It was supposed to be a relaxing two day trip to Pune. Evenings were supposed to be free and to be spent with a friend there, eating and looking around the city. If only I had not fallen down and not strained my ankle ligament. Anyway Pune did happen and I somehow tried to make the best out of it even if I had to limp.
Unlike other Indian cities I have been to, from up above the sky it looked green. There were mountains and valleys with roads and buildings carved in between. It was picturesque. It was cloudy. It supposedly rains incessantly from July to October making traffic a nightmare.
The factory I was visiting, PepsiCo snack manufacturing facility where it produces Kurkure and Lays, was situated in Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation at Pimpri.
Glimpse of Pune I got en-route to the manufacturing facility from the relatively small Pune airport was that of a place that is trying to get rid of its town roots to become more urban. From high street shopping to small town-ish dabbawalas to heritage structures and lovely greenery that dotted the cityscape, Pune is a town I wished I had more time to spend looking around.
But I did get to experience a bit of the city’s food culture – sweets and pavs, the State is famous for. The company person who was accompanying us suggested we stop by to have the famous pav since there was no time for anything else and I did not want to leave the place without trying authentic food here. The driver stopped the car in one of the roadside dhabas where he said we will get the best misal pav, a popular Maharashtrian dish.
The dhaba we stopped at was pretty busy with tourists and natives stopping by for a short break. Luckily for us the crowd was beginning to thin down and I did not have to worry unnecessarily about my sprained leg. On one side of the dhaba were two guys putting together chat at lightening speed. On the other side was a Chaiwala delivering chai from copper mug with practiced motions.
We ordered two misal pav and three chai. Misal is a spicy curry made of sprouted moth beans topped with sev, cilantro, onions and lemon. This is accompanied by pav, sometimes served along with curd. Misal has two parts, a thick curry that is prepared in part with sprouted lentils and has less water content and a spicy watery gravy called rassa. When you eat you mix these two according to your taste and requirement. If it is too spicy for your taste, you can mix it with curd and cucumber that sometimes accompanies the dish. When moth beans are unavailable, it is sometimes prepared using mung beans. It may be garnished with Indian snack noodles.
This is not the only variant of misal available though. There different varieties originated from different parts of Maharashtra like Puneri Misal, Kolhapuri Misal, Nashik Misal, Khandeshi Misal and Nagpuri Misal, where the first part indicating the origin. Other types are Kalya Masalyachi Misal, Sev Misal, and Dahi (yoghurt) Misal. In the recent years Nashik has emerged as Misal Capital where maximum varieties of Misal are available.
It barely took the guy 5 min to put the stuff together the dish. Misal was hot and spicy as expected. But adding dahi and cucumber to the mix enhanced the taste. Before I knew it I found myself ordering another round of Misal pav despite having late lunch. A hot cup of tea in the smallest cup I have ever had was the best combination.
Though people say there is nothing much to look forward to when it comes to food in Maharashtra, street food is something I’m looking forward to experiment during my next trip there.