If you see a bee line before an old rickety looking 'Thela' at Old Station Bazar road in Bhubaneswar ... then don't hesitate to join the Que. If you categorize yourself as a health and cleanliness freak who would only dine in restaurants that make it to the Page 3 of the leading news papers and drink mineral water, then ignore it . All I can say is you are missing a lot in life and you can buy my words for that.
Like someone has quoted 'Don't judge a book by it's cover', I would say don't judge this mobile Desi fast food joint by it's look. I have seen this cart smudged with the ugliest looking blue color since I was a child. Only the blue color and the hand written 'Jalakhiya' (Jalakhiya = Nashta in Hindi) has faded over time. Everything else remains the same. The taste of the Alu Chop, Singada (Samosa), Anda Chop (Egg Chop), Chingudi Chop (Prawn Chop) is as delectable as it used to be even fifteen years back.
I was standing in this long Que after a long gap of seven years just to have a bite of his delicious 'Alu Chop'. In fact it was J's idea as he could not give in to the temptation as we were walking past by that way.
Gopal Kaka the owner of this Thela has seen me from the time I held my father's finger and walked up to his Thela. As a kid I would have made innumerable trips to his cart .... especially when it rained. He looked at me from a distance. It was the same warm look ..... yes I was amused that he recognized me even after so many years. Only this time I could see that age had taken a toll on his appearance. His hair was grey and his face had more wrinkles than I could count. But his enthusiasm and energy level had not reduced a bit. He never got tired smiling at the crowd and talking to them. His wrinkled face had the same old charm. He was talking to his old customers and enquiring about their family and what their kids were doing. And he tried striking a cord with the new ones as he dropped the alu (potato) dipped batter into the hot oil.
Soon the gap between us and the cart shrunk. He looked at me and the 'new face' with me . I could see the happy disbelief on his face. 'Arey kete bada hai galuni' (Can't believe that you have grown up ) he said looking at me. I introduced J to Gopal Kaka. The expression on his face was as pure as his heart.
He quickly wrapped some hot Alu Chop in a 'Khali Patra' (Plate made from dry leaves) before putting it in the plastic bag. I stood in utter disbelief that he remembered what I relished after so many years. When J handed him the money, he grabbed him by his side and gave him a hug. He put the money back into J's pocket. I saw his eyes go wet ..... and so was mine. I felt very small before this old guy selling some snacks to make a living. But I tried hiding my tears as I walked back home.
Every time I prepare 'Alu Chop', I remember this man. And because he knew that I was going to miss his 'Alu Chop' across the seas, he handed me his secret recipe.
He taught me one of the biggest lessons of life ' People remember you by the good deeds you do. They won't remember you for the fortune you leave behind'.
No matter how hard I try I don't match up to Gopal Kaka's Alu Chop ....... the most important ingredient called 'Love' is not available over the counter !!!
Preparation Time - 40 minutes
For the Alu masala
Potato - 3 mid size
Green Chili - 3
Garlic cloves - 6/7
Mustard seeds - 1/3 tsp
Curry leaves - few
Turmeric - One pinch
Salt per taste
For the Batter
Besan - 2/3 cup
Red Chili Powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander Powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric - 1 pinch
Salt per taste
Oil for deep frying
Method of preparation
1 Mix Besan + Red Chili Powder +Coriander Powder + Turmeric + Salt per taste in a mixing bowl. Add a little water and mix well to form a thick batter. Do not make the batter runny else it will be difficult to coat the Potato masala.
2 Boil and mash the Potato. Crush the garlic. Chop the green chilies.
3 In a pan heat a little oil. When hot add the mustard seeds to sputter. Add the crushed garlic and chilies, fry for a minute. Also add curry leaves.
4 Now add the mashed potatoes along with a pinch of turmeric and salt per taste. Mix well. Remove and let it cool.
5 Form small balls of the mashed potato masala.
6 Heat oil in a kadhai. When hot, dip the potato balls into the batter and coat uniformly. Deep fry.
7 Remove to paper towel.
Serve warm with you choice of sauce or chutney.
Do not make the batter runny/ watery. Add water slowly a little at a time.
You may add the chili per taste.
And yet another Sunshine Award from Soumya ...... Thanks Soumya for the sweet gesture and for sharing this with me.