Friday, July 05, 2013

How I Met the Bhatura (Day 5: UBC July 2013)

This story dates back to the early part of my working life.

S, a colleague-turned-friend and I had started a tradition of eating out every Saturday. We both came from conservative and thrifty backgrounds where eating out was a luxury that no one had the inclination or the wherewithal for.

We would carry lunch from home Monday through Friday, but Saturday was a day set apart for experimenting with other cuisines, for trying out new foods that my all-Goan-cuisine-cooking mother and her all-Tamilian-cuisine-cooking mother didn’t know how to make.

It was an indulgence that we looked forward to. We had already discovered a shared fondness for shrikhand-puri. Most Saturdays, that is what we ordered, two heaping big bowls of shrikhand with six puris each.

(For those of you unfamiliar with Indian cuisine, a puri is a small, round, flat piece of bread made of unleavened wheat flour, deep-fried and served with meat or vegetables. A bhatura is a round, soft leavened deep-fried bread made with all-purpose flour, baking powder, oil and yoghurt. It is served with a chickpea curry popularly called Chhole. There is also a difference in size. To describe it roughly, the diameter of the average bhatura spans the distance from the outer tip of the little finger to the outer tip of the thumb of the hand of an adult. The diameter of the average puri might span the distance from the base of the little finger to the base of the thumb of said hand. If you must see to believe, go Google the images. 

As for Shrikhand, go Google that too.

Now back to the story…)

One Saturday, we decided to try something new. We peered down at the menu and chose chhole bhature. We were familiar with chhole, but had no idea what a bhatura was. So we asked the waiter. He said, “Puri ke jaise hai (it is like a puri).”

The two of us turned to each other and answered the unasked question in the same breath. “Chhe-chhe bhature le aaiye (please bring six bhatures for each of us).”

The waiter’s face changed expression. His eyes threatened to pop out of their sockets. There was a slight quiver in his voice which should have struck us as ominous. But who pays attention to waiters, when you’d rather catch up on office gossip?

He looked at us. We looked at him. S drummed her fingers on the table, the universal gesture for “get a move on, man, we don’t have all day.”

There was a golden moment there when he should have stopped staring like a goldfish and resorted to a simple explanation. Clearly we needed one. But the golden moment passed and the explanation remained stuck in his voice box and went with him to the kitchen. In hindsight, we learned that mute obedience is clearly overrated.

If we found his behaviour odd, we laughed at it for a second and charged forth into our conversation.

And then he returned.

Our jaws dropped when we saw what he had brought along. Patrons, sitting at other tables, turned to look at the hungry hordes that would demolish the contents of that huge platter. We had expected puris, slightly larger than cupcakes, and here were our eyes and minds being assaulted by the sight of the biggest puri in history.

If Gulliver had landed on what he thought was the island of Lilliput and patronisingly looked down at the ground and scrunched his eyes in expectation of seeing six Lilliputians and found himself looking at the shoelaces of six Brobdingnagians instead, he would have been as surprised as we were.

No other bhatures I have eaten since come even close to the humongous size of those bhatures. At least they seemed that way.

It was a slow meal we ate that day. We ate one bhatura each and in spite of feeling as if we had overeaten already, as if we would die if we ate a morsel more, we plodded through the second. We had been raised not to waste food, and we were too embarrassed to ask for a doggie bag.

But then the second bhatura was down, we looked at each other in desperation. If we attempted to eat any more, it would very likely be our last meal.

Death by Bhatura.

But the story had a happy ending. We were just about to signal the waiter and ask for a bill, when we saw four of our colleagues, all males, enter the restaurant. We waved frantically and asked them to join us.

Men apparently need more calories every day than women. Here was their chance to prove they were men.

We surrendered the remaining eight bhatures to them and left the restaurant.

Neither of us ate bhatures for a long, long time after that. The very memory of those 12 bhatures, sitting on the large platter, was enough.


  1. hahaha...seriously Cyn??? 6 Bhatures each. omg. 2 is just right on a good day.

    I can imagine the laugh the waiter would have had later on.

    I do hope you still enjoy them now as they are one of my favorites. No Death by bhatures for me girl.



  2. Angel, it wasn't our fault. He said they were like puris and we believed him.

  3. Bhaturas and Gulliver's travel. what a story. liked, no loved it . enjoyed reading it.

  4. Thank you, Kalpana. You should have seen the look on the waiter's face. In hindsight, it is funny. It wasn't back then.

  5. OMG!!! I cannot imagine your situation back then... 6 bhature :D Thank God for those male colleagues who came by.... they saved your tummy :P

  6. I am all smiles, Cynthia! What a story! By the way I agree, "mute obedience is clearly overrated". Indeed!

  7. I love bhaturas!! Boy Cynthi you must have been scandalised to see six bhaturas! I am stil laughing :D :D I want to know how the waiter must have felt thinking these petite woman have some appetite! I am sure he must have commented inside the kitchen "aaj kal ki auratein, sab cheezon mein aage hain" :D :D


  8. Hilarious, Cynthia!! I'm having visions of the expressions all around. The waiter must be blogging about this story too! :P

  9. Absolutely Corinne...I'd like to hear the waiter's side fo the story too.

    Cynthia, this one was funny...but lemme know...being a northie I am in love with choley bhature and can gulp down at least 2 comfortably.

  10. hahahahaha total ROFL... hahahahah

    whattay a field day that waiter and his friends must have had hahahahah...

    Truly Death by Bature :D :D

  11. Death by bhature..very apt! hilarious to the last bite..umm.. i mean word!

  12. Loved your story and how opportune that they happened along!!


  13. Loved the story. Had me giggling away. So well written, a real treat.

  14. Ha ha ha ...I am still trying to picture your expressions as the waiter brought you a dozen bhatures :)

  15. You could have fed the whole office that day. Something similar happens when we travel up north and order for Paranthas and Lassis.



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