Top Street Eats of Vizag

Andhra Pradesh’s coastal city dishes up lively street fare, offering a glimpse of the region’s exuberant flavour profile.

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While chicken and mutton biryani are top contenders, the prawn-mixed, omelete-wrapped potlam biryani is the region’s best kept secret. Photo by: CC7/Shutterstock

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As the Bay of Bengal swallows the sun whole, Vizag’s streets are ignited by lampposts and the buzzing MVP Colony gears up for a flamboyant show. The magicians, clad in simple checkered shirts and jeans, draw a ravenous audience that gather to witness a beguiling act. Except, the stage is replaced with a giant iron griddle and the wand with a ladle. The oil hisses and the batter sizzles upon contact with the hot surface. Chopped onions garnish the dosa, and a minute later, the crisp delish is up for grabs.

 

Top Street Eats Of Vizag

Locals stop by a vendor’s cart to relish fresh coconut water. Photo by: Abir Roy Barman/Shutterstock

 

I patiently await my turn for a taste of the regional grub. My guide exchanges a quick word with the food vendor in Telugu and returns with a plate of aviri kudumu. The urad dal idli—served with piquant peanut and coconut chutneys—resembles a dosa in appearance, but is much fluffier in texture. I tear away one bite after another and they melt like butter in my mouth. If first impressions are telling, then Visakhapatnam’s street food scene knows how to score brownie points.

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Come evening, food trucks and stalls ubiquitously pop up in every corner of the city’s centre. Bikers and pedestrians, locals and tourists swarm the stores that dish up crowd favourites: heaps of Mysore bonda, momos, biryani, keema dosa, and “Indianised” versions of Chinese noodles and fried rice. The scene unfolds almost identically every day.

A woman at a tube light-illuminated stall is busy marinating meat pieces with a vermillion spice rub, which with a little help from my guide, I learn, is made of ginger-garlic paste, chilli powder, salt, pepper, egg and a secret masala powder. She then skilfully pokes the chicken and chicken liver chunks with bamboo stick skewers and roasts them over a bed of coal. The embers spark like fireworks as she rotates the kebabs on all sides, until evenly cooked, and then goes on to top them with a generous squeeze of lime.

 

Top Street Eats Of Vizag

From top left: Aviri kudumu, Mysore bonda, momos and kebabs are popular food choices. Photos by Pooja Naik (Aviri kudumu), Shaurya240/Shutterstock (Momos), Reddees/Shutterstock (Kebabs and Mysore bonda)

 

I bite in and the flavours begin to explode. Unlike its north Indian counterpart, where the spices arrest your taste buds, this southern variation sneaks up on you with the stealth of a crouching tiger. It takes a few hours for the heat to set in. By then, I will have eaten to my stomach’s fill.

To my surprise, biryani is devoured in street fare-like flair in this part of the country. For my guide, however, it makes up his daily meal. He then lets me in on an insider’s secret. The 1988-established Raju Ghari Dhaba in Rushikonda, located approximately 15 kilometres in the direction of the town’s outskirts, is touted as a local biryani star. The Rajus have long been hailed as a cooking community, spanning generations, so it is common to see the name etched across food establishments around town. In addition to some lip-smacking chicken, mutton and prawn biryani, their marquee dish is the potlam biryani—a mound of rice and prawn delicately wrapped in an omelette—a distant cousin of the Japanese omurice.

I bookmark the spot for my next visit, and instead, turn to Raju’s Andhra Chicken Pakodi for the grand finale. The food truck has been operational for eight years and is run by a local couple whose clientele mostly includes loyal patrons. Interestingly, the pakodi—Vizag’s answer to the pakora—is made with chicken or prawn; the meat is marinated in home-made masala powder, salt, minced cashew, chilli, curry leaves, and corn flour, and then dunked in chickpea flour batter before being deep fried to a perfect shade of golden brown. While I make up my mind on the choice of meat, a customer insists I try the chicken pakodi that he has packed to go. I hesitate before accepting his generosity. Turns out, he has been a frequent visitor at Raju’s for over five years. One morsel explains the pull. The crispy-spicy, bitesize meatball punches above its weight, and the hint of cashew is triumphant, bringing the flavours home. The owners ask me for feedback in Telugu. In between mouthfuls of the dish, I can barely manage a “wow” and a thumbs up. In my experience, food remains a universally winning language.

 

This feature appeared in the print edition of National Geographic Traveller India May-June 2022. Get your copy here.

To read more stories on travel, cities, food, nature, and adventure, head to our web forum here or our new National Geographic Traveller India app here.

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  • Pooja Naik is Senior Sub-Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She likes to take long leisurely walks with both hands in her pocket; channeling her inner Gil Pender at Marine Drive since Paris is a continent away.

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