Varanasi, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, is regarded as the spiritual capital of India.
Along its winding streets lie roughly about 2,000 temples, including the world-renowned Kashi Vishwanath temple; the presence of River Ganga only adds to the divine essence of the city.
Besides its historical and cultural significance, Varanasi is also famous for its delectable street food, specifically, chaat.
Almost every bend in the narrow lanes, leads to shops that whip up several varieties of this savoury Indian snack. However, we would like to point you towards the iconic Deena Chat Bhandar and its ‘tamatar chaat!’
The story of how Deena Chat Bhandar came to being is as humble as it can get.
About 70-80 years ago, a young man named Deena Nath Kesari began hawking delicacies like tamatar chaat, tikki-dahi and kachori-dahi on a khomcha along the streets and lanes of Luxa Bazaar.
In time, these items became so popular that Kesari soon set up a small stall in the Chowk area.
Today, his family manages two extremely popular outlets—one in Chowk and the other in Luxa Bazaar. Kesari’s grandson, Atul who looks after the Luxa store, while his uncle operates the outlet in Chowk.
The tamatar chaat is one of its most popular offerings, and the owners are fiercely protective of the original recipe that Kesari had painstakingly created.
In fact, the popularity of the chaat even brought renowned chefs like Sanjeev Kapoor and Ranveer Brar and Sanjeev Kapoor to the store, following which they attempted to create the recipe on their shows!
“Right from the recipe to the preparation, we religiously follow our Dadaji’s way of working. Back then, he would serve the tamatar chaat in kulhads, which ended up becoming our store’s legacy and we have continued with this practice. We even prepare the masalas that we use. The taste and flavours have remained authentic over five decades, and perhaps this is why our customers always return to us,” says Atul to The Better India.
He also mentions what makes this snack so irresistible is its gravy that easily takes several hours to prepare.
While Deena Nath Kesari had handed down the recipe for the gravy, all of them learned to prepare it by watching him in action.
A fun fact that we’d like to share is that some of the ingredients that go in the gravy include dry fruits, mustard oil, desi ghee, lime juice and jaggery!
While tamatar chaat is their best seller, Atul also shares that the other snacks, like choora-matar, palak-patta chaat and gol gappe ka pani, are equally popular.
“These are very unique, and one will find them only in Varanasi,” he adds.
Opening at 2 pm every afternoon, both outlets cater to a large clientele comprising the residents of the city as well pilgrims, travellers and of course, foodies from across the country. They close for the day at 10:30 pm.
So, the next time you head to Varanasi—be it as a traveller or a pilgrim (although we hope that you head there as a foodie after reading this), make sure you do not miss this iconic eatery and definitely dig into the tamatar chaat!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)