerby. We set of across this gravel, lot which felt more like a sand dune, and arrived at the base of the hotel shoes full of sand and mud. The hotel was gorgeous; tall ceilings, shiny floors, black accents, and this beautiful doorway beckoning us to dinner.
It turns out that this dinner was a lot fancier than we expected. This was not a taste-test of street foods of India, like we expected, but a full buffet of foods from the Punjabi region. At over 1500 rupees a head, we were not in the position take part. But what an adventure in discovering this spot!
Instead, spontaneity kicked in. Once again, we grabbed a rickshaw telling the driver to head to Gowanpalli (the city closest to the University). Our plan was to stop him whenever we saw a great place to discover the street food of India! Finally we passed an alleyway and yelled, “stop!” Time to explore 🙂
The first thing my eyes fell upon were jalebis being fried fresh on the streets! I had heard about these sweet confections and how fabulous they are hot out of the oil. But before I could speak a word, a man was already asking for my picture. “10 rupees!” Emily exclaimed. “Picture if you buy me sweets,” I taunted him and then gave a grin as he snapped the shot. I turned back to the older gentleman at the stand. “Sweets please, how much?” He carefully wrapped the fried treats in a piece of newspaper and handed them over to me. “How much?” I repeated. He gave a toothy grin and waved his hand at me. “Thank you sir!” These jalebis were on the house. And my goodness how delicious! While stiff and crunchy on the outside, warm juice spills out of the inside. A buttery and golden bliss!
Moving across the way we found an array of savory treats: battered and fried hard boiled eggs, peppers, and onions served with a spicy sauce. Vadas are the donut-looking fritters and the round ones were crunchy with lentils! Brooke and I also tried some fried chicken…it was very crunchy, very little meat and lots of spicy crunch!
Next stand, sweets! We tried one of each:
- Ladoo: a round, crispy ball of nuts, chickpea flour, and raisins
- a “scone” flavored with fennel seeds
- a donut shaped hard “cookie” that was moist with syrup on the inside (Balushadi?)
(I need to ask more questions next time about what we were eating!)
Then we took a seat at a little hole-in-the-wall stand for a Tali platter. This was a true eat with your hands experience, folks.
Our final stop was a place called Zeesha Hotel. Definitely not a hotel 🙂
We found one more sweet to share, this calzone looking treat that was buttery and crunchy on the outside with a crushed almond/spice filling. Perfect with a cup of chai. We sat at this little “hotel,” four American girls having the time of our lives. It was weird, but I felt so safe in that alleyway. Yes we got stares, yes vendors tried to charge us more, but there was this comfort in our independence. I appreciated those few who asked “Where you from?” or gave a small smile. It was by no means welcoming, but comfortable.
As we drove away from that alley tonight, I realized that we may never find this spot again. There are hundreds of little streets that look exactly the same way, but this was one small community that I may never encounter again. It makes me want to establish relationships more than ever. In my stay here, I want to get to know people, I want to become a “regular” customer somewhere.
But man, what a day coming from the western mall to the streets of the east. We got a healthy dose of fried foods in the heart of Hyderabad. Hopefully our stomachs won’t be churning tonight!