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. Lately, this old city has revamped and regularly features on lists of the cleanest and safest cities in India. Indore is also a hub for foodies, and the city has no qualms about calling itself the ‘food capital of India’.
A controversial title, no doubt, in a country that is full of several excellent finger-licking options, but Indore holds its own well. It is a crossroads of cultures and its cuisine is a mixture of Maharashtrian, Gujarati, Rajasthani and Malwi influences. But the one aspect that impresses any visitor to Indore is the street food. One can never truly be prepared for the vast array of tastes and flavors that fill the streets of Sarafa Bazar in Indore at night.
Any visit to this town will take you on an obligatory nighttime food tour of Sarafa Bazar, which is lit up and bustling with crowds. The neighborhood is a jewelry market by day and a food court by night. Where else in India can you get a delicious tikki aloo at 2am with your friends, while the crowds around you gorge themselves on panipuris, papdi cats and Indoripoha, among a ton of other delights. Loud, lively and with the aromas of the many competing stalls and vendors floating through the air, it is truly a feast for the senses.
Read more: Is Indore in Madhya Pradesh, the food capital of India?
The Sarafa Bazar food court starts around 9pm, after the jewelry shops are done for the day. This area is in the middle of Indore and has attracted street food vendors over time. Others say jewelers have encouraged food vendors to set up stalls as it could ensure their stores remain safe from thieves. In any case, they were allowed to set up stalls from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., and there has been no turning back since.
Here are some of the food court’s most popular dishes. If you are ever in Indore, make time to visit Sarafa Bazar to indulge the foodie in you. Most of the snacks you will find here can only be found at 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. An unexpected surprise is the enduring popularity of Sabudana Khichdi from Indore, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised and will most likely find it well worth tasting.
You will see people around you piling up on Dahi Wada, Kulfi, Malpua, Barf ka Gola and more common fast foods like Pani Puri, Alu Tikki, Samosa, Kachori, as well as several varieties of sweets. The tradition is that we go to each store and try a dish. Given the wide variety and fried vegetarian foods you’ll be gulping down, you’ll soon start to feel full. But you’re not done yet. The night is still young, and we have more places to indulge.
One of the most famous outlets here is the legendary (local) Joshi Dahi Vada house. Legendary because it serves an inimitable Bhutte Ka kees and a succulent dahivada. Bhutte is, of course, corn. Bhutte ka Kees translates to “grated corn snack”, a contribution from the Marwaris and Maharashtrians of Indore. 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. A little coconut and lemon juice are also added for a bit more spice. Simple but addictively tasty.
A must in Sarafa Bazar is the Dal Bafla. You have probably heard of the name Dal Baati, a staple of Rajasthan. Dal Bafla from Indore is an interesting version of dal baati. Baflas are prepared with whole wheat flour, semolina, curd, ghee and other ingredients. Raw baflas are boiled in water and then cooked until done. They are served with generous portions of ghee and a spicy, savory dal to enhance the taste. Dal Bafla is surprisingly filling and you can overeat if you’re not careful with portion control.
Another specialty of Sarafa Bazar is Garadu. These are fried yams, flavored with an assortment of spices and a little lime juice for a tangy twist. Garadu is popular in the winter alongside a cup of hot chai.
Indore’s vibrant restaurant and street food culture has been hit during the pandemic as closures have stalled businesses and people have stopped going out in the evenings. As the country returns to normal, things are looking up and we should see Indore’s insanely fun nighttime food court shine again in the near future.