While hygiene is always underlined with a bolded emphasis when it comes to the matters of food habits, sometimes it’s nice to throw caution to the wind and experience the real local flavors as we walk along the streets. Back at home, the streets of Guwahati have always been my treasure island when it comes to satiate my foodoholic pangs. Be it the popular joints or the steaming food from the street vendors, it’s like an “All you can eat buffet” for all budgets. The Momo Ghar hangouts to catch up on juicy stories while gorging on plates and plates of juicy momos, the Chung Fa trips for Chinese treats and the visits to Naga Kitchen for the mouthwatering bamboo pork are some of my early years’ memories, yet there’s a distinct difference in enjoying within the walls of restaurants and gorging mouthful of street chats, momos, phuskas (golgappa) or the varied versions of chops (aloo, veg, chicken and mutton), among others. So, this time in my trip back home, I took a literal walk down the heavily crowded memory lane to build new memories again.
I had plans of following a pattern on the walk, but as I hit the street the plans just flew away as everything was too appealing to tread a set path. My first pit stop wasn’t selling anything cooked, rather it was an evening market by the footpath near Ganesh Mandir in Dispur, where the vendors were busy selling various Assamese raw food items, from farm fresh eggs and dry fish packs to numerous vegetables. The dry fish vendor informed me that there’s a much bigger market at Beltola, from where he gets his weekly stock. His collection of fish ranged from dried Mua, Bamra, Misa (prawn) and Keshki to Poothimaas (fish), all are small fishes that every household uses. The man was also carrying a few sachets of shrimp paste to turn our food fishy.
The lady sitting beside him had a complete different set of items and it was nice to see such camaraderie among all. The local duck eggs were colorful with dirt scraping the shell, it shows they were freshly handpicked without much thought on the clean look. Apart from that there’s the banana flower, a must have health food, especially if we are looking at increasing our hemoglobin count; you would also find vegetables, such as doom leaves and OuTenga (Elephant Apple) that not only cleanse our digestive system but also add great flavors to Assamese food. The market is horizontally stretched out displaying Grape fruit, SingaaraAalu (mostly used in Chinese restaurants), bamboo shoots, Bhimkol (a special seeded banana) and berries. It’s fascinating to see such varieties packed in that space.
By the time street vegetable shopping was done for the day, my hunger pangs had reached the peak.So, as I found my favorite momo steamers, it was a sight for my sore eyes (or stomach, to be more specific). As I started chatting with the vendor, I found that he wasn’t just selling momos, rather he was reaching for his dream, one step at a time. Every evening, after his regular work hours, he comes to Ganesh Mandir Bus stop to set up his momo stand. He has a steady job, yet he had always wanted to make momos, and so he learnt in every way possible. And with each passing, today his stand is a popular spot for evening strollers to have a bite. He was driven by his passion than need and thus, while I ate his juicy momos I realized that there’s no passion difficult to follow when you put your heart into it.
I have also gorged on ghugni (peas made in chole style), chicken cutlets and vegetable pakoras. I was amazing to have a taste of local food in the most indigenous style possible. The best part of the street food experience is that it’s not just food you think of, you interact with people around and it’s the way to know the heart of a place much better. If you ever happen to visit Guwahati, open your heart and minds to the vendors around, as they are storehouse of the places innate treasures that will help you enjoy the place to the fullest. And my short and sweet experience only cost me Rs. 300 in all. Pretty easy on the pocket I would say.