It might not be wrong to label Indore as the street food capital of Madhya Pradesh. And within Indore, perhaps the most vibrantly memorable street food experience would be the fabled Sarafa Bazar – the old jewelers’ market near Rajwada palace, a crumbling remnant of the Holkas dynasty.
No one is quite sure of the origin of this bazaar. However, legend goes that it began 100 years ago and was encouraged by the jewelery owners, so that hustle bustle late into the night would secure their own stores at night. With this in mind, they voluntarily started offering space to food vendors and thus, the famous food street Sarafa Bazar was born. Today this late night market which is among the best places to eat in Indore, receives nearly 3,000 visitors, locals and tourists alike.
Perhaps the fact that the market transforms itself from a serious jewelery haven to a not-so-serious foodies paradise at 8 PM has something to do with its charm. But it isn’t difficult to understand why food enthusiasts of all ages and sizes throng Sarafa, eating their way through irresistible sweets, chatpati chats and unique Indori dishes such as bhutte ki kees. But I get ahead of myself. Hopefully the guide below will help you plan your visit to Sarafa well, so that you can take in its myriad sights, sounds and tastes in one single evening.
Things to keep in mind:
- Sarafa is located about 2.5 km from Indore GPO and can be easily reached from Rajwada Palace by cab, car, two-wheeler or rickshaw. However, parking is difficult given that the bazaar is localted in narrow lanes.
- Do wear comfortable walking shoes.
- As with any food street visit, try and go in a group of 6-10 in order to try all the dishes on offer without wasting any food.
- Plan to reach by 8-8:30 PM since food can run out given the popularity of some of the stalls.
- Though bottled drinking water is available easily, do carry your own water bottle to avoid purchasing plastic water bottles.
- Sarafa can get crowded given that Indore is a city of foodies. Don’t let the hordes intimidate you. Look around and take in the sights, sounds and aromas as you experience gastronomical delight.
- Some of the dishes mentioned in this guide are seasonal and may not be available depending on which time of the year you are visiting.
- Take the time to chat up with food stall owners to get an insight into the history of their stalls, know their secret ingredients and celebrated recipes.
The following is a suggested sequence of food stalls to visit and dishes to eat. We’ve started with the savoury items and then progressed to the sweet delights. Also mentioned are places that run out of food early on given their popularity. However, binging on whatever catches your attention is an equally great proposition. 🙂 (Do write to us if you have any suggestions on how we can improve this guide post your experience of Sarafa Bazar.)
Joshi ji ke Dahiwade:
Perhaps Joshi ji is a good starting point for this foodescapade. In fact, these dahi wadas go beyond just the flavours, taste and softness because Om Prakash Joshi makes the process of putting your dahi wada request together, a delight to watch. Watch him flip the dahiwada with the curd without spilling a single drop and sprinkle multiple spices using just one finger without letting them to mix together. It’s like a magic show before your dahiwada comes to you – soft, moist, curd laden with a sprinkling of the secret spices that Om Prakash Joshi garnishes it with. However, you have to make it to Joshiji ka dahiwada before 11 PM else there is no way you will get a dahiwada. Which is why starting your Sarafa journey at Joshi ji’s is perhaps a good idea
Joshi ji is also known for another popular Indori dish – Bhutte ka kees. Bhutte ka kees is essentially corn that is boiled with milk and coconut and mashed well before being lightly spiced with fennel, cumin powder and dried mango powder. It is served garnished with fresh coriander, grated coconut and lemon juice. Though it is available at multiple roadside stalls, it is best had at Joshi’s.
Hotel Rajhans could be your next stop after Joshi ji’s. On the menu here is the ghee-soaked dal bafla, a softer version of the Rajasthani dal baati. The bafla is a baked ball of wheat and semolina – it is boiled in water (which is what makes it different from the baati), and then baked in an earthen oven. It is served soaked in ghee, along with a light dal, churma, coriander-mint chutney and pickle.
Vijay Chat House:
Another Indori specialty is the Khopra Patties. This well known dish consists of deep-fried potato balls stuffed with coconut. Fried right before your eyes, just when they are ordered, they are served with a tangy sweet tamarind chutney. Vijay Chat House is where you should try these along with their crisp samosas and popular kachoris. The patties and kachoris here are usually sold out by 10pm, so add this one to the list of eateries to visit earlier in the evening.
A common fasting food, Sabudana or pearl tapioca, is made into a delicious khichdi by Om Prakash Vyas of Sanwariyan Seth, an eatery started by his father in 1983. Today he serves 40-50 kg of sabudana khichdi in a day. Originally from Maharashtra, this dish has gained huge popularity in Indore, a fact corroborated by the number of vendors serving it in the city.
Garadu or Ranadu (at any push-cart stalls) :
A winter specialty, Garadu is made with chunks of purple yam, fried to crispy perfection and served topped with spices, chillies and lemon juice. Though it is sometimes available in the summer, the yam is quite tasteless and dry so try it only if you are at Sarafa from October till Februray.
Doodh Chana is a snack made out of kabuli chana which is soaked in milk for several hours before it is fried and spiced. Extremely soft and tasteful, it is best had at Ganesh Namkeen, a shop selling all kinds of namkeen, from pineapple sev to pani puri sev. Indore is famous for a wide variety of namkeens but the most popular, staple namkeen is the Indori khata meetha.
Nagori ki Shikanji:
Shikanji in North-India typically refers to lemonade – a refreshing sweet and mildly salted drink made with lemon juice and water. However, the Indori shikanji is a totally different experience, made of milk and dry fruits mixed with mattha (buttermilk) which lends it just a hint of tanginess in the midst of the sweetness. Thick, creamy, luscious, this could be a meal in itself. A visit to Sarafa Bazaar is not complete without trying this distict version at Nagori Ki Shikanji.
Kaanji is a digestive drink made of fermented mustard with a large amount of asafoetida. Kanji vada is a sour-savoury take on dahi vada in which plump vadas are soaked in kaanji. This piquant summer cooler is a rather unique experience that’s not easily available across the country.
Different Varieties of Pani Puri (at any pani puri stall):
Pani puri at Sarafa is a must-try for the innovative flavours that the vendors serve in addition to the usual tangy, minty water. While the stuffing of mashed, boiled potatoes is not unusal, there are distinct flavours of water to choose from. Each puri is dunked in a new flavor before being gentle placed on your plate. Some of the flavours include: Jeera (with a hit of earthy cumin); lehsun (spiked with garlic); hajma hajam (tangy like Hajmola); pudina (with the pronounced flavour of mint); and hing (pungent, full-bodied, smacking of asefoetida)
Jai Bhole Jalebi Bhandar:
Imagine a fat, juicy jalebi, each one more than 250 grams, fried in pure Desi Ghee. At Jai Bhole Jalebi Bhandar, king size jalebis which are affectionately called Jalebas, are served hot off the girdle after being soaked in a saffron-flavoured sugar syrup. The size of a single jaleba prepared by Jai bhole can go upto 500 grams. Malpuas and gulab jamuns are the other sweets that are must-have at Sarafa.
Agrawal Ice Cream:
Among the most unique of combinations, the Hapus Icecream with Shrikhand is a must try at Agrawal Ice Cream, a 55 year-old establishment in Sarafa Bazaar located opposite the police station. This delectable dessert consists of traditional alphonso mango ice-cream is served with saffron flavoured shrikhand with pistachio and cashews. It available only summers though. Agrawal ice-cream is also known for its faluda.
Anna ka Paan:
Paan is the best way to end the Sarafa Bazar food experience and Anna Ka Paan is the best known destination for it, located towards Rajwada. More than 100 years old, it is now being run by the third generation. Try the exquisite Petha Paan which has cashew, almond and gulkand (rose jam) encased in a thin layer of green petha, all of it held together artistically with a clove.
While food is definitely the hero, the experience at Sarafa Bazar is unique also for the way the stall owners are always more than happy to stop and chat for a few minutes, no matter how busy they are. Most insist that visitors eat first and pay later. The conversations are friendly and free-flowing, allowing for a sneak peak into the warm, amicable culture of the city. All in all, Sarafa is an absolute must-do for anyone visiting Indore.