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Snakes and gladder: For someone who's had python pickle, the first taste of vada pav actually made me happy

Snakes and gladder: For someone who's had python pickle, the first taste of vada pav actually made me happy

Dubai: Wait, wait, wait… hold up. Before you get too eager to read about the ‘python’ part of this story, let me tell you one thing – this story is about vada pav, not the pickled reptile. But, yes, there are snippets in there about my encounter with Kaa's brethren. 

Let's begin, shall we?

Non-vegetarian food in a hostel? Count me in

It was a few years ago when I was in an undergrad programme in India. I was a resident of the campus’ hostel, so naturally everyone – including me – had an aversion to the same routine food which was served.

The complaints about the hostel food were never ending, so my friends and I made a pact to come back with luggage loads of homemade pickles, chutney powders and more, every time we left for the holidays.

It was one such return that truly raised the bar for me when it came to meat consumption. A friend of mine from the Andaman islands, off the coast of southern India, had bought in this jar of pickle during lunch hours, and we all waited eagerly for our turn to put it on our plates. She told us it was fish pickle, and like a starving pack of hyenas we all took a chunk of it.

When we tasted the pickle, it didn’t really taste like fish but we continued to devour it anyway. I guess you could say it was the only good non-vegetarian dish in the mess hall at that time.

- Sharon Benjamin
Pickle from Pexels.com
Pickles are a system of preservation in India to ensure a supply of out-of-season vegetables and fruits Image Credit: Pexels.com

When we tasted it, it didn’t really taste like fish but we continued to devour it anyway. I guess you could say it was the only good non-vegetarian dish in the mess hall at that time.

It was then, when we went to wash our plates after our meal, where she asked: “Hey guys, did you like the pickle?”

And we replied saying of course we did. She then said: “Good. That’s really nice to hear. Except it wasn’t fish. It was python.”

Just to be clear: Pythons are quite common in the Andaman and Nicobar, and occassionally consumed.

Mango pickle pexels.com
Pickles are a staple of Indian cuisine, bathed in spices, the famed achaar can be made from literally anything edible Image Credit: Saveurs Secretes/Pexels.com

I’ve never felt more conflicted in my entire life, than I did at that moment. I liked it, but it was vile knowing that I ate the one thing I was most fearful of.

Naturally when I told my family they were appalled, but now that I think of it, I can only justify it by saying a girl’s got to eat – no matter what (but I wouldn’t go to that extent, ever again).

Now that I’ve ticked off a box in my personal diary of explaining my misadventures, let’s focus on the first time I had vada pav…

How I met my vada pav

vada-pav
Image used for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Shutterstock

Destiny is a funny thing, I’ve always believed in it… but at no time did I think the vada pav would be a part of it.

I always felt it would be an injustice to eat it from anywhere else other than Mumbai, but when I was in Mumbai it never occurred to me to actually eat it.

Some would say I’ve missed out on life’s best, but the thing is, I’ve always seen it from a distance – like a mirage – and I wanted my first time to be in the Indian state it hails from.

The vada had a golden and crispy exterior from a flavoured chickpea batter, and was mushy on the inside with potatoes flavoured by spices and herbs. What’s more? It tasted the best when paired with two chutneys - a dry crushed garlic-chilli one and of course, the coriander or dhania chutney.

- Sharon Benjamin

But like all things falling into place, my first bite of this soft, fluffy, and tasty snack was a few days ago. And I was here in Dubai, giving in to my temptation for tasty food.

My colleague ordered it for the entire team, and I was with my Editor at the time trying to find a story to work on.

I took my share of the box, blurted out the fact that this was my first vada pav ever, and then my Editor said, “There’s your story, work on it”.

Yes, I had to eat my story before I wrote about it and here’s what I concluded…

All hail the vada pav

I absolutely loved it. It was a potato patty sandwiched between two slices of a squared bun – what a combination!

The vada had a golden and crispy exterior from a flavoured chickpea batter, and was mushy on the inside with potatoes flavoured by spices and herbs. What’s more? It tasted the best when paired with two chutneys - a dry crushed garlic-chilli one and of course, the coriander or dhania chutney.

I didn’t get to eat it with the fried chilli provided, but I’ll make sure to try one next time. Because, this is a relationship built to last.

Final words

vada-pav
Image used for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Shutterstock

It was worth the long wait. I see why people have a hard time staying away from this street food delight.

For me, I think what made eating the vada pav while at work so special, was the fact that I was able to enjoy it with good company. And that’s exactly what good food brings you... a memory to cherish.

Want to make it at home? Here's our detailed guide to it: Vada Pav