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$6 bhelpuri


mongo_jones
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prasad,

that sounds exactly like what i was asking about (and a great deal!). i don't know when i'll be in your neck of woods next but will definitely try to stop in when i am. how popular is the chaat station? by the way, is there a clear ethnic breakdown in your clientele? is there a large indian contingent? and does the interest in the various stations break down ethnically at all? just wondering.

mongo

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prasad,

that sounds exactly like what i was asking about (and a great deal!). i don't know when i'll be in your neck of woods next but will definitely try to stop in when i am. how popular is the chaat station? by the way, is there a clear ethnic breakdown in your clientele? is there a large indian contingent? and does the interest in the various stations break down ethnically at all? just wondering.

mongo

Am glad we are on the same line. Yes, I love to give a big spread for the brunch and eventually and probably get away not serving the usual rogan josh and chicken tikka masala for brunch. Give a lot of snacky snacks.

You are welcome to visit us any time you are around here. For more info please visitwww.thali.com Well the chaat stand is quite popular among Indians but the locals enjoy it too, specially when the wait staff gets involved showing them how to make and eat gol gappas or dosas or whatever the street snacks we offer.

We are new canaan, CT very little ethnic background. Sunday Breunch is quite popular for many Indians and yes, they drive an average 20 to 30 miles too for a brunch, specially in season.

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Prasad,

This is a magnificent spread at that price!

Are you sure you can afford it to give that much?

episure

Thanks. It's a good promo, show one's talent and hopefully keep bringing them back. Do I make money on this ? No, not really. Hopefully one day I shall.

Typical restaurantier rant, we NEVER make any money.

Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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Like Tommy, I am a non-Indian who will pay more-or-less willingly for a well executed version of any dish. Yes, I know from reading Ved Mehta that bhel puri is street food. But it is something that would be difficult for me to make, first having to find all the ingredients, and something that I would not know if I were doing correctly. What is common street food in another part of the world is, forgive me, enticingly exotic here. And I so wish to try it, I would be willing to pay the $6, even though a comparable item here-- say, a pretzel or a beef patty -- is only about $1. But if I were to visit another country and find a fancy restaurant selling those items for a similar markup, I'd probably expect them to be superior examples!

Knowing that Suvir is responsible, I trust that Amma's bhel puri will be an excellent version -- all the more reason to pay the (relatively) high tariff. I'm not so sure I'd be willing at some of the cheap, not-very-good places I know.

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Many of the people posting on the India forum have a connection to India whether it's their ethnicty or country of residence. Thus, they have a greater understanding of the food they in Indian restaurants and the how food in India is eaten. As for bhel phuri, I as an Indian know it as a cheaply priced street side snack along with many other posters here. On the flip side, my American friends have no clue it's considered street food but know it as some sort of Indian salad, justifying the price depending on the level of dining the restaurant provides.

An "American" metaphor to bhel is the burger. It should cost no more than $3-$4. But, at DB Bistro, a Daniel Boulud's restaurant in NYC, he serves a dressed-up burger upwards of $40. The point is price and perception all depends on the eyes of the beholder.

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Tommy, you and I and other non-Indians here on eGullet are probably the exception in knowing that bhel puri is something akin to a dirty-water hot dog (even if it does taste much, much better :biggrin: ). As rks pointed out, " . . . American friends have no clue it's considered street food but know it as some sort of Indian salad."

In additition, we here are at least more willing to pay more for better quality food (as opposed to expecting QUANTITY, damn the quality) and for food that is less common to us. That's definitely a difference between us and the majority of Americans. So even though an item may be common somewhere else, if it is unusual to us -- and well-executed -- we'll pay. And so too, I guess, will the others who seek out well-made food from other cultures.

Which is why a good Indian restaurant in NYC can charge $6 for "street food." :biggrin: Whether one on North Kakalackey could get away with it is still up in the air. :raz:

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Tommy, you and I and other non-Indians here on eGullet are probably the exception in knowing that bhel puri is something akin to a dirty-water hot dog (even if it does taste much, much better  :biggrin: ).  As rks pointed out, " . . .  American friends have no clue it's considered street food but know it as some sort of Indian salad." 

but who cares how it originated and how it's eaten 10,000 miles away? there are countless foods that have "peasant" or "street" origins. i just don't see how that would bother anyone, especially when you're talking about only 6 dollars. if Eyewitness News sent in a camera crew and a consumer advocate, and approached a table and said "do you realize this is *street* food and you just paid 6 dollars for it!?!?", i think the average diner would say "and your point is?"

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this has gotten so far away from my original point that i don't feel any real connection to this discussion. nonetheless, i'll reiterate: i'm not upset that suvir and hemant mathur are charging $6 for their bhel puri (like the $40 burger someone mentioned, i can imagine fancier versions of pretty much every basic dish)--i'm just interested in what the cultural narratives etc. are that enable bhel puri to take on this incarnation, and sit alongside fancy new fusion/hybrid indian cuisine in an expensive manhattan restaurant.

i take the point that many people who may order and eat it may have no idea that it is street food in india and not some hip new snack/appetizer. i get a feeling though that the movement of bhel puri in the u.s from indian sweet shops in artesia and brooklyn to fancier places has more to do with a different kind of consumer. nor am i saying that street food can't be eaten in restaurants--i'm taken by the fact that (as far as i know) fancy restaurants in india haven't started serving it, while some here seem to have. as i said originally i can't tell if this is a welcome democratization or whether something else is happening simultaneously--if what is driving this (at least in part) is a quest for a new indian "authentic/exotic". after all, there's plenty of other great non-street food dishes from india that are yet to be featured in restaraunts in the u.s--why then is it suddenly things like bhel puri and frankies rather than, say, kashmiri or awadhi style dishes, that are representing the novelty and originality of tony indian restaurants in the u.s? bhel puri itself (and the enjoyment of it) is almost separate from this question.

Edited by mongo_jones (log)
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You don't.  I don't.  But the folks whose street food it is are the ones who are mystified.  Just as I would be if a fancy restaurant in Mumbai were selling dirty-water hot dogs for the equivalent of $10.

point taken.

but clearly you haven't had the hot dog at the Old Homestead. :biggrin:

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.......i'm just interested in what the cultural narratives etc. are that enable bhel puri to take on this incarnation, and sit alongside fancy new fusion/hybrid indian cuisine in an expensive manhattan restaurant.......

Let me take a stab at it - Bhel Puri (street snack) is the latest and current metaphor of hawker-stall food (here in the US) patronized by really busy folks who want to eat-on-the-go. These type of stands used to be lined up along the Churchgate/Fort in the early '70s onwards (maybe earlier) or the Chole-Bhature stands around CP or some-big-office-complex in Delhi. They used to be quite crowded during lunch time and normally busy during the shoulder hours too.

Many of the street-type foods began to show up in the menu around mid-to-late '90s in NYC {I'm not sure how prevelant it was elsewhere in the US}. It did coincide with the Y2K rush-to-fix and DOTCOTBOOM. Around that time, I began to notice clusters of 'desi-coders' standing outside our building (any many others around manhattan too, I would think) at all odd hours munching/eating from stainless-steel tiffin-boxes talking cobol-speak - Sound familiar ? The need for bhelpuri could not be too far away no ?

Contrast this with an indian restaurant in the late '70s {Boston, MA} serving dosas&idlis as weekend special filled with nostalgic desi community flocking to it on Sat./Sun. dressing in their finest silks for a south-indian fix. In any given month we could expect to bump into other desis from neighboring towns working at DEC/Wang/E&S. Dosas & Idlies were the Udipi fix of the Bombaites.

South Indian restaurants in NYC are here to stay - They have proven to survive on their own and do not need the mughalai/Awadhi/North Indian dishes to fall back on. So we have come a long way.

The bhel-puri (or for that matter street food) is addressing a cognitive need to connect :smile: Who knows if Frankies or Pao-Bhaji is next ?

Here is another: In '89 on the north-east corner of 43rd & 6th, an enterprenual immigrant started offering brown basmati rice with grilled chicken hot sauce + white sauce, along with hot dogs and pita-bread fare. His rice offerings began to sell out in the first hour or so. The grilled chicken becaue more elaborate and turned into some kind of curry-flavoured chicken. There were long lines for his basmati rice and chicken fare. That was a hawker stand. Now, kazzillion carts around midtown offer chicken+basmati rice variations along with standard hot-dogs, Jamaican beef pattis - What Next ? Ya never 'no in Noo Yok !! Do ya

anil

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You don't.  I don't.  But the folks whose street food it is are the ones who are mystified.  Just as I would be if a fancy restaurant in Mumbai were selling dirty-water hot dogs for the equivalent of $10.

Nah ! not mystfied - There is nothing that a little Derrida deconstruction cannot explain :wink: In the meanwhile A little bit of Expat Culture to amuse or horrify some of us :smile:

anil

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Tommy, you and I and other non-Indians here on eGullet are probably the exception in knowing that bhel puri is something akin to a dirty-water hot dog (even if it does taste much, much better  :biggrin: ).  As rks pointed out, " . . .  American friends have no clue it's considered street food but know it as some sort of Indian salad." 

..... bhel puri is something akin to a dirty-water hot dog When I was young, I'd eat bhel-puris nearly every other evening on the beach by my naani's house. When I returned after a decade plus, I was warned not to touch anything in Juhu Beach stalls - sure enough I ignored and became sick-as-a-dog. Now my bhelpuri fix is not through a hawker-stand. I still have hot dogs on the go anywhere in NYC without thinking dirty-water and all ..... :biggrin:

anil

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i'm taken by the fact that (as far as i know) fancy restaurants in india haven't started serving it, while some here seem to have.

in re-reading the posts in this thread i was surprised to discover a whole bunch that i hadn't read.

suvir: your interpretation of my original post was correct--i have no objection to your price or your serving bhel-puri. indeed, i hope to try your version on my next visit to nyc (whenever that will be).

vikram: thanks for pointing out that it isn't just fancy restaurants in the u.s that serve indian street food. i've been to many a nasty 5-star coffee shop in my time (why oh why did we find them so irresistible in college?) but somehow never noticed the bhel-puri etc. on the menu. this knocks down a part of my vague theory but not all of it.

anil: interesting that you think that it is nostalgia on the part of desi patrons that is driving the trend toward street food. indian restaurants in nyc must be very different from the ones in los angeles if there are more indians in them than non. in l.a most indian restaurants are dominated by anglo angelenos. of course in artesia it is a completely different story--but that stretch of pioneer blvd. is like a mini lajpat nagar: you have restaurants and you have sweet-shops; everything seems altogether more congruous.

okay, which item from amma's menu should we break down next?

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Just returned from downtown NYC {Jones St. between Water & South} where street foods of India dominated the Festival of Lights celebrations and fireworks are due at dusk. So, nearly every Catering House had Bhel-Puri and more.

Comparative analysis of 'northern-indian' style bhel-puri, the 'Gujurati house' interpretation with the Sukathme' Catering authentic Bhel :smile:

Edited by anil (log)

anil

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Since we're talking about Indian street food abroad can people comment on an observation I'd made sometime back, partly from Indian restaurants in London and partly from looking at menus of Indian restaurants on the Net, that the ones most likely to serve streetfood are those with 'Bombay' in their names?

In an article I wrote on Bombay street food sometime back, I suggested that just as 'Madras' now means a hot curry in the international lexicon of Indian food, 'Bombay' now signifies light snacky food. Here's a link to the article if anyone's interested:

http://www.outlooktraveller.com/aspscripts...magid=16&page=1

I think the new found popularity of Indian street food abroad comes from supply as much as demand factors. If on the demand side you have more first generation desis abroad nostalgic for bhel and pani puri (and lets not forget the increasing numbers of non-desis who might have sampled it as backpacking tourists or vegetarians looking for any tasty veg options), on the supply side you have more people willing to make street food for pretty much the same reasons why they started doing it in Bombay or Delhi.

More elaborate forms of Indian cuisine require much more investment - in the cost of setting up a restaurant, in the ingredients and in the time taken to prepare it. Street food is comparatively much easier to make since there might be a few ingredients like the chutneys that take time to make, but that can be done in bulk and in advance. Since its mostly vegetarian - and even there relies more on dried pulses than fresh veg - the ingredients are cheaper. And by definition, the space cost is low, all you'll need to spend on is the stand or cart and the municipal licenses (or in Bombay, the bribes to the cops!).

So street food is easy to put together and supply, which is why its been the preserve of recent immigrants whether in NYC, from India, or in Bombay, from other parts of India. I don't know about NYC, but in Bombay its also been one area where women can find entrepreneurial opportunities, either making the stuff at home for their husbands to sell, or even setting up stalls on their own, like all the women who dish out lunches near Nariman Point. Its these supply factors as much as the demand that I think will explain the growing popularity of Indian street food abroad.

Vikram

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