I have never been to over-publicized food festivals before (thankfully so, after this experience), but I was prodded into going to this one by my buddy Shiva who runs Bread & Beyond.
If I had to sum up my experience at the Masala Kart Chennai Street Food festival in a line, I’d have to choose one (if not all) among these:
- The most terribly organized event one could have ever gone to
- A street food festival with five-star prices
- A pseudo street food festival
I had to refrain for the sake of giving the organizers a long rope and just call it a disappointing day for me.
Before we even got in – Parking (6:30 PM – 7:30 PM)
I made a very bad judgement call by deciding to drive down to Island Grounds on a Saturday night for a widely publicized event; though you could blame me for my stupidity, that cannot absolve the blame that should fall on the organizers (MasalaKart, Red Chariot etc.,) for not getting their shit together when it comes to figuring out parking spots.
There were no clear indicators about where four wheelers were to be parked — the spot that marked entry for four wheeler parking had a closed gate. The man at the gate wanted us to just move along and try the next gate.
Alas – the next gate was an exit gate and even though it was so, nobody was actually telling us that we should just be finding a gully to park in.
Overall, guys – if you want to organize an event, it’s okay and natural to run out of parking space, just let people know and save us some time and energy.
The line that never ended (7:30 PM – 8:00 PM)
After finally managing to park near Doordarshan Bhavan, we walked almost three kilometers to get to the actual line where we had to buy our entry pass for this street food festival.
An event that supposedly had 20,000 people coming over the course of three hours had a sum total of *drumroll* six lines where they were selling tickets.
The line that never ended
After spending almost thirty minutes fighting through the human mass that was the line for buying tickets, we ended up finally coughing up the 100 rupees per head that we had to pay for entry (out of which 50 was available for us in coupons to spend on food)
The food that wasn’t (8:00 PM – 9:00 PM)
Once in, we were frantically looking for a counter that we could grab some food at, having been hungry since 6:30 PM.
The loudspeakers blazed on about some special “karandi omlette” and “kallaki” that was available at section F, and we decided to try that out first.
We purchased 200 rupees in additional credits on top of the 100 we had, assuming that 300 is all that two people needed to eat at the street food fest.
Debacle #1 – Kalakki (Cost = Rs. 40 | Cash Remaining = Rs. 260)
Selling something that was available next street for five times the cost
This Kalakki (pictured above) is what we bought for thirty bucks. Shiva kept muttering that the same thing was available next street for 8 bucks.
The taste was nothing to write about.
This was the first sign that the food was overpriced and not really that great, but we decided to go on since we had 170 remaining in coupons which were non-refundable.
Debacle #2 – Paneer Hariyali Tikka (Cost = Rs. 80 | Cash Remaining = Rs. 180)
Worlds most expensive Paneer Tikka
This was probably the most expensive Paneer Hariyali Tikka I have ever had and it also was probably the worst tasting Tikka that I’ve ever had too.
I should had read the signs when I saw the way the guy was preparing the Tikkas, which was super unhygenic, but when hunger strikes and you’re standing in a long queue to get ripped off, common sense doesn’t prevail.
I ended up buying three very small pieces of Tikka for 80 bucks — I asked the guy twice if this is what they gave for the price and he assured me both times that I was getting my money’s worth.
Debacle #3 – Chola Bhatura (Cost = Rs. 50 | Cash Remaining = Rs. 130)
Having been ripped off twice so far at the Masala Kart food festival, we lapped up this Chola Bhatura even though the taste was not all that great.
IMHO, Adyar Anandha Bhavan has better tasting Bhatura than what was being served over here. But, for 50 bucks, it was better than everything else that was being sold.
The Saving Grace – Mysore Bajji (Cost = Rs. 30X2 | Cash Remaining = Rs. 70)
Having almost given up on this food festival, we walked to the Andhra section where there was a relatively small line trying to buy Mysore Bajji.
Since there was nothing much to lose and another 130 bucks to blow, we decided to give it a shot.
We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the bajji as well as the chutney (though they ran out of kara chutney for the second plate)
This was probably the only saving grace of the entire day.
Debacle #4 – Paav Bhaji (Cost = Rs. 50 | Cash Remaining = 0)
Having spent another 20 bucks on over-priced Kinley 500 ml water, the Pav Bhaji stand intrigued us, partly because we were flabbergasted about how Pav Bhaji got included in the Masala Kart Street Food Festival, while there was no Vada Pav, and secondly because we only had 50 to spend and still had our tummies to fill.
What we got for the fifty we spent was this:
I went through the same conversation I had with the Paneer Tikka vendor with this guy asking him thrice if this is what they provided for 50 bucks, and arguing about why there was only one Pav.
It was beyond comprehension why we were getting so little food for so much cost.
When we finally started eating the Bhaji, it tasted so much like Lemon Achar that we decided not to have anymore.
It’s time to go home and we’re still hungry
Having spent all the money we had bought coupons for, we were ready to go home, still hungry.
We had been the victim of “sondha kaasulaye soonyam vechukaradhu”.
At 9:00 PM, hunger was finally satisfied with Muttai Dosai at a real street food Kaiyendhi Bhavan near the Adyar Bus Stand.
The Masala Kart Street Food Festival could become the perfect candidate for a Big FM episode of “RJ-Balajiyum 100 Rubaiyum”.