Releasing this week is the eagerly awaited and much awarded film, Masaan, set in the city of Banaras or Varanasi as it is now known. Varun Grover (writer, stand up comic, lyricist on various films, and one of the main screenplay writers of Masaan) knows the city of Banaras in a way only those who’ve spent years exploring the city’s by-lanes can possibly know.
Varun studied Civil Engineering at IIT-BHU from 1999 to 2003 and explored the street food of Banaras with many friends from the city and even after moving to Mumbai, he kept traveling back to Banaras every couple of years, adding new discoveries to the fantastic food spots on the list he began working on in college. In 2012, he and Neeraj Ghaywan (Director of Masaan) spent a month in the city researching for the film, and then in 2014 another two months while shooting it. During these trips, Banaras revealed more new secrets for them to relish, and share with the world.
Here’s Varun Grover’s Masaan Food Trail of Banaras, covering food that we can’t wait to try ourselves one day.
The Banaras Food Trail by Varun Grover
Best for a morning breakfast of Kachori-Sabzi and crispy Jalebi. After Budhiya’s death a couple of years ago, his sons carry the legacy forward and the quality remains unchanged.
2. Malaiyyo, at Chowk (Above. Photo By Varun Grover)
This froth of whipped milk is definitely the most divine of Banarasi sweets. It’s available only in winters, that too till around 9 am as the froth melts as the sun warms the city. Malaiyyo-making process is almost an urban legend so do find out about it when you get to taste it.
3. Unnamed Rabri and Malaai Puri shop, Thatheri gali (Above)
This shop, right next to the entrance of Gopal Mandir, serves the freshest rabri, malaai puri, and other milk based sweets. Super-popular among the locals and rather non-touristy.
4. Apple Pie at Pizzeria Vatika Café, Assi Ghaat (Above. Photo by Rishav Agrawal)
Very famous for its wood-fired pizzas, though I think the spaghetti (named after Huma Qureshi!) is world class here. Apple Pie at Pizzeria is the stuff legends are made of. Absolutely not to be missed!
5. Baans ka Murabba and Achaar, Any murabba-achaar shop in Chowk Area (Above)
A specialty of Banaras, Baans (Bamboo) ka murabba has a slight kasailapan (acidic taste) which is kind of acquired, but if you dig exploring new flavours, this is a must try.
6. Kshir Sagar, Sigra and Kamachha (Above)
The sweet shop Banaras swears by, especially for its Rasgulla and Raj Bhog, and on winter evenings the pakoras. Always a good bet for packing some boxes as delicious souvenirs when leaving Banaras.
7. Rajaram Lassi, Thatheri gali (Above)
Thatheri gali is a treasure of sorts actually, and very few tourists venture inside this gali. Rajaram Lassi, near the end of the gali, is the best you’ll get in the city. (Just a bit out of city is Ramnagar ki Lassi which is a must try too.) Go early because they definitely run out by 6 in the evening.
8. Gulaabjaamuns at Nadesar, Opposite BSNL office (Above)
Yet another unnamed shop in this list, this outlet is in the row of food shops right opposite the BSNL office, and serves hot, fluffy, huge gulaab jaamuns with or without fresh cream. And the amazing Banarasi quirk is – they put chaat-masala over the fresh cream served with ‘jaamun’ (that’s how Banarasis call it.)
9. Pappu Tea Stall, Assi Ghaat (Above)
The Banarasi equivalent of India Coffee House, Pappu’s tea shop has served generations of intellectuals, writers, journalists, and locals with the best masala tea and coffee.