The Raipur Bhajiya House has been around in Ahmedabad’s old city since 1933, doling out 500 plates a day of fresh‘ Heritage Bhajiya’! Find out more about this hidden treasure.
The walled city of Ahmedabad contains many hidden treasures known only to its locals. The twenty-six-foot high gateway of Raipur Darwaja, near Astodiya, is one such place. One of the twenty-one gates of the old city, civilians used this to enter and exit the city. But Raipur Darwaja is more famous for something else. It’s known for its Raipur Bhajiya House, a little shop that’s been serving fried snacks since 85 years. Raipur Bhajiya House has literally seen time fly by; you could call it ‘Heritage Bhajiya’. Four generations have been churning out the Jain snacks here, yet the place hasn’t undergone any significant renovation since its inception. It’s still the same as when it was established, a tiny room that’s just big enough for two people and a stove.
Painted in pastel blue, the Raipur Bhajiya House looks as satisfying as its fried bhajiyas. Established beside the Darwaja in 1933 to provide snacks to travellers passing by, the Raipur Bhajiya House was initiated by Somabhai Patel, who saw an incredible business opportunity here and seized it – a quality Gujaratis are excellent at! The shop is a tiny room with one light and one fan. One wall is covered with soot from the chulhas. Bigutensils occupy the rear end, while coals are continually seen to be burning.
Bhajiyas here are still made on chulhas, though they now use coal instead of wood. The batter for the snacks is freshly made every day. The shop is open from 8 am in the morning, until all the bhajiyas have sold out. The owners make enough to serve 500 plates. There are no leftovers, and even if there is, the owners don’t serve them the next day. They don’t have a fridge. What’s also interesting is that the bhajiyas are never served with chutney or sauce. The owners believe that this takes away the real flavour of the bhajiyas. This might also be because the shop was established to provide travellers in the old city with snacks to carry on their journey, and so the bhajiyas had to be dry. The recipe also includes ingredients that aid in easy digestion to make journeys easier.
Only one small expansion has been made to the shop since 1933. The extension is tiny as well, with just enough space for a shelf and for two people to serve the food. Raipur Bhajiya House has no other branches or online businesses. The owners have, however, started exporting an instant bhajiya mix abroad to their patrons. The decision of the current generation of brothers – Subhash and Mahendra Patel – to keep the shop as it is, shows how emotionally attached they are to the business and to the history of their family. They even maintain a bird feeder on the roof of their shops. Story has it that this is how they pay their rent–by feeding the birds here every day to respect a century-old rental agreement.
Though the city has seen so much since the shop started, Raipur Bhajiya House still remains intact as one of the favourite breakfast spots for locals who want to start their day with a plate of bhajiya and a cup of tea. If the walls of the shop could speak, it would tell some heart-warming as well as heart-wrenching stories, stories of how the city expanded, of how its walls were demolished for railways, of how the riots ravaged the city. In the midst of relentless traffic, the Raipur Bhajiya House stands in its corner as kids come and go in their school uniforms and elderly people catch up with their friends. When you take a bite of bhajiya here, you don’t just cherish its flavour, you also take in all the cultural values of the place. Make a trip to Raipur Bhajiya House yourself to experience this.
Image courtesy: Ashish Mehta
The article is contributed by a reader of creativeyatra.com, Kavya Nair
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