A delicious breakfast in the middle of nowhere
On the day that million of Hindus in India celebrated Diwali, the annual festival of lights, six of us piled into the Overland Expeditions India van and headed south through the state of Maharashtra to Tarkarli Beach.
Departure was around 6:15am. We had 300-plus kilometres to cover and plenty of dismally poor roads ahead. We’d get breakfast along the way.
Most of our travels have been away from India’s main highways, so our en route breakfasts and lunches have often been at roadside stalls, hole-in-the-wall eateries and government-managed rest stops.
But this morning, we were on very quiet back roads with not a paratha or chai in sight. This wasn’t because it was a holiday—just because there was a landscape of crops everywhere.
About 8:30am and just as we were about to dig into the communal bag of not-at-all-healthy snacks, we came upon a small food stall next to a field of sugar cane. We were 11 kilometres past one village and 35 from the next.
We ditched the snack bag as Anand pulled over to the side of the road.
There were other customers—some had arrived on bicycles and others on motorbikes—and they jumped up to offer us seats at the plastic table.
We ordered a round of potato cakes (the only dish she was making at the time) and a round of chai.
Each cake (vada) was served in a bun (pao) with a good sprinkling of a chilli powder mixture. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but this is my kind of savoury breakfast. Oh, and I skipped the bun. I get enough bread anyway.
The potato cakes were so good that we ordered a second round, which our hostess shaped and fried in just a few minutes.
Small cups of milky chai came next, and I have to say that it was the nicest chai I’ve had on this trip. Just the right amount of spice and sugar. That’s a huge recommendation, given that I don’t normally add milk or sugar to coffee or tea.
The food stall is called Mauli Snack Corner, but I never got the name of our hostess/chef. Mauli is a common business name in India but not a woman’s name. I did learn that she opened the stall about two months ago, selling packaged and homemade snacks. It’s her enterprise, but her husband and son help. She said that business has been pretty good. It’s not surprising with such good food, and in a remote location that has good traffic.
She was quite modest about it all, but quick to say that she was especially proud that her son was doing well in his middle form English school.
All that said, I wonder how quickly she is making a living. Each vada pao (potato cake with bun) cost 10 rupees (about 20 Australian cents) and each cup of chai cost half that. So breakfast for six was a grand total of A$2.70.