City Food – Rajasthani Dahi Bhalla, Gurgaon
Homemade street taste.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There’s the sweet chutney and the sour one, and the super-soft deep-fried bhalla soaked in dahi, and everything is topped with broken shards of crispy papri.
The dahi bhalla here tastes extremely homey — which isn’t surprising when you know that vendor Mahesh Chandra Sharma makes it himself every day, afresh.
But why does he call his pavement establishment “Rajasthani dahi bhalla”?
“Don’t you know?!” he asks, looking surprised. “Dahi bhalla was invented in my Rajasthan.”
True or not, you ought to visit Mr Sharma’s stall. The only problem is that it doesn’t have a fixed address. This is a mobile setup consisting of a large pan and bags arranged in various places of his bicycle that trundles through Gurgaon’s various sectors from morning to late afternoon. The metal pan, holding bhallas and dahi, lies on the back-carrier, while the rest of the stuff is crammed into bags hanging from the handle bar. There’s also a basket for disposing trash.
Unlike most street food vendors in the Greater Delhi Region—migrants from towns and villages—who stumble into the street food trade due to a combination of circumstances, Mr Sharma’s business is hereditary. “My father sold dahi bhalla in our village, and so did his father.”
Mr Sharma’s family lives back home in the village of Dausa, Rajasthan, while he stays alone in a one-room housing in Jharsa village. He rustles out every element of the dish himself, getting up at 4 every morning to start with the preparation. He pedals around the lanes, stopping wherever a sale seems likely. This afternoon, he is parked outside a mithai shop in Sector 6.
In his late 40s, Mr Sharma has been in Gurgaon since 2004 and before that “I would be helping my brother at his dahi bhalla stall in Jaipur… he still works there.”
Will Mr Sharma hand over his family legacy to his three school-going children when they come of age?
The dahi bhalla hawker concernedly shakes his head. “It’s not for them, this work involves too much hard work… I’m depending on my kids to study well and become engineers or doctors… if they fail in that, then of course there will be this line for them.”
He now poses for the camera, giving a cheery smile.
Taste of Rajasthan