Culinary journeys



Last week I travelled the Mumbai-Hyderabad route by train with DH and son. It was a route I had taken many times before as a kid. So obviously it was one full of memories. Memories of playing silly paper games with my siblings, of snuggling down in the topmost berth with two paper backs-one to read, and one just incase, of looking at the various streams, rivers and trees pass by, of looking forward to the double engine being added at Karjat station, because it meant that we would be travelling through scenic locales of Lonavala and Khandala, and most of all the food.

Food on a train has a charm of its own.  The culinary journey begins as soon as the train rolls out of the station.Cries of ‘chaaai-kaffi-kaffi-chaai’ are heard, as men balancing gigantic steel drums with taps in one hand,and a tower of paper cups in another enter your compartment as a wonderful aroma fills up the place. Even if you’ve just had a heavy lunch, you couldn’t possibly resist the lure of the pipping hot cuppa. So out comes the wallet and the five rupee note, and the cup of masala tea is in my hands. The first tea on the train, is generally taken along with some quiet gazing out of the window and my own thoughts for company.

Then, after a while, its time for pulling out all the munchies lovingly made at home by mom especially for the journey and a nice fat storybook. Siblings and me fight over who gets to sit by the window, and who gets to climb to the top berth. Both very coveted positions. (poor Mom and Dad, don’t have much of a choice). After we decide who sits where, we curl up with our books and its time for some quiet reading interrupted only by sounds of munching

Next its time for the train to halt at Karjat station, and more cups of tea or tomato soup. We wait for the double engine to be attached, and with a big ‘choooooo-chooooooooo’as my son says, the train is on its way again, chugging through the hill stations of Lonavala and Khandala. The cup of tea is still in my hand as I enjoy some of the most beautiful scenes of rolling hills and valleys, from the window.  Almost moments before the train moves into Lonavala station, the train is attacked by vendors rushing in on all sides, selling authentic Lonavala chikki (a delicious peanut candy fudge.

Then its steaming hot vada pav or a plate of misal pav with another round of chai at Pune, some bhel mix from a vendor on a station enroute. Finally its around 9:00 pm, time for the train to pull into Solapur station a place where you get really lousy  pav Bhaji compared to the one you get in restaurants. But its filling, its piping hot and the novelty of having a plate of pav-bhaji on a train makes you reach for that plate whether you want to or not.

Some of the my other special food items that I have enjoyed especially on train journeys are

  • Maddur vadas at Maddur, on the way from Bangalore to Mysore
  • Veg cutlets and chai in matkas on journeys through the North
  • Sabudana vadas, on the Mumbai-Pune route
  • Idli with sambar and moligaipodi for breakfast and thairsadam for lunch on any train going to Chennai
  • Chappati with sabji and curd rice with pickle-Indian railway meals on all routes

As I said, eating on a train has a charm of its own for me. I hope you’ll share your own experiences of food on a train with me.