Friday, January 23, 2015

EATING OUT IN PUNE - LAVANG LATA and BENGALI SWEETS

Long back, almost 9 years ago, in the year 2006/2007, when I lived near Aundh Camp in Pune, in the evenings I often used go for a walk on Aundh Road from Bremen Chowk towards the railway line at Khadki. 

It is one of the best places to walk in Pune, a wide road with plenty of greenery and foliage on both sides.  

On my way back, I would take a “Technical Halt” at an unpretentious sweet shop called Babu Moshai Bengali Sweets  to replenish myself with a delicious Lavang Lata (also called Lavang Latika).

This evening, I happened to be in the area, and I could not resist going to my favourite Babu Moshai for a Lavang Lata and some delectable Bengali Sweets like Roshogulla, Sandesh etc. 

While relishing the lip smacking Lavang Lata, I remembered a foodie story I had written 9 years ago, in 2006, after my evening food-walk when I had first discovered Pune’s most Lavang Lata.

This article on Lavang Lata was a part of my Heritage Cuisine Series comprising more than 30 of my Foodie Adventures (published online in 2006) and my Foodie Book APPETITE FOR A STROLL (published in the year 2008).

So, for old times’ sake, here is my Foodie story on EATING LAVANG LATA IN PUNE once more for you to relish...

LAVANG LATA IN PUNE
Mouthwatering Memories
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Whenever we alumni meet we reminisce about our Banaras days - how can we ever forget mothwatering foodie memories of our all time favourite sweet - the delicious Lavang Lata we relished at Pehelwan in Lanka followed by hot Milk (in winter) or cold Lassi (in summer) 

So here I repost my Heritage Cuisine Foodie Blog (written in the years 2006) on searching for Lavang Lata in Pune...


“Heritage Cuisine” – sounds good isn’t it?

You may presume that this pompous term refers to pretentious traditional high-brow cuisine which adorns the tables of the classes!

In my vocabulary “heritage cuisine” is high-falutin gobbledygook for simple staple down-to-earth local street-food relished by the masses. Like Vada Pav (Mumbai’s “Heritage Burger”), or Puneri Misal, or Kulcha Chole, Katchi Dabeli, Bhel, Kathi Kababs, Baida Roti, Malpua – the list is endless.

There is a delicious sweetmeat called “Lavang Lata” which I tasted for the first time and relished piping hot at Pehelwan’s at the end of Lanka near BHU in Varanasi in the seventies. 

A cool Lassi (in winter) or Piping Hot Milk (in summer) – both with dollops of Rabdi added, topped up the gastronomic experience.

Later, in the 1980’s, I came across  slightly different versions of Lavang Lata at various eateries, most notably Nathu at Bengali market in New Delhi (A Smaller Version of Lavang Lata was sometimes called Lavang Latika).

But these versions of the Lavang Lata were nowhere close to Pehelwan’s Banarasi Lavang Lata.

Just imagine my surprise, when, during my walk last evening, I chanced upon a delectable Lavang Lata in an out-of-the-way unpretentious sweet shop called “Babu Moshai Bengali Sweets tucked away almost in obscurity, way off the beaten track, on Aundh Road, on the way to Khadki in Pune.

Actually I was in search of Rasgullas. (Roshogollas, if you want it spelt that way). 

Having relocated from a “happening place like Churchgate in the heart of Mumbai to an obscure “back of the beyond” desolate place somewhere in the jungles on the banks of Mula river between Aundh and Sangvi, craving and wandering desperately in my search for ‘heritage food’, I hit the Aundh road past Spicer College towards Khadki, enjoying a refreshing walk between the expanse of the verdant Botanical Gardens and the foliage of Pune University, when in the first building I encountered on my left, I saw a nondescript signboard “Babu Moshai Bengali Sweets” (maybe the spelling ought to be ‘Babumoshai’) atop a deserted lackluster sweetshop.



There was no one in the shop and the lifeless atmosphere and uninspiring display almost put me off.

But having come so far, I decided to give it a try and looked at the sweets on display in trays behind a glass counter - Rasgullas, Sandesh, Rajbhog, Gulab Jamuns, Malai Sandwiches - the ubiquitous ‘Bengali Sweets’; and suddenly a man came out carrying a tray of piping hot Lavang Latas, the very sight of which made my mouth water so much that I ordered one immediately.

I walked outside the shop, stood in the cool evening air, took a small bite of the Lavang Lata, rolled the syrupy hot piece on my eager salivated tongue and closed my eyes in order to enhance my gustatory experience.

I pressed the Lavang Lata upwards with my tongue against the palate, the roof of my mouth  and slowly it disintegrated releasing its heavenly flavour of nutmeg and cardamom. 

That’s the way you should enjoy Bengali sweetmeats. 

Never Bite – Yes, never bite, or swallow, and devour these delicacies in a hurry  unless you want to ruin the eating experience.

Don’t use your teeth 
– but slowly, very slowly, just roll the Lavang Lata on your tongue and lightly press on the roof of your mouth till the delicacy melts releasing its luxurious flavour and divine fragrance into your gustatory and olfactory systems.

And remember, keep your eyes closed, shut yourself to the outside world, focus on your tongue, internalize the experience and transcend to a state of delightful ecstasy, till you feel you are in seventh heaven. That’s the art of eating.

The Lavang Lata is perfect. Not sickly sweet, but tantalizingly tasty, with the subtle essence of its ingredients and seasoning coming through. 

The rabri and khoya, the raisins and dry fruits, the crispy sweet crust, the spices and most importantly, the exotic fortifying and stimulating taste of clove. 

It’s sheer bliss.

The invigorating taste lingers on my tongue for a long long time, as if for eternity.

Just writing this is making my mouth water.

And I am going to “Babu Moshai” this weekend – this time to sample the Rasgullas, maybe the Sandesh – and I’ll tell you all about it right here.

And I’ll keep writing about all my experiences with “Heritage Cuisine” and the Art of Eating.

As I said, I wrote this Heritage Cuisine Series 9 years ago in 2006 – but, for your perusal, I shall post some delicious stories from this series in my blog from time to time.

Happy Eating.


A Sample from Babu Moshai Sweet Shop – Lavang Lata, Rosogulla, Sandesh, Cutlet

VIKRAM KARVE
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