We are small. We are simple. We are humble. But we love food! And if it’s found on the streets, the merrier. Belgaum is not as synonymous with street food as Mumbai or Delhi or even Bhopal is. But what it lacks in pizzazz, it compensates with taste. Years ago, all Belagavi had; was the thelas at Bogarves selling roasted corn on the cob, roasted or boiled groundnuts ( packed in paper cones, all of the same size and volume), green shoots of gram ( Harbhara) that sold in bunches, the awesome Alepak at Shivaji Garden and if one could remember, the one shop in the old Saraf Katta and then opp what is now Vasant Stores in Shahapur who charged heavily for his extra heavenly yellow laddoos to go with the alepak. Then there was this old guy selling alepak who moved around Khade Bazar, Ramdev Galli with his cart. There was this short stout man in Shahapur who alternated between Ice gola in summer, Bhutta in monsoon, nuts in winter, Harbhara later and then even guavas and melons. Talk of diversification!
The area around Shivaji garden had a handful of stalls selling Alepak, all named ‘Pandurang’. He still functions, but now in the company of a slew of Bhelpuri, Kulfi and Chaat stalls, again, almost all named Ambika. These stalls have now graduated to selling in plastic bags and take orders from across the garden’s wall. Here, one can spot the odd idli-dosa stall in the morning doing brisk business. Also present opposite Shivaji garden are the Chicken 65 stalls, somehow maintaining distance from the veg fare. That lane even flaunts numerous Chinese dish stalls that do brisk business during Ganesh festivals and especially at nights.
Street food in Belagavi should also include the carts outside schools, prominent amongst them being Islamiya High School which has at least half a dozen vying for students attention (and pockets). The ones opp. my school ( St. Joseph’s) sold ice golas called ‘ Yamunda’ in yellow, green and red colors, priced at 20 ps each. I loved the vendor skillfully removing the black rubber seal that bound the two halves of the mould or the aluminum Kulfi mould. There were some selling guavas, cucumber rubbed with salt and chilli powder, an old woman selling ‘jigli’ which was a sinful indulgence, tamarinds and Karvandas. Even the red, yellow green roasted gram tasted divine. Stories of this stuff having worms that emerged when dipped in kerosene were best ignored. These carts also had the amazing chikkis, revadis and candy.
There was this stall near shani mandir that was famous for its wafting aroma of freshly fried Kanda Bhaji ( pakodas). Now there’s this small shop just by the Kapileshwar railway gate that makes fresh Jalebis which connoisseurs compare to the one near Sheetal hotel.
Who can forget the tempting ( and irritating to some) aroma of omelets being doled out at first gate and even besides Globe theatre. A small shack on Congress road (just ahead of Kalyani sweets) hidden behind shops, attracts a lot of daily wage workers who park cycles and devour the stuff. A similar scene is seen at Mandoli road, as we go straight from First gate. It’s déjà vu for us sometimes, when we just sneak out of campus towards the carts at the Bharatesh School, crossing the narrow road. What’s added attraction is the candy floss at five rupees for a packet. Shocking pink. Clouds from heaven. St. mary’s has its own share of carts, the most famous being that of a person who even offered stuff on credit and remembered exactly who owed him how much. The new age street food in Belagavi also boasts of small thelas selling boiled sweet corn, pani puri and papdi chaat. You’ll find them crowded at Ramdev galli (peep in to Kelkar bag) and Maruti galli in the evening. The papdi wala has a unique bamboo cross stool that holds his ware.
Pav bhaji first emerged in Belagavi at First gate near Sai Mandir where the odd steps of the shops provided the perfect seating arrangements. Balu’s gained popularity here before shifting elsewhere. It enjoyed the privilege for long before being uprooted. It was followed by a short stint by Kelkar bag stalls and has since moved to the Axis bank compound near Hotel Ramdev. It is here that Belagavi converges for some great Kacchi dabeli, shev puri, bhel, pav bhaji, basket chat, pani puri and ragda patties. Grab a plastic stool or just stand, ignore the bucket behind, smell the aromas and just gorge in a sinful wada pav. And if you know of anything more sinful, let the info flow.
About the author:Swatee Jog is the Training and Placement Officer at Bharatesh Global Business School ( MBA Program). She has an experience of 6 years in the media and 4 years in academics. She has written extensively in the English and Marathi newspapers on Career, Technology and Management topics. She has spoken at various forums as a resource person and has published several research papers in management journals as well as 2 books.