Parathas from Delhi. Ice gola from Mumbai. Jhal muri from Kolkata. All in one place. Sounds too good to be true. Hopefully not. Last year’s ‘Eat Chennai’ on Elliots Beach, which brought together famous street cooks from around the country, rapidly descended into chaos when it was swamped by about 67,000 people over the space of three days. This year the organisers, Red Chariots, are attempting it again. Only this time it’s at Island grounds, in an area designed for exhibitions such as these, and they’re armed with experience.
With a new name, Masala Kart and 160 food specialists from all over India, it certainly looks promising.
You have got to love the idea. The organisers scoured the country looking for India’s most famous street cooks. The result is a set of cooks, each known for a speciality, in their cities, or localities. Now, they are all cooking in one place. The list includes some familiar names for die-hard foodies: from ‘Ashok vada pav’ in Mumbai to ‘Gururaj Karnataka’ famous for his dosas.
It’s not just the cooks who have unusual monikers. The list of foods include ‘MLA pesarattu’, a variety of pesarattu served with upma, popular in MLA quarter restaurants in Hyderabad. Then there are small ‘coin barottas.’ And sweet, crisp, sticky tapeswaram khaja. For people looking for comfort food, there are all the old favourites: paneer tikka, chole-bhatura, aloo parathas. If you need a childhood memory fix, try the ragda pattice, jalebi and masala dhoodh. Dessert includes kulfi, rabdi and unni appams.
Spread over 200000 sq. ft. of space, Masala Kart will be showcasing more than 130 varieties of street food. The central kitchen, we hear, is already a happy pandemonium with cooks talking in at least seven different languages. Although the food is prepared in the central kitchens (divided into vegetarian and non vegetarian kitchens) the cooking is done right in front of you.
After all, there’s nothing like the rhythmic tak-tak-tak of a kotthu paratha in progress to get you in the mood for a snack.
(Masala Kart is on August 2, 3 and 4 at Island Grounds from 5.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m.)