City Guide: Human stories behind the food culture of Bangalore

Streets are an integral part of how a city and its culture has evolved. And food on these streets have been an integral part of this story of gradual evolution. Thus a city and its culture is much to do about the feelings, emotions and stories behind the food, the vendors on the street. Streets without their street food would be merely paths to commute on; plain and dull. Street food and the crowds they attract is what lend the streets their characteristic hustle bustle.

The food has seen many streets, as have the vendors, before settling on the streets of Bangalore. A lot of street food today isn’t native to Bangalore streets and has travelled a long way to reach here. This journey and the reason behind this shift are worth knowing. It gives us an insight into a world we may be unfamiliar with.

It’s interesting to get into a conversation with the vendors while ordering and eating from street food stalls. They are usually happy to share their story. Having spoken to quite a few vendors, we have found some patterns in their stories. Here are a few of their stories.

Uday and Rinku from Hot Momos in Koramangala, moved to Bangalore 3 years back. Uday started working in a restaurant and continued to work there for two years. During his period, he had to ask for them special permission to take even sick leave and that too was hard to get. He didn’t like how his life was being shaped by someone else and that he didn’t have much of a say in it. Feeling very unsatisfied with his life, he quit his job at the restaurant. At this point, he felt energized and motivated to start something of his own. Originally from Darjeeling, he had grown up seeing Momos being cooked and had eaten them all his life. They were something that came to him naturally and also took him back to his roots. He decided to open a Momo stall with his sister, Rinku. To beat the competition and having learnt it in their village, they decided to sell not just Momos, but Momos with soup. He says that after starting the stall, he felt a sense of freedom and control over his life. He could open and shut his stall as he liked. He also looks happy all the time while preparing and serving the Momos and soup and says that he likes how this work keeps him occupied and physically fit. (See Outlet Details)

Santosh, from UP, sells Bread Omelet and a variety of other egg dishes in a push-cart in Koramangala. Before starting this, he managed a chaat stall on Brigade road for three years. Realising he didn’t enjoy it, he quit. On asking him how he thought of starting this Bread Omelet stall, he said that when one has to do something, an idea just pops into his/her head. Similarly, it did for him, and he decided to work on that idea and make it a reality. So he started the stall not knowing how to make dishes with egg. But as time passed, he soon learnt all the dishes that he serves presently, on his own. Now he serves 11 dishes on a daily basis. (See Outlet Details)

Pramod runs a Jalebi/Bhajji/Samosa stall in Koramangala. He is from Orissa and moved to Bangalore 20 years ago. He started working at a sweet shop here and still continues to work there. Realising he had more time on his hands as the work in the sweet shop was just limited to the morning and afternoon, he wanted to make full use of the time an thought he could earn som more money in the process. Being familiar with Bhajjis and Jalebis from his village, he decided to start selling these dishes, as he wouldn’t have to put much effort into learning them. He knew it at the back of his hand. So now, Pramod works at the sweet shop in the morning and runs this stall in the evening. All the preparations are made by him, at his home in the time in between. He says that the customers that come to his stall everyday are what give him the motivation to continue working. (See Outlet Details)

Ravi – Pani Puri stall

Ravi owns and manages a Pani Puri stall on Sarjapur road. He is originally from Allahbad, Uttar Pradesh and worked as a private engineer in Gujarat. He left the job after a few years, as he wanted to start a business of his own. He had come to Bangalore with his friends, liked the place and decided to set up the stall here. Ravi has the full support of his family who motivate him to live his dream. He loves the way his life is entirely in his control and that he doesn’t have to follow anyone else’s orders. Although he comes down to the stall everyday, he feels freer than he ever did. (See Outlet Details)

Each vendor has a different story, all interesting and unique in their own way, and together all of them bring amazing experiences to us and help make Bangalore more culturally rich.

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