Epicuriosity: From lip-smacking pickles to tandoori tea – know about Jaipur’s delicacy treasures away from tourist places

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New Delhi | Published: September 30, 2018 2:50:33 AM

Away from the touristy claptrap, there is a different Jaipur. One that reveals itself to those who wander away from tourist guides and maps—a Jaipur that throbs like no other city, interweaving its old magic into the ingenuity of present conveniences.

pickles, tandoori tea, tandoori chaiEach pickle offers a different bouquet of flavours

Away from the touristy claptrap, there is a different Jaipur. One that reveals itself to those who wander away from tourist guides and maps—a Jaipur that throbs like no other city, interweaving its old magic into the ingenuity of present conveniences.

One such place is Achaar Bhandar in Raja Park, a middle-class shopping district that has been in business for over 50 years. The second-generation Mr Garg now runs the shop with his 30-something son lending him a helping hand and a seven-year-old grandson who drops by and shows an impish interest in the family business.

Mr and Mrs Garg operate a small establishment, with about 10 workers and make their own pickles based on old Marwari family recipes. Garg, by way of assurance of cleanliness, informs me that as worshippers of Govardhan, they start the day with a bhog to him. Hence, everything has to be very clean. The Gargs run a small establishment and have an eagerness for their craft, which, in more sophisticated environs, would be called “artisanal”, bringing a passion and exactitude to their work, which can only be described as charming.

He is the first to inform you that his kathal pickle is best avoided since it hasn’t come out that well. However, the garlic pickle is what one must buy since garlic will be unavailable for sometime. He says it with such disarming honesty that one doesn’t question either of his claims.

His range of pickles extends from mixed fruit, lemon (sweet and tangy), mango (sweet and tangy) and garlic (his personal signature). Each pickle offers a different bouquet of flavours—an unfinished texture coats the palate, which isn’t exactly disagreeable, especially when you note that no preservatives have been used. Garg says he infuses his pickles with aloe vera water—it’s just healthier, he informs us with sagacity.

But pickle is not all that is on offer. Chooran and aam papad toffees are homemade additions, as well as locally-sourced saunf—Garg goes to great pains to educate the listener about the difference between Lucknowi saunf and the Rajasthani one. Achaar Bhandar is one of those delights, which you selfishly wish enough success to, so that it stays as it is—neither goes under nor expands to become one of those “Mothers” or “Nani’s” type of homogeneous, bottled offerings. If ever in Jaipur, do find him for homemade goodness that can be your own secret.

A little further along from Achaar Bhandar is yet another unique establishment. It’s called Namo Tandoori Tea Stall and Pakode Wali. You guessed it: the title could mean Shivji or Narendra Modi, the lady owner Ms Katyal informs me coyly. But she is an unabashed NaMo fan and is not apologetic. In Delhi, there may be chaiwallah putdowns, but in Jaipur, in this busy lane, the lady owner, in a T-shirt, jeans and baseball cap, is far from distancing herself from the humble origins of the prime minister. It’s called ‘owning it’ and the prime minister has done it well, even inspiring others in the bargain, including this lady entrepreneur. Her tea stall serves a tandoori chai in which the kullad is baked in a hot tandoor, placed in a pan and the tea infused with a choice of the spices you like—masala or sandalwood are used to flavour it. Next, the kullad is placed in the pan and the tea is poured into it. Steam rises from it much like a sizzler and is concealed from view for a few seconds—it’s all quite a performance. Katyal candidly informs me that this tea stall is inspired by the ones in Pune, where this style of tea is very popular. But the ambience and décor of her restaurant are very much her own.

Namo Tandoori Tea Stall is a tiny hole-in-the-wall establishment, its tea-making unit and tandoor a step outside the restaurant. It has little seating comprising about two or three modas. The restaurant is done up with images of freedom fighters like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Chandra Sekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh. This is a nationalistic tea stall without apology!

Advaita Kala is a writer, most recently of the film Kahaani. She is also a former hotelier having worked in restaurants in India and abroad

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