My family is known for last minute plans, and last minute changes to plans, in fact, till the moment we’re not in the car headed to our destination, I refuse to take the trip seriously. 😛 I may sound like I’m cribbing but I love this spontaneous travel, one minute I’m walking out of my physics tuition and the next I’m in a car, off to celebrate Holi with my aunt in Shantiniketan, or one minute I’m at the factory and the next, I’m off to Mount Abu for a long drive, who does not love that? One such incident happened last month. Mr D and I were visiting Ahmedabad and were generally having a pretty good time, it was a lovely Saturday night, we sitting around chatting and watching trashy serials when Dad suddenly decided we should go out for dinner. This was at 10.30 at night. Loud discussions ensued with each person trying to provide their own suggestions, Maa won out in the end and we decided to go to Manek Chowk, mostly because it was waaaay too late to go anywhere else.
Now, Manek Chowk is not your regular market. It is a three in one market, it is a vegetable market early in the morning, a jewellery market till sundown and from 9pm onwards, it is a food lover’s delight. Tiny stalls selling all sorts of delicious food crop all over this not very big chowk, (market square in English). It is located in the Old City of Ahmedabad, quite close to the railway station. It is surrounded by pols, those cluster of houses that are characteristic of Ahmedabad.
Despite being Amdavadis for over a decade, no one in my family had ever visited Manek Chowk before and thus had no idea where it was actually located but since we are modern day travellers, out came the smartphones and Google Maps were as seriously consulted as any star chart in the olden days. Thus directed by our friendly GPS we drove past deserted neighbourhoods and shops and stopped at a particularly dark and for the moment deserted square. For a few minutes we had a good laugh, thinking that all that driving was for no good and that the stalls were shut down for the night, then we decided to ask the paanwala and he told us that the place we’re looking for was in the next gully. We edged the car another meter and looked to our left, and lo and behold! A bustling market square, teeming with humanity met our eyes. Satisfied by the fact that we were after all in the right place, we hurriedly parked our car and made our way to the stalls. Initial inquiries disappointed us when we found out that the stalls sold exclusively vegetarian food, but we very bravely decided to dig in anyway.
If you have ever been to Newton Food Center in Singapore, you will have a fair idea of how things work, you basically sit at the tables and the select the stall from where you want your food, and they’ll deliver it to your table, the payment is done after your meal is over. It was 12 at night, but the place was still as active as if it was 7 or 8 in the evening. People thronged the tables and rich, poor, young, old and what was really heartening to see in a communally sensitive city like Ahmedabad, Hindus and Muslims, all sat beside each other, united by food. We quickly placed our order for pao bhaji, Gwalior dosas and a gobhi manchurian.
The food soon arrived and what we saw will make any cardiologist faint with horror, huge slabs of butter decorated our food like garnish. Mr D did not know whether to feel horrified or excited. My brother and I exchanged delighted looks, if there is no non-vegetarian food to be had, we might as well compensate with butter we decided and dug in. The food was delicious. I do not know whether it was the excessive application of butter, (the stalls were advertising their use of only Amul butter to cook the food) or the actual skill of the cook made it so good, it was soooo delicious.
The first round of food over, we decided to try a little more food. My Dad called over one of the stall guys and asked for a plate of chow mein, only have him give us a rather puzzled look and a statement that they did not serve chow mein, in fact they had never heard of such a thing before, in return, we also scratched our heads as the people on the table beside us were inhaling copious amounts of the aforementioned dish. When we brought this to light the server said, “Aaah! Noodles! To yeh boliye na sahab!” and promptly ran off to get our order. The noodles arrived, duly decorated with the customary slab of butter and along with that our other order of tawa pulao. Both the dishes were really good, with the noodles being pronounced the clear winner of the evening. Meal over, we called for our bill, which came to some eight hundred rupees for 5 people, very very cheap for the amount of food we had consumed. Strangely, none of felt very full or queasy, as it usually happens after a very large meal and I am happy report that we felt no gastrointestinal discomfort the next day either, even Mr. D, whose stomach rebels at the slightest opportunity.
No meal is complete without dessert, or so off we went to hunt for some sweets. We did not have to look very far, the dessert stalls were on the outer periphery of the square. We decided to have kulfi faloodas from Asharfi Kulfi, a very well known Ahmedabad brand, that we were about to try for the first time. The kulfis did not disappoint, not too sweet, not too milky, the rose syrup just right, it was by far the best kulfi I’ve ever had. We left at around 12.30 and even at that time people were still coming in to eat.
If you’re ever in Ahmedabad and looking for some late night munchies, I would suggest this as the place to go, though if you’re hardcore non-vegetarian, there is this other place at Juhapura which I will review sometime in the future. So that’s it for me. Where do you go for your midnight munchies? Let me know in the comments!!