The previous post detailed the food escapades in Delhi.
So we caught a train to Agra which took a wee bit more time than by car from Delhi. I was looking forward to going to Agra that we had skipped on our last tour to North India a couple of years back. Not only is Agra the place of my birth but being originally from UP, I was keen to see how the state is now. As we reached Agra station, it was pretty hot, hotter than Delhi. We were going to be staying at Taj with the view of Taj – what can be better than that? So of course, while the Taj Mahal was our topmost priority and it did not disappoint, we went out for some UP ka khana with gusto. We first headed to Chaat Gali in Sadar which is a string of chaat shops. First stop was Agra Chat House. Apparently, this is one of Agra’s oldest and most popular chat places, and the taste does live up to the name. It wasn’t too dirty, and there was even water to wash our hands with. So we attacked dahi vade, aloo chaat, aloo tikki and papdi chat. It was really yummy. This place is in Sadar at Agra. Compared to Punjabi chaat, UP’s chat is slightly different in taste. I loved it more perhaps because my mom made it that way and in turn I too make it that way :D. Even the kids related to the taste more.
After having all that yummy stuff, we headed to Panchi Petha. Petha for some reason is among my favorite Indian sweets. Of course, the original dry variety is the favorite of mine. But the shop had so many variants. We chose rasbhari. The only problem with wet petha is that it does not last as long as dry petha and we still had a week to go. But store it in the fridge and it will last you a fortnight. So we bought a few boxes and also picked a large pack of Agra’s famous dalmoth – that spicy tangy mixture of lentils and dry fruits that is a great snack to have anytime. You will be amused to find a Panchi petha in every bylane of Agra. Be sure to ask the locals and reach the original shop and its other branches.
Done here, we went across the street to Brijwasi sweets where we had some lassi and completely yummy melt-in-the-mouth rasmalai. The afternoon adventure was done. Yes, this was our lunch :D.
For dinner, we decided to head out to a popular paratha joint called Rambabu Paratha Bhandar in Agra that we had heard a lot about. The place is again a smallish joint where they cook outside, but you get to sit on some chairs and tables in an adjacent building. What hit me about the place was the exorbitant price of the parathas. I confirmed twice if they were charging Rs. 100+ for one paratha. Yes, they were and without taxes. The parathas were heavy and decent in taste. Though not deep fried, they definitely seemed deep fried with the loads of oil they use to roast the parathas in. Each plate had a sour curd curry which was too sour for my taste, a dry vegetable, some pickle (which was pretty good) and a yummy potato gravy which is a staple in UP (again almost like the aloo-tamatar I make at home). I found this potato gravy everywhere. We tried their aloo, gobhi and mooli parathas. All were equally good. I did feel that the place was a bit overrated. Was my quest for the perfect paratha going to stay unfulfilled on this trip, I wondered?
After that heavy dinner, we headed back. For breakfast next day, we asked a local autorickshaw driver to suggest something authentic. He took us to a famous Devi Ram Sweets where the entire Agra, well almost, turns up for their favorite Bedai and Jalebis. Luckily they have a very clean section upstairs with good seating. We took our places and samples their bedai that was served with the same potato gravy (much spicier but yummy). Bedai is like a kachori with a dal filling less generous than a kachori. This is the staple breakfast in Agra and people have it all day long. Yes, this place is really popular judging from the crowds that throng the place. And it is reasonably priced too. I wish we had some space in our tummies to try out their jalebis. But the heavy food of the past few days was taking its toll. Satiated we left and for lunch had a simple thaali to balance out the food debauchery of the past few days. Foodwise, Agra offered some interesting choices. In taste, I could identify a lot of tastes from my own cooking here. Of course, we have long ago left cooking the deep-fried stuff behind.
We were catching a train to the foodie paradise of Amritsar in the evening. I had been to the city of Golden Temple in 1999 and have very fond memories of the place. You can’t beat the fabulous food you get in Punjab. Those foodie travels will continue in the next post.