Building my Street Cred

Kachori and Pakora fried snacks in Jaipur, India

My dad told me not to do it, but then I’ve never been a good listener. From the minute I landed in India, the street food was calling out to me and, a few days into the trip, I answered. We were wandering the streets of Jaipur trying to hunt down a pair of camel stomach shoes for my friend to wear to our other friend’s wedding and had just had a salesman try to sell us shoes that he had stained “on site” (aka had his friend dunk them in motor oil) — but I digress.

Having negotiated the streets and stores for hours, we were hungry and began hunting down some eats. Not a minute later, we stumbled upon a sidewalk joint so packed with people it was becoming a traffic hazard. Peering past the shoulders of ravenous Indian men, we saw ice-cold lassis and just-fried snacks being made to order and next thing I knew, we were elbowing our way through the throng of eaters for a table.

A few minutes of language-barrier charades and we succeeded to order up ek pakora, ek aloo kachori, and do lassi. The pakora was baseball-sized and crisply fried and the kachori (which I had never had before) was so light and airy I thought it might pop when I broke it open. The fried snacks were redolent of asafoetida and cumin, just spicy enough to make my cheeks flush, and were topped with a spot-on cilantro-mint chutney. But the lassis were what really made it. The lassi arrived so cold and freshly made that they were frothy and the glasses thick with condensation. Just sweet enough, super tangy, and topped with a slew of toasted pistachios, I briefly contemplated moving in down the street just so I could have one everyday.

I’d fill you in on the what and where details of the place, but the store name was written in Hindi, no one around us spoke English, and it’s mentioned in nary a guidebook. But then that’s what makes the memory of the meal all that more precious; hands down the biggest eating risk I took the whole trip and it paid back in the tastiest reward (sorry, Dad).