Ever heard the Gujarati adage “Surat nu jaman ane Kashi nu maran”? It means (only the truly lucky) eat in Surat and die in Kashi. Surat is undoubtedly a foodies’ paradise, from roadside bhel stalls to multi-cuisine restaurants, Surat has everything a foodie can desire and more. Ever met a Surati living away from home? You’ll probably see them complaining about the food the most. Almost every person that migrates out of Surat immediately regrets it at their next outing.
When you are in Surat you don’t have to search for food, just walk out into the streets and the food will come to you. Suratis love food and the local businessmen are more than happy to cater to this love. To actually see the transformation from a textile hub to a food paradise, ride into the streets after sunset. Food stalls suddenly sprout out like flowers in spring. Every corner and every footpath will have people thronging, waiting their turn to be served with a whole variety of flavors. Never mind the restaurants which will always have a waiting list on weekends and holidays, no matter how big or small they are.
Besides the usual sight of fast food restaurants generally found in cities, like McDonalds, KFC and Pizaa Hut, which are dime a dozen in the popular parts of the city, the city also has a lot of local speciality food joints. The most popular of the local foods here are Locho, Rassa wala Khaman, Fafda, Aloo Puri, Khaja and Ghari. And even in these the vendors add their own touch to make them even more interesting.
The city has a weird liking for street food. The footpaths of Gaurav path at Piplod is among the most popular eating places in Surat. Yes, people sitting on a chatai spread on the footpath, eating food from a nearby stall is a very common site on this street. And this is a very popular trend even among the upper middle class crowd. You might even see a Mercedes parked nearby. There are no rules in Surat when food is concerned.
Piplod is where you want to go if you are confused about what and where to eat. There are a huge number of stalls operating just outside popular food brand stores selling a whole variety of Parathas, Punjabi dishes, Sandwiches, Vada Pau, Pau Bhaji, Dosas, Pizzas, Pani-Puris and Whatnots. Choosing between a restaurant and a roadside lari is a very tough decision for a Surati.
For those especially into non-vegetarian foods Surat wouldn’t let you down either. The Anda laris (egg stalls) are spread across the city and some are so popular that they are used as landmarks. Among the many are names like Bhai-Bhai omlet centre, Raju in Adajan, Ganesh near Moti talkies and the Eggitarian Café opposite VNSGU. These are by no means the only laris you would want to eat at. Head out into the Zampa bazaar and explore the Rander area for some of the best egg dishes you’ll ever eat. The dishes you should look out for here are the Naan-chaaps, Seekh Parathas, Irani Paratha and egg rotis. If you’re looking for a heavy breakfast, just go to Zampa bazaar and ask for baara handis (12 pots). If you’re not feeling very adventurous you can always order the regular Tandooris and Biryaanis. Don’t forget to ask for seasonal dishes.
If you’re not that hungry you can always enjoy the variety of snacks Surat has to offer. Aloo Puri is among the most commonly found snacks. Add that to Bhel Puri, Chats, Dahi Puri, Frankie and a fairly recent addition, Khawsa, you can never get bored of eating, even if you want to. But that is not all; you can always indulge in the traditional Gujarati dishes like Bhajiya, Dhokla, Idada, Khaman, Khandvi and a whole lot of other “Farsan” items. During the winters, Ponk, a variety of sorghum only found in this part of the world, changes the snack menu. Prepared in a special way, it becomes the primary snack of all Suratis. Ponk is eaten with different kinds of spicy sev. Ponk vadas served with chutney are also something you should not miss.
And how can I forget about the most important part of the meal, the desert! Apart from the regulars like ice-creams, Kulfis and sweets, Surat has a lot of different items to tend to your sweet tooth. Cold Coco, Faludas and Lassi are very common in Surat. The traditional sweets like the Surati Ghari are well known across the world.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot hidden in some street corner that even the most adventurous local foodie has not yet discovered. To taste all of it and to write about it would require months of dedicated exploration and writing. What more do you need as proof that Surat is indeed the food capital of India.
Photos Courtesy: This mouth watering food-porn is captured by Chintan J Patel.