A Tour Of Indore’s Delightful Late-Night Fast Food
Image Credit: Jalebi | Image Credit: Pixabay.com

Indore is a city with a long and fascinating history. Its historical peak was its role as a major node of the Maratha Empire for many years, before becoming part of the princely state of Indore under the Holkars and the British Raj. Of late, this old city has revamped itself and is a regular presence on lists of the cleanest and safest cities in India. Indore is also a hub for foodies, and the city is unabashed about calling itself the ‘food capital of India.’

Contentious title, no doubt, in a country that’s filled with several great options for finger-lickin' food, but Indore does make a good case for itself. It is a crossroads of cultures, and its food is a blend of Maharashtrian, Gujarati, Rajasthani, and Malwiinfluences. But the one aspect that impresses any visitor to Indore is the street food. One can never really be prepared for the sheer range of tastes and flavors that fill the streets of Sarafa Bazar in Indore at night time. 

Any visit to this city will have you going on a mandatory late-night food tour of Sarafa Bazar, which is lit up and buzzing with crowds. The area is a jewelry market by day and a food court by night. Where else in India can you get a delicious aloo tikki at 2 am with your friends, as the milling crowd around you gorges on panipuris, papdi chats, and Indoripoha, among a ton of other such delicacies. Noisy, alive, and with the aromas from the many competing stalls and vendors wafting through the air, it truly is a feast for the senses. 

Sarafa Bazar’s food court begins at around 9 pm, once the jewelry stores are done for the day. This area sits in the middle of Indore, and that attracted street food vendors over time. Others claim the jewelers encouraged the food vendors to set up stalls because that could ensure their stores remained safe from thieves. In any case, They were allowed to put up stalls from 8 pm to 2 am, and there’s been no looking back ever since. 

Here are some of the most popular dishes at the food court. If you’re ever in Indore, make the time to visit Sarafa Bazar to treat the foodie in you. Many of the snacks you find here are only found in Sarafa Bazar. 

The most popular are Bhutteka Kees, Garadu (Yam root) Chaat, King Size Jalebi (also known as Jaleba), Basundi, milk-based Shikanji, Alu Pattis etc. One unexpected surprise is the enduring popularity of Indore’s Sabudana Khichdi, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised and will most likely find that it is definitely worth tasting. 

You’ll see people around you pile on the Dahi Wada, Kulfi, Malpua, Barf ka Golaand more common fast foods like Pani Puri, Alu Tikki, Samosa, Kachori, as well as several varieties of sweets. Tradition decrees that we make our way to each store and try out one dish. Given the sheer variety and the deep fried vegetarian foods you’ll be wolfing down, you’ll soon begin to feel filled to the brim. But you're not done yet. The night is still young, and we have more places to indulge at. 

One of the most famous outlets here is the (locally) legendary Joshi Dahi Vada House. Legendary because it serves an inimitable Bhutte Ka kees and a scrumptious dahivada. Bhutte is, of course, corn. Bhutte ka Kees translates to ‘grated corn snack', a contribution of the Marwaris and Maharashtrians of Indore. The corn kernels are boiled, mashed, and fried in ghee, then topped with gram flour and tempered with jeera, hing, curry leaves, chillies, saunf, and other spices. Some coconut and lemon juice are also added for some extra zing. Simple yet addictively tasty. 

One must-try at Sarafa Bazar is the Dal Bafla. You’ve probably heard of the name Dal Baati, a staple in Rajasthan. The Dal Bafla of Indore is an interesting take on the dal baati. The baflas are prepared with whole wheat flour, semolina, curd, ghee and other ingredients. The raw baflas are boiled in water and then baked until done. They are served with generous helpings of ghee and a spicy, flavourful dal to add enhance the taste. Dal Bafla is surprisingly filling, and you can overeat if you’re not careful about portion control.

Another Sarafa Bazar specialty is  Garadu. These are dep fried yams, flavored with an assortment of spices and a bit of lime juice for a tangy twist. Garadu is popular in the winter alongside a hot cup of chai. 

Indore’s vibrant dining and street food culture took a hit during the pandemic as the lockdowns stalled businesses and people stopped going out in the evenings. As the country limps back to normal, things are looking up again and we should see Indore’s incredibly fun night food court shine once more in the near future.