The Joy of Jalebi

It is 11.30 a.m. and we are as famished as we are tired. We have been out since 4 a.m., driven over 250 kms, visited the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daula and the Taj Mahal, and are on our way to the erstwhile capital of Akbar, where we also plan to catch up on breakfast. But there is a problem: we have taken a wrong turn, and instead of being on the road to Fatehpur Sikri, we are stuck in a narrow lane in the heart of Agra’s Sadar Bazaar.

On a Sunday morning, all of Agra seems to have descended on the street: hawkers, shoppers, cattle, cyclists, pedestrians. So we crawl on the street along with them: hungry, angry, and frustrated.

It is then that we spot it. A corner shop with a wok full of hot, juicy jalebis and fat, round asafoetida-laced kachauris. We forget all about our misery and stop the car in the middle of the road for a dose of the U.P.-special breakfast.

Jalebis and kachauris happen to be the most-coveted breakfast of the Hindi heartland. Rich, flavourful and wholesome, it is almost a staple with the locals. Unlike in most parts of the country, in Uttar Pradesh, the jalebis are eaten in the morning and are essential to complete your breakfast. They are also fatter, juicier and more sinful here.

The flavours of the kachauri vary with the region — tangy and served with dry potatoes in the eastern stretches, and asafoetida laced and spicy, paired with an oily gravy in the west. These crusty, crispy domes of flour, fried to perfection and filled with a mixture made of lentils, can turn even the most prudent eater into a glutton.

By the time I reach the stall, dreaming and salivating, there are only four kachauris left in the shop and at least 10 people in the queue ahead of me. I almost break down in anticipation. I don’t know if it is pity or awe that my expression induces in the shopkeeper, but he decides to hand over the last four pieces to me, along with a bag full of piping hot jalebis. On another day, I’d have insisted on waiting my turn, but today, I shamelessly grab them and run back to the car.

Being a UPite, there is nothing more precious to me than my jalebi-kachauri breakfast.

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