Quantum Moments

Two well-known research psychologists from the University of New Mexico, Dr. William Miller and Dr. Janet C’de Baca, describe Quantum Moments as moments in time which are vivid, surprising, benevolent, and enduring.

  • Vivid because one can recollect every detail.
  • Surprising because they come unexpectedly and are unforeseen.
  • Benevolent because they bring with them feelings of happiness, peace and gratitude
  • Enduring because the above feelings remain long after the moments have gone.

Recently, when I was asked to jot down my top five most cherished food experiences with a particular reference to street food, I simply looked for those moments where I experienced the above four qualities. Here are my five Street Food Quantum Moments.

Ganthiya wala just near Canara Bank Main Branch, Mandvi Tower Road Jamnagar, Gujarat.

“Jamnagar is famous for three things: Gai (Cow), Gandiya (crazy people) and Ganthiya”, these wise words were spoken proudly and animatedly by the two men who run one of Jamnagar’s most popular ganthiya Stalls. When my cousin first suggested we visit this place, I knew it had to be special because there are very few places he recommends with conviction. At 8 AM the next day, after a brisk morning walk, we found ourselves waiting patiently for the freshest and most scrumptious ganthiyas I have ever had. Add to that some freshly fried Green Chillies along with some spicy raw papaya salad and you have your Quantum Moment guaranteed.

Ganthiya vendor, Jamnagar (Source: Jaideep)
Ganthiya, Jamnagar (Source: Jaideep)
Fresh ganthiyas, Jamnagar (Source: Jaideep)
Gupta’s Bhel Puri and Pani Puri House, Lower Parel (a few shops after Phoenix High Street, Mumbai)

Bhel Puri in Mumbai evokes unparalleled feelings of satisfaction. Don’t let this place deceive you with its size or modesty. As a self -proclaimed expert in Bhel Puri, I can easily state that this place will rank right up there with the best in the business. Your plate of Bhel will contain spicy dhaniye (coriander) aur hari mirch (green chillies) ki chutney with just a hint of pudina (mint), a sharp injection of lahsun (garlic) aur lal mirch (red chillies) ki chutney, brilliantly contrasted by some sweet imli (tamarind) aur saunth (dried ginger) ki chutney along with soft boiled aloo (potato) and chopped kanda (onions). All of these brought together by the simplicity of mumraa (puffed rice) and tipped with some crunchy ultra fine Sev. And not to forget a dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice and some crushed puris. Can life get any better?

Guptas Bhel, Lower Parel, Mumbai (Source: Jaideep)
Guptas Bhel, Lower Parel, Mumbai (Source: Jaideep)
Ashok Vada Pav Wala, Off Cadel Road, Kirti College Lane, Prabhadevi, Mumbai

After you’ve taken your first bite of Ashok’s flavour-bursting batata vadas, served with spicy garlic chutney and green chutney, tucked into the ladi pao, chances are that your vada pav experiences will never be the same again. Mine certainly aren’t and I wouldn’t hesitate to wait patiently for as long as 40 minutes to lay my hands on a plate. And no, I will not share. This is my plate and my plate alone. I have earned it. Quantum Moment or not, one thing’s for sure, it made me commit two of the seven deadly sins: Greed and Gluttony.

Ashok Vada Pav, Prabhadevi, Mumbai (Source: grabhouse.com)
Nei Podi Dosai at Sapthagiri (Kaiyendhi Bhavan), T Nagar, Chennai ( (Adjacent to Natesan Park on Kannadasan Street, off Venkatnarayana Road)

As you approach Sapthagiri, you will be captivated by the smell of Sambar and the sizzle of soft batter crackling against a hot tava. The place is often fondly referred to as Kaiyendhi Bhavan which literally means to eat with the hand. So expect fresh Sambar to be poured directly on your  thin and crisp nei (ghee) podi (gunpowder) dosai.  As you navigate through the delightful mess of sambar and dosai on your plate, you will probably agree that scalding your fingers in steaming hot sambar isn’t such a bad thing after all.  Photographs credits: Muralidaran Sreedharan.

Nei Podi Dosa, Kaiyendhi Bhavan, Chennai (Source: Muralidaran Sreedharan)
Baati Chhokha in an unknown location in Benaras

When we asked our local cabbie in Benaras to take us to some good breakfast place that served local food, much to our chagrin, he took us to a regular restaurant which had idlis and dosais. We shook our head in dismay as he sped our vehicle towards another restaurant. Same problem. He stopped the car and asked us rather exasperatedly, “Toh kya baati chokkha khaoge kyaaa?”; our eyes lit up. We enthusiastically nodded our head.

Our next stop was at a nondescript location somewhere in the narrow lanes of Benaras. What we saw pleased us: A street cart serving freshly made whole wheat dumplings (Baati), stuffed with chickpea flour, roasted on coal and further doused in ghee. The Baati was served with some great tasting seasoned roasted eggplant, and a spicy mix of tomato, onion and potatoes. From thereon, our driver stared at us with disbelief as we belted one after another. The crunch of the Baati, the spice of the masala, the charred taste of the Eggplant was nothing less than an explosion of flavours and textures within.

Baati Chokha, Varanasi (Source: DNA India)

I’d like to end this note by stating that these food related quantum moments invoke a deep and everlasting sense of gratitude. Each and every one of the places mentioned above did that (and continue to do that) to me. It makes me happy whenever I think of these, and I look forward with keen anticipation to many more such moments that leave me spell bound.

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