One Sunday evening, making my way through the thick crowd near Dadar railway station in Mumbai, I realized that I was almost racing towards the place I had been longing to visit for almost one year. Mumbai visits are incomplete without this ritual. I took the
lane, passed by the Ideal Book Depot, found the familiar crowd around the small roadside stall on the right and then with a deep breath took in the familiar aroma of hot Batata Vadas. Chhabildas School
Shrikrishna Vada stall has been doing brisk business selling vadas since decades. I remember visiting it with my childhood friend every Sunday after my tenth grade vacation tuitions at Pinge’s closeby. We generally shared one plate as we had very little money to splurge. That was the first time I got hooked on to their Batata Vadas, the staple snack of Mumbai. Even later during my post graduation days, the Institute bus would drop us at Plaza and everyday as I passed by the stall with friends, we would stop over for a shared snack of Batata Vadas. Although the basic recipe of Batata Vada is more or less the same, no two vendors can dish out Batata Vadas with the same taste and flavour. The ones that you get at Shrikrishna are mildly spicy, have huge amount of potato filling with ginger and garlic and have the right thickness of batter coating. They are served with sautéed and salted green chillies that one can bite into for that extra zing. We had soon discovered that their Sabudana Vada was also absolutely divine – right balance between the soft sago-potato-roasted peanut mix with a crispy outer layer that one gets with the right amount of deep frying and served with ample portion of coconut chutney. Their Sev Puri was another hot favorite among us as it was most easy to divide and share between a bunch of friends. Being a roadside stall, one had to stand and eat and we usually tried to find a quiet corner near their kitchen so we could peek in and see mounds of Vadas being fried. All those memories came rushing back as my eyes ran through the menu displayed on the board. I wanted to repeat the same order as I had placed so many times with my friends, although I was to eat it all by myself.
I first took one plate of Batata Vada and ate every morsel slowly, remembering my friend who now lives in the
, who always shared a plate with me. Don’t know when I will get to share a plate with her again. Then I thought of another friend who loved Sabudana Vada and for her sake I ordered and polished off an entire plate of Sabudana Vada. May she get all the energy she needs to do her anti-racism work in the US , I thought. I told the cashier that I missed eating their snacks in UK and wished that I could visit them more often. Several years ago, my husband, who keeps hearing about my craving for their Batata Vadas every now and then, very sweetly got a few plates parceled during his quick day trip to Mumbai. How I saved them in the refrigerator and ate them over the next two days!!! The cashier just smiled with the ‘I have heard that before’ expression and I knew immediately that there must be more people like me who take such nostalgic food trips. With no more space left to tuck in any more goodies, I asked for a parcel of flat samosas, Kothimbir Vadi and of course Batata Vada. As my order was getting packed, a fresh heap of hot Vadas arrived at the counter and I could not help but pick one before it got packed. I took a bite and puffed to let the steam escape from the Vada all over my face. My eyes were welling up- nobody knew if it was because of the spicy hot snack that I had just bitten into or if I was simply missing something from my past. It was so easy to smile after that. Bangalore