Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bun-Kababs: Culture of non-vegetarian street food in India

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
The Bun-Kabab is not a traditional street food but over the years it has emerged as a popular non-veg delicacy in India.

Though there is no dearth of mouth-watering non-veg delicacies but one needs to be aware of the localities where such food and its variety is available. Mostly these shops are in old parts of the cities, the purana shahar mohallas.

It is in these lanes that one gets to find food ranging from 'haleem' [khichda], 'spicy kalejis', qeema samosas, seekh ke kebab to biryanis of all sorts and the ubiquitous chicken.

But in last couple of decades, an addition has been --the 'bun kabab', which has acquired a large following and has spread to several cities.

Firstly, it's easy to make and serve. If the 'kababs' that are filled inside are good enough and the quality of buns is not bad, the hot bun-kabab tastes heavenly on an empty stomach.

In fact, a layer of green chutney and onions inside the bun, can do wonders. It's a close cousin of the burger but when it comes to taste, I assure you the bun-kabab is miles ahead and there is no comparison. Bun Kebab is the winner.

Alas, in an era when there is such deterioration of street food that biryani sellers turn the biryani into khichdi and put 2-3 kinds of chutney along with dahi or raaita, the bun kebab stands apart.

It is in the lanes in Muslim neighbourhoods in different cities that you get to find such food. Not just non-veg, but also unique sweets like 'nan-khatais' and 'andarse ki goli'.

Remember, every kabab wala is not a master and one has to try out at different joints before finding your favourite shop or stall that makes the best bun-kabab or any other similar dish.

If you are a real foodie, you will certainly venture out and find out yourself. Quality is an issue and that's the reason one needs to do lot of survey before finding the good joints.

Once you have munched enough, it's time for tea. And nothing beats the 'namak wali chai'. It doesn't taste salty. In the huge samovar, the tea maker just sprinkles a bit of salt but the taste and the aroma are altogether different.

In the chai-khanas, the elders get the tea in 'pyali' while the youngsters mostly have it in glasses. The 'namak wali chai' is said to have medicinal benefits too!

Read earlier posts on Qeema-samosa sellers:

1. A samosa-seller's nap under the tree shade
2. Chacha's qeema stuffed samosas

Read earlier posts on 'chaai' and tea shops:

1. Culture of chai: Teashops are vanishing
2. My morning cuppas in Hyderabad