For the love of good food….
When you set about looking up information on chaat, most of the sources point to Uttar Pradesh as it’s place of birth. Chaat, today is a term used for a variety of sweet, savoury and spicy snacks mostly served on Indian streets. No longer being restricted to UP, chaat has a few elements which are endemic to certain regions – be it the matar chaat in Lucknow, papdi chaat in Delhi, ragda pattice in Mumbai or jhalmuri in Kolkata.
Lucknow is a fascinating place when it comes to chaat. Leaving aside even the legendary permanent hole-in-the-wall shops, there are enough mobile chaat and kachori vendors scattered across the city. Every few metres you can see a few people milling around a small wooden stand with a man busy stuffing batasha (golgappa in Delhi, puchka in Kolkata and panipuri in Mumbai) and serving, kachori with chhole or even nimbu pani for the hot days.
In such an atmosphere, sustaining a small shop, selling only 3 items and still being a much-talked about chaat shop in the Hazratganj area over 45 years has a definite pre-requisite of timeless quality. These are the qualities that define our subject today – Shukla Chaat Bhandaar.
Hazratganj is one of the oldest and busiest areas of the city. In a smaller by-lane, around 100 metres inside, the eatery is hard to miss. Manned by an old man sitting next to the skillet frying up the matar chaat and the aloo tikki along with rows of leaf plates ready with batasha to be eaten. The eatery is quite clear in their mind about their specialties deciding to have only 3 items on the menu (all done verbally) – Matar chaat, aloo tikki and batasha. In the 10 minutes that I took to eat their delicacies, there were enough people stopping by, eating or packing and back on their way.
The matar chaat is a specialty of Lucknow, and mostly endemic to the city. In Delhi, the same ingredient is used as an accompaniment to kulchas and the vendors are recognizable by their shiny brass vessels mounted on hand carts or bicycles. In Lucknow, the white peas are boiled, mashed up, mixed with loads of spices, tanginess and some lime juice, garnished with coriander and crushed batasha and served to you on a leaf bowl. The result is a dense, spicy, sour and unlike-chaat item. While it is interesting and flavourful in the first ten bites, the quantity given in each serving essentially means you should ideally be at least 2 people sharing every plate.
The Aloo tikki is fairly common in different avatars – be it the ragda pattice of Mumbai or a different version of the same name dish in Delhi. Here, in Lucknow, the aloo tikki was thick and made only of potatoes without the dal stuffing common in delhi. The aloo tikki plate was basically 2 tikkis, hot off the tava, hand-broken into pieces into the leaf bowl. This was then layered with thick flavorful curd, tamarind chutney and garnished with crushed batasha. Despite being full with the matar chaat, I could savour the bites of the aloo tikki with the texture of the boiled and fried potatoes, the chilled yoghurt, the sweet chutney and the crispiness of the batasha on top.
A good idea is to wash it all down with a cup of steam hot tea in the Indian earthern glasses or kulad at the Shukla Tea Stall right across the road. If you are there in winters, this top-up to your chaat just cannot be missed. The shop also sells some other hot snacks like samosas.
These two small shops are a good initiation into the chaat culture of UP and being in the busy shopping district of Hazratganj, you can be assured of getting the most out of Lucknow.
Name: Shukla Chaat House
Specialty: Matar chaat, Aloo tikki
Address: Shahnajaf Rd, Hazratganj, Lucknow (Ask anyone and they will guide you)
Value for money: 4/5
Food quality: 3.5/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5