Tuesday

A foodie’s dream: Surat







Before I launch into the dna of this city (which may really boil down to food) the one thing that will always stand out for me about Surat - is the warmth and simplicity of its people. Ask for directions or simply ask for a clarification on some Gujju word, the Surati’s will happily make the time to pause and explain - a novel Indian experience this has been compared to the bustling aggressive metropolises’ of a diversity called India.

Surat is prominently known for its textile market equally as also for "Bunder-e-Khubsurat” (a beautiful harbor) and of-course equally for being India’s largest diamond market. Prosperity thrives in Surat. The average Gujju is a hardworking, earnest guy who is hungry for more and wears his heart on his sleeve and works tirelessly.

What Surat lacks in heritage places and natural sights, it makes up for, in its business and industries (oil, energy, steel, petrochemicals), it is a city with peace and maximum prosperity. NaMo has every reason to be proud of his state (Surat very recently was voted the cleanest city). Other state chiefs indeed must learn a couple of lessons very soon from Surat!

Surat’s amazing road infrastructure of flyovers and bridges puts a city like Bombay to shame. A small airport where only one flight lands in the morning and one takes off by evening, may foolishly make you believe, is a sleepy town; Far from it. Surat has the heart and mind of an astute businessman who knows how to be ambitious and also knows how to relax and enjoy life. It’s so incorrect for Surat to be dubbed a tier two city!

If keen on seeing places of interest- there is Dandi, where India’s struggle for independence began with Gandhiji and the Salt Satyagraha. There is Hajira and Tithal showing off their beautiful beach resorts surrounded by the Arabian Sea. Gopipura is a small village famous for its Jain temples. And the Winchester Museum if you dig ancient collector items.

And now of cos food:) - Surat has been a memorable experience. In the backlanes of Muslim-dominated Zampa Bazar, stands a proud home , where Fatima Bibi stretches and stretches a flubber-like ball of maida, incredibly soft after four hours of kneading, until it covers the 15 ft by 12 ft space like a sheet of thin muslin. When the pastry dries, it is cut into 12-inch squares, combined with mawa (reduced milk), and baked. The result is: sagla bagla mithai, sweet but not cloying, and magically delicate.

This single family of bakers, headed by Fatima's husband, Mohammed Khalid Rafat, bakes for a community it does not belong to — the Dawoodi Bohras. No wedding is complete without sagla bagla, which travels to them wherever they live. Laughs Mohammedbhai: "We've made this 105-year-old recipe public. But nobody else can make it, it's hard work." As we leave his home, clutching mithai boxes he will not let us pay for, he nudges us into another room. Another flaky confection, I think. I find myself face to face, instead, with the wine reds, emerald greens and lapis blues of his antique glass collection—lovingly picked up, piece by piece, from the bazaar. Envious!

With seven out of ten diamonds in the world cut and polished in Surat, can we really leave without sighting The Rock? We find ourselves in a huge bungalow, chatting with Uncle,nephew, niece team, on the top floor running their diamond empire. A collection so vast, the mind boggles.

The soul of Surat has to be its mouthwatering food - Surati’s are crazy foodies. Surat is essentially a vegetarian place. Here reside people who do not even consume eggs and then, there are the Jains, who do not consume anything with onions and garlic in it. There are very few restaurants offering non vegetarian food.
For all you non veg food readers I assure you the food here is so delicious you will not miss no non veg one bit, I promise you.

You have the regular fare from Bombay(buttery paranthas, pani puri, chaats, pav bhaji etc) but what I’d recommend is skip the regular fare and discover the local cuisine!

The yummy silk Khaman, the delectable ice Gola, the variety of Handvos, Locho, rasawala Khaman, the ‘sweets’: smooth Ghari, Laaris, Ghooghras(hand made plain flour dumplings deep fried in ghee with minced milk mawa, embellished with dried fruit and nuts, with a hint of cardamom) O! and not to forget the ‘Nastas’: crispy Fafda’s, crunchy Jalebis, freshly baked Naankhatais, butter Khaaris, Cholafali, Khakras and Theplas -- I can wager a bet no one will be able to select a teeny weeny portion and say “bas/enough” to one dish. Surat entices you to overeat!

A unique thing about Surats eating style - people flock to eat out of home. So much so they pack a picnic hamper on a Saturday, Sunday evening, come to a side walk haunt, spread their mats and sheets and eat together in a big group. Very flower power generation-isq ;) This is some experience - sitting on the wide footpath, under the shiny lights of surrounding malls with cars zipping past. This is a strict don’t-miss if you are visiting Surat. Tho must confess I didn’t do this. (would I have? Hmmm not sure:)

Just a word more, before I sign off, a word about driving into Surat on NH8 - A nightmare! The highway is under expansion, is reduced to 2 lanes. It took us forever to reach Surat despite us breaking free at many spots! Added to our woes were the poor (really bad!) drivers almost all from GJ, all along the Highway! NaMo, Can you please instill a sense of good driving in your citizens as a favour to mankind?:)

23 comments:

Mike said...

After about 12 hours (or four in flight movies and a Helsinki, Mumbai transfer) later we arrive in Surat find the hotel, grab a take away curry + local snacks (we really are back in the UK) and go to sleep. Next day we were surprisingly fresh and ready to go. The food certainly did us good, cause right thru our 1week stay we did not tire eating vegetarian food:)

sanjiv said...

Each season has its own advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages of the monsoon season, I think, beats all other seasons, which is, bringing out the nature’s beauty that is usually hidden. The down side is everything gets mucky! But not Surat. Its infrastructure is pretty on the ball, so traffic flows smoothly despite the rains, no clogging of water no where, its business as usual here.

melinda said...

yummilicious! need to hop over there just for the food I think!:)

U said...

Hi Surat cleanliness is what i like, hope rest of India follows!

Shweta said...

O man! I been to Surat thousand of times, But I can neer write as passionately as you have this post. Seperates us normal guys from u eh?:)Lovely, delicious, heart warming post Mee! Makes me see Surat through new eyes.

R Niranjan Das said...

Thats an inviting post about Surat. Well written.

http://rajniranjandas.blogspot.com/2011/07/sunset-over-indian-ocean.html

Anon said...

An extremely enjoyable read. So vivid and yummy. Good.

Meera

Anon said...

Wonderful post Mee! I am dying to have some of the Surti food now!

Ajoy Vakil

sheila said...

O so totally love Gujrati food. This post is indeed been yummilicious M!:)

RavneetSingh said...

Yesss! I can completely vouch for the food there. Have had to go to Surat almost once twice a month and we simply overfeed our taste buds. Clearly if there is one state in the country who LOVE food, it has t be Gujarat.

Neeraj said...

While other State CMs have only made themselves richer without giving a damn about state "development", NaMo has done an excellent job with GJ. Mostly, in India, development is akin to destruction.

ashish said...

Surat, a jewel in the shining crown of Gujarat. Stands out completely for its simplicity, authenticity, and values. And gives one more than just a glimpse of the colorful experience

Mee said...

@Mike -good on you. ISn't business bustling in Surat?:)

@Sanjiv - I completely take your word, I know every week u r spending 2-3 days there- who'd know better. Maximum city needs to seriously learn-learn FAST!

@Mel - YES!!

@U -Second that most definitively

@Shweta- TY:)

@R Niranjan Das - If u have'nt been there, wld say worth spending a day there, just for the sampling of yummy food:)

@Meera - dhanyavaad madam:)

@Ajoy - :)

@Sheila - :)

@RS - dude their food while terrific on taste is also heavy on calories...:)

@Neeraj- "development' is an election phrase to be forgotten as soon as you, the political party, are sworn in

@Ashish - s well said. Impressed with Surat!

जाट देवता (संदीप पवाँर) said...

जी ललचाये, खाने को मन करे।

neelam said...

enjoyable, knowledge, share about surat,
thanks for share dish from surat

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aalekh dixit said...

if you like to eat non vegetarian food, be sure that surat wont disaapoint you. go to the places like navsari bazar or nanpura and try out the lamb and beef dishes its amazing or you could go to the causeway and try the dry chicken at AMDAVADI TAVA FRY,you will be mind blown and if you are in for a 20 to 25 km ride then you should without fail try the pathani chicken at nanavadi (on the way to navsari).