Indore’s love affair with food is long and legendary, with street food being a much-discussed and passionately debated topic in foodie circles. The flavours of Indore’s diverse kitchens mingle madly at the legendary Sarafa Bazaar, which comes to life at 8 pm, when the jewellery market behind the Rajwada Palace, a crumbling remnant of the Holkar dynasty, closes down. It might not be wrong to label Indore as the street food capital of Madhya Pradesh. And within Indore, perhaps the most vibrantly memorable street food experience would be the fabled Sarafa Bazar.
Perhaps the most celebrated foodie landmark of the city of Indore, Sarafa Bazaar has a lot to offer for the gastronomically inclined!
No one is quite sure of the origin of this bazaar. However, legend goes that it began 100 years ago and was encouraged by the jewelery owners, so that hustle bustle late into the night would secure their own stores at night. With this in mind, they voluntarily started offering space to food vendors and thus, the famous food street Sarafa Bazar was born. Today this late night market which is among the best places to eat in Indore, receives nearly 3,000 visitors, locals and tourists alike.
The visitors stream through its streets, stopping now and then to savour the delectable goods laid out in plain sight.
The cheerful and chaotic festivity on the streets of Sarafa is mesmerising – neon signboards strung up on the shutters of closed jewellery shops, well-lit carts breaking up stretches of darkness, people carefully negotiating their way past large kadais bubbling with hot oil, and food vendors busily serving up a dazzling fare. Sarafa Bazaar stays open well into the night, both fuelling and satiating the city’s irrepressible appetite.
One look at the goodies on offer and it’s easy to understand why this night market is placed so high on the foodie pedestal. Generations of tweaking & perfecting classic recipes have led to Sarafa Bazaar being the heart of street food culture in Indore, with its lanes crammed with sounds, smells and one-of-a kind culinary options. About 50 different dishes are available at Sarafa Bazaar. Since Indori food is rarely subtle, most of the fare is all about richness and tartness.
Things to keep in mind:
- Sarafa is located about 2.5 km from Indore GPO and can be easily reached from Rajwada Palace by cab, car, two-wheeler or rickshaw. However, parking is difficult given that the bazaar is localted in narrow lanes.
- Do wear comfortable walking shoes.
- As with any food street visit, try and go in a group of 6-10 in order to try all the dishes on offer without wasting any food.
- Plan to reach by 8-8:30 PM since food can run out given the popularity of some of the stalls.
- Though bottled drinking water is available easily, do carry your own water bottle to avoid purchasing plastic water bottles.
- Sarafa can get crowded given that Indore is a city of foodies. Don’t let the hordes intimidate you. Look around and take in the sights, sounds and aromas as you experience gastronomical delight.
- Some of the dishes mentioned in this guide are seasonal and may not be available depending on which time of the year you are visiting.
- Take the time to chat up with food stall owners to get an insight into the history of their stalls, know their secret ingredients and celebrated recipes.
Explore Indore’s strikingly distinct cuisine with this tick-off list, which guarantees a gastronomic adventure at the Sarafa Bazaar.
The following is a suggested sequence of food stalls to visit and dishes to eat. I’ve started with the savoury items and then progressed to the sweet delights. Also mentioned are places that run out of food early on given their popularity. However, binging on whatever catches your attention is an equally great proposition.
1. Joshi ji ke Dahiwade:
Dahi Bada, or Dahi Vada as we call it, is extremely famous in Indore. The best place to taste most of the street food dishes is at Sarafa Bazaar. Try out the Dahi Bada at Joshi Dahi Bada House, Sarafa. In fact, these dahi wadas go beyond just the flavours, taste and softness because Om Prakash Joshi makes the process of putting your dahi wada request together, a delight to watch. Watch him flip the dahiwada with the curd without spilling a single drop and sprinkle multiple spices using just one finger without letting them to mix together. It’s like a magic show before your dahiwada comes to you – soft, moist, curd laden with a sprinkling of the secret spices that Om Prakash Joshi garnishes it with. However, you have to make it to Joshiji ka dahiwada before 11 PM else there is no way you will get a dahiwada.
Address: 24, Bartan Bazaar, Maharaja Tukoji Rao Holker Cloth Market, Indore, Madhya Pradesh 452002
2. Young Tarang ke Poha Jalebi:
Skip your hotel’s breakfast buffet and show up bright and early at Chappan Dukan for an Indori breakfast of poha-jalebi. Indoris have elevated this humble but delicious breakfast to an almost academic study in the contrasts of texture and flavour. The pillowy softness of poha offsets the crunchiness of sev-namkeen, which Indoris like generously sprinkling on all food. Relish the delicate sweetness of jalebis after the savoury tang of poha.
Address: 46, 47 & 56 Dukan Street, Chappan Dukan, 11 Bungalow Colony, New Palasia, Old Palasia.
3. Anoop Nagar’s Uncleji ke Moong Bhajiye:
You cannot go to Indore and come back without having tasted the scrumptious moong bhajiyas! They can be had as an evening snack and perhaps even for breakfast. They are always served fresh and piping hot, which only goes to add to their wonderful taste. The best place to indulge in these bhajiyas is Uncleji Ke Moong Bhajiye, located at Anoop Nagar.
Address: Uncleji Ke Moong Bhajiye, Anoop Nagar, near CHL Hospital. Tel: 90099 65617.
5. Vijay Chat House:
Another Indori specialty is the Khopra Patties. This well known dish consists of deep-fried potato balls stuffed with coconut. Fried right before your eyes, just when they are ordered, they are served with a tangy sweet tamarind chutney. Vijay Chat House is where you should try these along with their crisp samosas and popular kachoris. The patties and kachoris here are usually sold out by 10pm, so add this one to the list of eateries to visit earlier in the evening.
Address: Shops No. 6-8, 56 Dukan Street, Chappan Dukan, 11 Bungalow Colony, New Palasia, Old Palasia.
6. Bhutte Ka Kees at Joshi Dahi Bada House.
This dish, which is almost like a savoury Indian version of grits, is also best had at Joshi’s, although most roadside stalls sell it as well. Bhutte ka kees is essentially mashed boiled corn lightly spiced with fennel seeds, cumin and dried mango powder and garnished with chewy grated coconut.
Address: Joshi Dahi Bada House, 24 Bada Sarafa, Sarafa Bazaar.
7. Dal Bafla at Swadisht Samosa Corner
Called khatta samosas, Indori samosas are a little on the tangy side thanks to what tastes like dried mango or amchoor. Locals swear by Swadisht Samosa Corner where you should also try the loaded-with-ghee dal bafla, the softer cousin of Rajasthani dal baati. Bafla is a baked ball of wheat, spices and curd. However unlike baati, it is boiled in water before being placed in the oven. The result is a texture similar to that of New York bagels: crispy outside, soft and chewy inside.
Address: 8, Bada Sarafa, Sarafa Bazar, Indore, Madhya Pradesh 452002.
8. Jai Bhole Jalebi Bhandar:
Imagine a fat, juicy jalebi, each one more than 250 grams, fried in pure Desi Ghee. At Jai Bhole Jalebi Bhandar, king size jalebis which are affectionately called Jalebas, are served hot off the girdle after being soaked in a saffron-flavoured sugar syrup. The size of a single jaleba prepared by Jai bhole can go upto 500 grams. Malpuas and gulab jamuns are the other sweets that are must-have at Sarafa.
9. Sanwariyan Seth:
A common fasting food, Sabudana or pearl tapioca, is made into a delicious khichdi by Om Prakash Vyas of Sanwariyan Seth, an eatery started by his father in 1983. Today he serves 40-50 kg of sabudana khichdi in a day. Originally from Maharashtra, this dish has gained huge popularity in Indore, a fact corroborated by the number of vendors serving it in the city.
10. Nagori ki Shikanji:
Shikanji in North-India typically refers to lemonade – a refreshing sweet and mildly salted drink made with lemon juice and water. However, the Indori shikanji is a totally different experience, made of milk and dry fruits mixed with mattha (buttermilk) which lends it just a hint of tanginess in the midst of the sweetness. Thick, creamy, luscious, this could be a meal in itself. A visit to Sarafa Bazaar is not complete without trying this distict version at Nagori Ki Shikanji.
11. Agrawal Ice Cream:
Among the most unique of combinations, the Hapus Icecream with Shrikhand is a must try at Agrawal Ice Cream, a 55 year-old establishment in Sarafa Bazaar located opposite the police station. This delectable dessert consists of traditional alphonso mango ice-cream is served with saffron flavoured shrikhand with pistachio and cashews. It available only summers though. Agrawal ice-cream is also known for its faluda.
Address: Old Kasera Bakhal, Sarafa Bazar, Indore, Madhya Pradesh 452002.
12. Garadu (at any push-cart stalls) :
It is a winter special street food in Indore and is found in almost all local food stalls across the city. It is a variety of Yam and is considered as one of the tastiest winter delicacies in Indore. Here, the root is chopped and fried twice before being tossed (saute) in spices and lime juice. This crispy and spicy snack during the cold winter season is capable of giving any potato wedge a run for its money.
13. Anna ka Paan:
Paan is the best way to end the Sarafa Bazar food experience and Anna Ka Paan is the best known destination for it, located towards Rajwada. More than 100 years old, it is now being run by the third generation. Try the exquisite Petha Paan which has cashew, almond and gulkand (rose jam) encased in a thin layer of green petha, all of it held together artistically with a clove.
14. Pani Puri
While at Chappan Dukan, look for signs proclaiming nine different flavours of spicy water for pani puri. Try a few, like the pudina, hing, lasoon, jeera and nimbu, and you’ll find that Indoris like heat in their pani puri. The hing and lasoon especially will leave you red-faced with burning ears, depending on how well you tolerate spice.
Sarafa Bazaar is a place that beckons food lovers to return, again and again, as much for the taste of its unique offerings as for the spirit of Indore’s storied culinary culture. Grandparents, toddlers, visiting relatives, hordes of bachelors, and luggage bearing passengers all come to visit this mecca of scrumptious street food. Seeing men ferrying plates of hot food to their families and NRIs dragging their reluctant offsprings to the new experiences that await them, one realises why the bustling Sarafa Bazaar is the most celebrated landmark in the city of Indore. Definitely a must-visit for ardent lovers of street food!