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Home > City Resources > Food & Dining > Food habits in Pune
 
 
 
Food habits in Pune


The Hindu Puneites belong to either Deshasthav, Konkanastha, Saraswat, Gaudh Saraswat or the Koli clans. Their traditional fare is unique to their food habits. The early inhabitants of Pune were Kolis who settled along the banks of the Mutha River. In ancient times, traders passing through the Sahyadri ranges could travel to and fro on the trade route to the Deccan.The city still reflects the influence of these passersby. Their influence to some extent is infested deep into the psyche of Pune food culture including the Mughal invaders, Marathas and Peshwas. Today, Poona or Pune as the city is called now, is a queer mixture of traditionality and contemporary lifestyle.

Traditional feast

Normally, Puneites do not indulge in lavish feasts. Their food habits are very basic. This is visible if you happen to partake in a typical wedding feast. Aamti (pulses cooked in oil, condiments and garnished with herbs), Aloo Baji (cooked potatoes), and at least two to three types of chutneys are served with the main delicacy, Masale Bhaat (rice fried with vegetables mostly peas and spices), chappatis and taak (thin buttermilk served with freshly ground condiments). Mango pickles, vegetarian salad, raita, and Kurdai (large spiced wafer that is fried) are also served. Serving Jhelabi or Gulab Jamun to your guests is a must. Desserts vary from Shrikhand (sweet custard) to Amarkhand (dessert concocted with mango pulp).

Daily menu

Lamb or goat mutton, cooked in aromatic spices, chicken and fish are a part of the local diet. Fish is preferred due to its ready availability (proximity to Mutha River). The Kolis (fisherfolk clan) eat chicken, mutton apart from fish and season it with garlic paste and freshly ground herbs. The Saraswat Brahmins are strictly vegetarian. Bhakar (roti made out of jowar or bajra) and mango pickle is the traditional staple diet among the farming class in rural areas near Pune. Puneites have a singular fetish for leafy vegetables and pulses. Masala chutneys are also an important ingredient of their daily diet. They can reputedly hand out upto 35 types of chutneys at a time and are still concocting some more. Their chutneys are made of fresh food items like coconut, groundnuts, tamarind, tomatoes or even onions, dried and ground into paste or powder state to which salt-to-taste and red chilli, turmeric and ginger powder is added for flavour. Here's some Theekha-meetha stuff..... Puran poli (thin chappatis stuffed with a paste of spiced gram flour and jaggery) served with fine coconut-chillie (mirchi) chutney is a favourite brunch when had with masala tea. A traditional breakfast is basically made of Poha (fluffed rice with spices) or Sabhudhana Kichdi (sago rice) and tea. Tea-time savouries are limitless and one doesn't have to get them from the nearby bania or grocer. Most Puneites like home-made stuff. You can try Sone Papdi (flavoured, dry and sweet mesh that you can pull and eat - a favourite with kids), Sev (strongly resembling Chinese noodles, but these are spiced, short and ready-to-eat), Suttarpheni (like Sev but is sweet) and many more.

Chewing tobacco

Most of the traditional Puneites are hung up on paan (a sweet or bland concoction wrapped in betel nut leaf) normally taken after a meal. People have heard of the Banarasi and Calcutta variety, though most locals prefer to eat betelnut leaves with chuna paste, katha powder or tobacco.

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It's festival time

There are different types of sweets in Pune, like Pedas, milk or chocolate Barfi and Bhalushahis and Rasmalai. A local favourite, Basundhi is relished particularly during Ganesh Chaturthi festival. A day before Diwali, women make a variety of fried sweets at home, like Shankarpali, Karanji, Anarse (sweet biscuit made with ground rice), Chakli, Rava or Basin ladoos, Chewda, etc.

Local fast food fare

Most Puneites are tea drinkers. Amrut Tulyas or speciality tea vendors are present at every nook and corner of the city. Vendors like Hemant Dimdimlee provide tea for just Rs. 2 from six thirty in the morning to eleven in the night every day. Once you have identified your favourite Amrut Tulya and tasted his beverage like a local (without raising your nose at the crowd around the shop or the at the lack of five star catering), you would head straight for a Vadapav Walla - the local fast food vendor. He sells Batada Wada...(spiced boiled potatoes dipped in gram flour and fried in oil)....tossed into Pav (local baked bread) and served with you guessed...masala chutney or chillie chutney as you like it. Generally, the Batada Wada-Pav wallas operate from cart-on-wheels (called thehla in local lingo) or a shanty shop. The staple food costs a universal Rs. 4.50. The other fast foods on the menu are Pav Bhaji, Bhel and Ragda Patties. By now you are a veteran and looking for a quick Missal Pav lunch. Missal Pav is a wholesome concoction of mashed vegetables served with local bread. There are many speciality eateries in Pune where you can enjoy local fast food menu including Phroot Juoos (fruit juice) Fress ahe.tumchya samor karoon deto! (It's fresh. I'll make it in front of you), the stall owner will tell you; and Malai Kulfi (ice cream). The best place to hit the street for fast foods is Pashan Road, Chowpatty, Saras Baug and Sambhaji Park. During the rainy season, Makaiwallahs selling Makai (corn fruit) laid out neatly on their carts is not an uncommon sight on the lanes.

The Fast Food Joints

In the past five years almost all fast food MNCs have opened shop in Pune. There's virtually every known brand here. You'd be surprised as to how many a small, developing city like Pune can hold on to. There's Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa Luigis and Smokin Joe's for pizzas. The burger king McDonald's is also in town. Apart from having a great time at the many pubs in the city, the young and old Puneites love to end or even begin a day at ice cream parlors. For scoops to ice cream cakes and Sundaes, make a beeline to the nearest Baskin Robbins or Yankee Doodle outlet in the city.

The Bakeries

Pune is probably the only city in India which has so many bakeries that one is reminded of Europe (strictly for the number of good bakeries here). There's a virtual brand war on with all of them vying to sell unique, freshly baked foods across the counter. There's Baker's Basket, Dorabjee's, Copper Chocs, German Bakery and Hot Breads . They have from the regular veggie and non-veggie puffs, to sausage patties, pancakes, pizzas, lemon or zeera biscuits, variety of chocolate or fruit cakes, quiches, tarts, pies, yummy pastries, salad meals and still more. The oldest and most popular bakeries in town are the Kayani Bakery and Royal Bakery. The right time to visit these bakeries is around 10.00 am or 4 p.m. That's when they get freshly baked stuff in everyday. If you want to buy Shrewsbury biscuits and plain cakes, then Kayani is the place to go to, besides the array of other biscuits and cakes and breads it offers. Royal Bakery is the best bet for Brazil nut biscuits, salted puffs and cheese fingers. Of course, it has a variety of other popular bakery products including its famous bread.

Just round the corner

The city has an underlying cosmopolitan ambience. If you look a little hard, you might find a speciality restaurant or a neat dhabha (by-the-street open air eatery) round the corner serving Parsi, Sindhi, Gujarati, South Indian, Goan, Kolhapuri or Rajasthani food. If you fancy one, there's nothing like satiating your taste buds with the lip smacking dishes served there. So as the saying goes: When you are in Pune: Have a good eat. And Bon Apetit!


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