Time and again, I have told you about my cravings...While on my academic exile in the UK, the need to taste Chhole Pattice had even made me team up with the pretty decent combination of the Oh-so-very-English Hash Browns ( Batata patties to the desis) with Chhole straight out an MTR pack and garnish with finely chopped onions and a generous spray of chaat masala. Home sickness can gather new dimensions on a grey gloomy winter evening in England and any bit of home - some well-brewed strong adrak chai and chhole pattice can be a great remedy!
Now I could have gone on and on about the differences in the Punjaabi chaat masala in the gol guppa and the UP-flavoured Gujarati-moderated version of paani puris popular in Mumbai. Even the puris, by itself taste vastly different! But I can't be bothered to nit-pick on these two for I have found a new favourite to add to my growing list of chaat loves - Lucknow's Saath Paani Wala Gol Guppa.
The Nawaabon ka Sheher believes in doing everything with an innate flair and style. I was being hosted in the land of the nawabs and the kababs by two feisty women who knew their way around their chaat. One of them has told me a number of times that once I had had chaat there, I'd refuse to try anything else before proclaiming Lucknowi chaat to be at the top of the charts! I was willing to give it a go, but wanted to keep such declarations to the minimum - we can't promote sycophancy, can we now?
Were our chaatwallah Ravi to turn enterprising and re-package and market his wares, he could have easily called himself a gol-guppa designer. There was mastery, finesse and a method to his art that makes him fit for the title. The moment our little saucers were in hand, he warned us that we would never have had gol guppas like this before. The first three appeared to be like dabbles in the basic palette - one a plain one just dunked in the pani to set the premise, then a puri dunked in paani with a bit of jeera in it and another with hing.
Now so far in my chaat journeys, I have either been silently fed by chaatwalas who ensure a new puri takes the place of the one you have just gulped. Or else, if it a posher place, where you sit down to eat the paani puri, it would come in separate bowls, leaving us to make our own golguppas ( this I hate, I'd rather see some dirty hand-dunking and mouth-plopping than the sterile use of spoons and plates!)
So here was our gol-guppa designer, not just designing new flavours in each puri he was feeding us, but he kept a stream of running commentary on! So even before he prepared your next puri, you knew just what was coming....imagine combinations like kachcha aam and jeera or kachcha Aam, hing and jeera? There were about ten to twelve puris in all and seven flavours and a mix and match of them as well. The designer never says its over, its upon the connoisseurs to decide when to call a halt to the gulp-fest.
We grudgingly said enough at the end of the first round of ten or so...and then he produced his piece-de-resistance - a leaning tower of puris delicately balanced against each other, filled with a bit of a lot of things as a dry palate cleanser....Sighhhh, just revisiting that evening while I write about it fills my mouth with a pool of longing....
And as I walked away from the place, I bowed to the wise women from Lucknow, my hosts, who predictably grinned as if they just won a popularity contest!!