Narrated by: Kaushik Chatterjee
Originally Published at: Foodies of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack
Medu Vadas or “Bara” as they are better known in Odisha along with Ghuguni ( a curry made of chick peas or mattar) is one of the staple snacks of Odisha. You will find them almost at every food joint, be it a small snack stall or a good restaurant. We have it as our breakfast or evening snack. There are many famous food joints that have their signature Bara, which would be a speciality. One such place is Rabi Bhai’s Stall.
Rabi Bhai’s stall is a small rickety hut located in unit 6, Bhubaneswar,among the government quarters. Not many people know about this place nor is it visible to many. But there are people like me who are regulars and visit him often. He doesnt have a proper sitting area, nor does he have proper crockery but he knows the art of making baras. He makes one of the crispiest Baras I have ever had in my life. They are made up of batter of biri dal or uradh ki dal, deep fried in in crackling oil. These are served hot along with steaming hot ghuguni. Its a blissful combination that is unbeatable.
When you take a bara, dip it onto the ghuguni and then take a bite, the crispy crust gives in into the soft inside along with the taste of ghuguni. That is when you feel the taste in your mouth, which you would never forget. The ghuguni as it well known is a chick peas curry. It’s made up of mattar, soaked overnight. These mattar are then boiled till they are semisoft. Then they are cooked along with some basic spices into thin gravy. The ghuguni is best served along with bara or alu chop.
Rabi bhai starts his shop as early as 7 am in the morning. He starts his day by frying baras and by the time he has his first baras in the frying pan, there are already people waiting outside. By the time the baras are out all of them are already soldout. You must be there by 8.30 am maximum, if you want to have his baras. Along with bara and alu chop, he also makes Rasgullas, gulab jamun and chenna poda (caramelised cottage cheese cake). His rasgullas are so soft that you can cut them just with a soft touch of your spoon. As you take the first bite the rasgulla melts into your mouth and releases the sweep sugar syrup which give you the divine combination.
Today, when I was enjoying my morning breakfast, I thought of speaking to Rabi bhai. I asked him whether he has taught this to his sons. He was quite for some time. Then he said that his sons were not interested in this business. They didnot even help him. He wax managing the shop alone. He doesnot have enough capital to repair his hut even. Whatever he earns is just enough to meet his daily needs and some pennies extra that he saves for future. He said, “Jaha achhi ehi haatare achhi. Jebe jain paribi karibi. Mo sahita sabu sarijiba”. ( whatever is there it’s in these hands. I ll carry on till the time I can, and when I die, it will all go with me). I felt sorry for him. Such a talent and no one to carry it forward. He may not be the only guy who makes these baras, but I would not get this wonderful taste.
Sometimes Rabi Bhai picks up a bara using his bare hands from the white hot crackling oil. I was astonished, but he just smiled and was again busy frying his baras.