The magic of Manek Chowk in Ahmedabad

As soon as you enter Manek Chowk, you can’t miss the crescendo of ‘Jamun Shot, Jamun Shot, Jamun Shot’ coming from ‘9898’, a well-lit fruit shot cart, the first stop for any foodie to fuel the taste riot on their palate. Fresh jamuns mixed with ice and served in shot glasses have all natural qualities and taste divine. I took two pictures and moved ahead to my next stop ‘Bombay Gulalwadi’ to try their delicious ‘Bhaji Pav’ freshly cooked on ‘Tawa’. This fantastic combination of buttered pav with aromatic bhaji is worth the wait you undergo at this busy street food joint. Bhaji Pao is one of the best selling dishes at Manek Chowk and is a must try for the superb quality of the fresh pao and the well balanced taste of the Bhaji.

All ‘Bhaji Pav’ outlets also serve a sumptuous ‘Tawa Pulav’. To try this delicacy, I headed to ‘Parking Bhaji Pav’ run by Mr Vikram Modi. The ‘Tawa Pulav’ at ‘Parking Bhaji Pav’ was one of the best pulavs I have ever had and I vowed to visit again, which I duly did after a few craving-filled days. Mr. Modi was very kind to interact with me and being a passionate foodie, he didn’t shy away from giving me a semi-long list of places to try in Manek Chowk.

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As per his recommendation, I headed straight to Manek Sandwich and Pizza corner and was struck by the sight of sandwiches loaded with a mountain of grated cheese or sandwiches sprinkled with chocolate and sprinkled with chocolate chips.

I plucked up the courage to ask “What’s your major?” “ghooghra sandwich” was the quick reply from the sandwich maker in chief. Someone in the back agreed in unison, “Yeah, try it.” Parth, a local foodie from Amdavadi, offered me a piece from his plate. “It’s nice, full of veggies and melted cheese; you’ll love it”. I happily accepted the dual offer of a slice of sandwich and foodie friendship. “Woahh”, I couldn’t contain my excitement as a bite of the googur sandwich left its delicious mark on my palate.

Parth’s sister Deeksha suggested, “You must try their pineapple sandwich”! Being a big fan of the royal fruit, I ordered one for us to share. A generous spread of pineapple jam, a big circle of juicy pineapple and a scoop of pineapple ice cream between two slices of sandwich bread was just a dream for the pineapple lover in me. Interestingly, the sandwich was topped with the company’s mountain of cheese, the combination was unusual, but we signed up. I had to put the sandwich down on the table and absorb the visuals for a moment before picking up the piece and swallowing a large chunk. It was juicy and had all the juiciness of a pineapple with ice cream that slowly melted and created a resulting sauce to dip the sweet sandwich into. What an experience it was; the cheese was kind of overpowered by the sweetness of the fruit. Although the combination seemed wacky, it was just borderline considering the more innovative options in Manek sandwiches that could drive you crazy. My taste buds happily accepted the pineapple sandwich; however, it ignited a desire for some authentic desserts to try at Manek Chowk.

‘Basti Ram’ and ‘Asharfi Lal’ are two Kulfi shops next to each other and both serve amazing Kulfi. After quite a few experiments at the sandwich shop, I was eager to try the simple taste of Kesar Pista’s Kulfi in ‘Basti Ram Kulfi’. The Kulfi was great and had all the milky goodness with just the perfect sweetness and flavors from the dry fruits.

I had an exciting conversation with street food vendors and many food lovers who are regulars at Manek Chowk. This ‘food mela’ stays open till the wee hours of the morning. I tried a lot of exciting food items such as nitrogen biscuit that puffs out smoke when bitten and the exciting twisted potato which is a must try for potato lovers especially if you like them crunchy, spicy and twisted.

Not to forget ‘Gathiyas’ and ‘Faafdas’, ‘Dhokla’ and ‘Khaman’, the authentic Amdavadi Chinese style snacks like vegetarian Manchurian. Even North India’s smoky tandoori snacks bring out Manek Chowk’s ‘chatkara factor’. Finally, the famous South Indian dish, dosa, is a crowd favorite. However, every cuisine served at Manek Chowk gets the Ahmedabadi trademark. So I had to visit to try the different varieties of dosas served here. You must try Balan Dosa’s ‘Ghotala Dosa’ which is full of cheese and butter (Manek Chowk’s signature style) and the interestingly named Gwalior Dosa which has an addictive buttery taste and a huge fan following of Manek Chowk regulars.

With such a wide variety of foods available at this iconic food bazaar and new ones being tried every week with new innovative items, the taste of the season always gets its first look at Manek Chowk. And thus, every visit to Manek Chowk will bring you a unique experience to enjoy and as good as magic is, it leaves you spellbound every time.

So don’t wait but visit the street food hub of Ahmedabad as early as possible because of Manek Chowk ‘Saras Che’ (It’s really good).

Siddharth Bhan Gupta is a hospitality/B&B consultant who travels across India exploring regional cuisines.