City Food – Mukesh’s Roasted Bhuttas, Anand Vihar
Taste of monsoon.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Are summers ending and monsoons knocking at the door? Yes. That’s what Mukesh feels. Three days ago this street food vendor started winding down his summertime business of icy chuskis, and shifting to bhutta. His cart, outside the bus terminus in Delhi’s Anand Vihar, is decked with ears of the golden corn. “Every year I start selling roasted bhutta around this time,” he says, peeling off the leaves from a bhutta. Mukesh talks without making eye contact, as if he were mumbling to himself.
The truly rare sight to be spotted on his cart, however, is of an earthen stove that he made two days days ago while relaunching the bhutta. The chulha is employed to roast the bhutta in front of the customer. “It’s entirely mitti (earth)… I made it within three hours,” mumbles Mukesh.
Very many of the bhutta vendors who will soon pop up through the Delhi region source their bhuttas from from Azadpur Sabzi Mandi. But Mukesh gets his directly from a region where they are grown in great quantity, he says, close to his native Moradabad. “The bhuttas started arriving just a week ago… that was a signal for me to wrap up the garmi ga gola (the aforementioned chiski).”
Right now, other snack carts in the vicinity are either selling parathas, or biryanis, or noodles. Mukesh’s offering, so new for the season, is distracting the evening commuters. Many are slowing down in front of the cart. The sight of the earthen chulha is attracting more eyeballs. Adjusting the coals on his stove, Mukesh reveals that he gets the “koyla” from a nearby “mandi”.
A woman arrives, and selects a bhutta with some enthusiasm. Mukesh nimbly takes it from her, and roasts it on the chulha, until uniformly browned. He now smears half a lemon, along with kaala namak, across the cob, and hands it to the woman. She instantly stabs her teeth into the juicy kernels.
Mukesh is stationed on this spot every day, from 8 in the morning to midnight. Turning to his star attraction, he says that “the bhutta season will end in four months, after which I will throw away this chulha.”
With his handmade stove