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Taste of streets

The most eye-catching presence at Crazy Raasta, the street food festival organised by the International Institute of Hotel Management at the banquet space of Mani Square, was of Lord Shiva. But Argha Bose, the sartorially deified first year student of the institute, was a confused man. “I didn’t like taking my shirt off,” he said, standing tall at 5’10” with a makeshift trident in hand and an elaborate wig on head, his toned physique telling of regular workout at the gym.

Argha, a devotee of Lord Hanuman, was supposed to play a vampire. “But last night they changed plans as vampires are not supposed to move around.” So in came Shiva in his rented tiger skin. “People are taking my pictures,” he said, betraying a hint of a smile.

If Argha was busy getting clicked, Gajender Singh Yadav, his batchmate, was waiting to get busy. Clad in dhoti and turban and wearing a twirled moustache, Gajender was on duty at the paan counter. Though all the paan had come ready made, Gajender insisted that he could make paan himself. He was as happy wearing dhoti. “It’s more airy than trousers.”

The action had heated up on the terrace where most of the counters were serving hot. The counters served street food as geographically varied as shawarma and momo, aloo tikki and hotdog.

Naomi Xavier was in charge of a counter serving taco. “In the tortilla envelope, we are using some local masalas and ingredients like rajma as filling,” she said. The non-veg variety had chicken.

The crowd comprised both people who had bought tickets and parents who came to taste their children’s culinary progress.

Kajori Dey was one such anxious mother. Daughter Sreyoshi, a first year student, was shredding ingredients with a knife. “How can I move away from here? She has already cut her finger once. She has never cooked at home except for an experimental dish once or twice,” moaned the lady from Hazra Road. But she felt proud to see her daughter in a chef’s dress, alongside other youngsters cooking on live flames. “Whatever she cooks, it will taste nice to me,” said the indulgent mother.

The street food theme, said executive chef Md. Wasim, was decided a week ago. Since then, the second years had got busy deciding on the menu, making a list of ingredients to hand over to the marketing team, and finally getting down to the actual business two days in advance. “Since steetfood-eaters would be in a hurry, yesterday we made the dough for the crepes and kept them semi-cooked in a pan, soaked the beans for the tacos in water and steamed them, grinded the masalas, fried the doughnuts...” he rattled off in one breath. On D-day, the team of 32 had been at it from 8am.

Of the 34 dishes which had taken the field, the end-of-the-evening scorecard revealed the best performers to be pau bhaji, shawarma and tacos.