Sydney might be far from the streets of Mumbai, but it only takes a 30-minute train ride from Central to get you to Harris Park, Sydney's Little India. Here you'll find an entire neighbourhood of Indian restaurants including Chatkazz, tucked away in a backstreet, serving up Indian street food. Not everything is fried, but all menu items are $10.90 or less, and all of it -- yes everything -- is vegetarian.
Locals eat dinner early around these parts, and by 6.30pm the place is already busy. The dining room inside can be a little noisy so we grab a table outside. Sure the car park is practically on your lap, but as Mr Bollywood points out, the noise and chaos only adds to the atmosphere. "It feels just like home!" he says with joyous excitement.
Onion pakora pav $2.50
Shredded onion fritters served in a bread roll with chutneys
The comprehensive menu can be a little intimidating at first, but staff are friendly and with the majority of dishes under $10, an ordering misstep is no real biggie. Order and pay at the register inside and your food is likely to arrive before you've even made it back to the table.
Khaman dhokla $4.90
Savoury cakes made from chickpea flour
Khaman dhokla hails from the state of Gujarat in India where its regional snacks are known as farsan. Dhokla is made from a fermented rice and chickpea batter, steamed and then sliced into hefty squares. They have a touch of sourness, much like sourdough, and should be dunked generously in the accompanying puddle of chutney that is sweet and spicy.
Dahi puri $6.50
Small crispy flatbreads mixed with boiled potato, chickpeas, chilled yoghurt and chutney
Looking for crunch? Get into the dahi puri, and quickly, before these deep-fried hollow orbs become soggy. Impossibly thin shells are filled with a mix of boiled potatoes and chickpeas then dressed with yoghurt, chutney and sev, shards of deep fried vermicelli made from chickpea flour.
It's sweet and sour, wet and crunchy, and trying to eat one without spilling it all over yourself is half the fun.
Sev puri $5.90
Small crispy flat breads mixed with boiled potato, onion, tomatoes and chutney
Sev puri is another Mumbai specialty, piling on potatoes, onions and tamarind chutney onto flat crunchy discs. There's a snowstorm of sev over the entire plate, and the tamarind chutney adds an appetising tang to every mouthful.
Dahi vada $6.50
Lentil doughnut soaked in sweet chilled yoghurt with chutney
The amount of work involved in a dahi vada isn't apparent at first. These lentil doughnut balls are deep-fried then soaked in water, squeezed gently and then soaked in yoghurt until they swell into fat dumplings. They're quite a substantial snack, lightened by a saucer of yoghurt and swirls of tamarind chutney.
Medu and idli vada sambhar $6.90
Urad dal doughnut and steamed rice cake
The urad dal doughnut looks more familiar, with a hole in the middle. They're made using black gram flour, perked up with a generous addition of cumin and green chilli. The white UFO is idli, a steamed rice cake that is soft and fluffy.
Chhole bhatura $9.90
Spicy chickpea curry served with fried Indian bread, pickle and onions
Whatever you do, make sure you order the chhole bhatura. Two giant puffed up pillows of deep fried bread (bhatura) are the perfect bedfellows for chhole spicy chickpea curry. Tear off a piece of piping hot bread and then shovel up as much curry as you can.
Mysore Masala (Bombay Style) Dosa $9.90
South Indian crepe stuffed with special Mysore chutney and vegetables
The mysore masala dosa isn't as crisp as others, but that's because the inside has been painted with a bright orange chutney made with chillies and grated coconut. The thin fermented crepe is best savoured with alternate dunks of lentil curry and coconut sambal.
Tava Pulav $9.90
Stir fried rice cooked with chopped vegetables with tomato onion salad and pappadum
Don't be put off by the fried rice wording on the menu. The tava pulav is just an amped up pilaf, long slender grains of rice cavorting with golden brown onion, cumin, coriander and chilli. This dish is another Mumbai roadside classic, served with cool yoghurt, a folded pappadum and a refreshing salad of tomatoes and red onion slivers.
Pav bhaji $9.90
Spicy vegetable curry served with toasted buttered bread roll, tomato onion salad and pappadum
Okay so the cube of butter in the pav bhaji may have made my heart skip a beat, but delve in and you'll find a seriously tasty vegetable curry. Potatoes, peas, carrots and onions are all swimming about in a lake of rich and thick tomato curry.
Misal pav $9.90
Spicy sprouts and chickpea curry topped with coriander, onions and farsan served with bread rolls
We finish up with the misal pav, made from a sprouted lentil known as matki or moth bean. This curry is more of a gravy, with fat deep-fried sev noodles added for extra crunch.
Final result? $15 a head for our party of six. Bargain!
But wait. There's more.
Durga Paan and Falooda House
Wondering why people are wandering into the shop next door? It's all about dessert. On the menu you'll find mango lassi, milkshakes, ice cream and falooda, a rose syrup and milk drink with jelly and tapioca. Skip all of these and go straight for the paan if you're game.
Paan is all about chewing betel leaves. In India, it's commonly eaten as a snack, a mouth refreshener or digestive.
Mukhwas breath freshener
Paan comes in savoury or sweet versions. The sweet style is more easily approachable for newbies, combining candy-coated fennel seeds with preserved fruits, rose jam, shredded coconut, cloves and cardamom.
Preparing the paan
The paan are made to order, assembled on the counter and then rolled up into a triangular package that should be popped into the mouth in one go.
Meetha sweet paan with fennel seeds, fruits, coconut and spices $3
We found the paan here didn't produce that distinctive red colour often associated with betel leaf and betel nut chewing. It's a strange combination of coconut, sugar and licorice for the uninitiated, but for the Nepali ex-pat among us, it prompts a flood of happy memories.
NB. Long-term chewing of betel nut leaves has been linked with cancer. Studies have also found adverse effects on newborns if consumed by those who are pregnant.
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Shop 4, 14-20 Station Street East, Harris Park, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8677 0033
Monday 5pm - 10pm
Tuesday to Friday 10am - 10pm
Saturday and Sunday 9am - 10pm
Durga Paan and Falooda House
Shop 3, 14-20 Station Street East, Harris Park, Sydney
Tel: +61 (0)450 458 895
Open 7 days 1pm - 11pm
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1/16/2014 12:46:00 am