- The Andaman Foodie

Since college, I have been trying different styles of cuisines at various joints and restaurants. Shifting to Andamans in 2001, I have seen the islands grow on the 'Menu' front. From not getting the 'mainland ka dhaniya patti' to getting 'broccoli', from 'capsicum' being a luxury to recently buying onion powder.  I have not just witnessed the change and growth but have felt it too.

With the growth in tourism industry, the islands saw a rise in restaurants and eating-out culture. Locals also shifted from 'Machchi surwa' to 'Chilli Fish', 'Gosh fry' to 'Barbecues'. This food revolution also saw a sudden rise on street food.

It all began with 'Puchkaas' which are also known as ‘gol gappe’ or ‘pani puri’.  An ardent fan of chats, especially ‘masala puri’, I knew the puchka walas had to adjust with limited resources (read ingredients). Unlike their mainland counterparts, wherein around 8 to 10 ingredients go into the puris before its dipped in the sweet and sour water, the Island puchkas resorted to only potatoes, salt and few pieces of a onion (which was again an expensive affair).

Then came in the 'chatpati' with local coriander leaves. When Bangalore was witnessing an IT revolution, the islanders saw a boom in the puchka walas. Now, not just every corner had a puchka vendor but people had their own favorite spots as well.

It was heard that a famous puchka wala constructed three storied building in 'mainland' and left for an early retirement. And soon we knew that these islands are the not less than Dubai for the immigrants coming from West Bengal.

Then we heard puchkas have 'ganja' in it that’s why people get addicted to a particular joint. But as we know love is blind and in this case love was also tasty and irresistible. And no one paid any attention to this discovery.

Going to tuitions became fun and party with regular statements like 'Bhaiyya, 10 rupiye ka dena'. Only these students knew the real price of each puchka and how much one single puchka would cost. Waiting for the bus was no more boring. Now every bus stand had a puchka vendor with his bag full of puris and the ingredients. These vendors were named after each bus stop, Goalghar wala puchka, marina park wala etc.

These guys had help from their relatives who would peel potatoes for the seller and we look at their quick fingers with our mouths watering. Holding the tiny little steel 'katori' we never feel like beggars, rather enjoyed when we it was our turn. Though this katori has been replaced by a small eco-friendly bowl, I just couldn't shift from the steel one.

When puchkas were accepted by the islanders, the advent of Samoosa chat, noodles, cutlet and egg rolls followed. Now we get chicken pakodas (not to be mistaken as chicken pops of KFC) palak and egg pakodas too.

There was a time when good food was synonym with family gatherings but the rise in street food joints  in the islands have sparked an eating out  culture, and the cherry on the top was the tourism industry, which resulted in not just rise of hotels but also demand for more such food joints. Lockdown due to Covid-19 taught us how important these joints are and we cannot ignore its presence around us.

While you guys read this, I am going to munch on some lip smacking puchkas or may be egg roll.

I will come back with another food culture soon.

Yum Yum!