By Bikram Keshari Jena
While searching for breakfast options at an eatery-uninhabited industrial estate in Bhubaneswar, I stumbled upon a thing which has briskly and surely made its way on to our breakfast plate.
The ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’(Fried lentil cakes soaked in yogurt accompanied with potato curry) has become a phenomenon that seems to have become omnipresent throughout the day. It’s true that ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ has been present ever since, but to find it at 8 AM in the morning speaks volumes about its ingress as a staple into our diet.
For me a few years back, ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ was not a commonplace staple. I use to have it when I was on an outing with my family. It reserved the status of a special snack which was available at special places and during a particular time of the day. In fact, the ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ was more of a snack to be relished on an occasion which essentially was an aberration to the mundane daily life. The whole institution of ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ has changed leaps and bounds. Earlier the vendors used to roam around in bicycles shouting ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum;’ and on days, one has to be really lucky to come across one. Nowadays, such has been the prevalence and demand for ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ that it is almost found in every nook and corner of the city. Moreover, there are permanent stalls which are open all throughout the day.
Another major change that is easily visible is the way the dish is served. Earlier it was used to be served on a meticulously folded green leaf in a bowl-shaped manner. Often it was difficult to hold the whole thing properly from preventing the ‘Dahi’ and the curry leaking out from the leaf through your fingers. Nevertheless, it was the fun which accompanied the whole process of relishing ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’. The way to eat it was with a stick akin with the size of a matchstick albeit more thin and sharp so it pierces into the ‘vada’ and the chunky potatoes. It really required a great degree of precision and practice to be able to skewer a piece of ‘vada’ and a piece of potato on to that stick and it required even a more concentrated effort to lift it together to one’s mouth. But again all these things made the whole process so look like an event. Things have changed a lot since. Now ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ is served up in mass produced use-and-throw bowls. The stick which was used as a spoon is now replaced with an actual spoon. These are the changes which have been induced by the widespread consumption of ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ right throughout the day and at an unprecedented scale. Such huge demand for the dish has necessitated the changes which had to cater to the requirements of the ever growing demand.
Delving into the unprecedented popularity of ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ which has made it a ubiquitous street-side staple reveal the economics which have been driving this trend. While talking to a plethora of vendors one would realize that affordability, accessibility and utility are the underpinnings which have been fuelling this trend.
There are some who would argue that ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ is a healthier alternative to the quintessential Odia breakfast which is dominated by fried food. But that is something which is better left to the health experts and dieticians to throw some light on. What is more visible is the fact that it is easy on the pocket and is available easily. According to one vendor, at Rs 20 per serving (subject to change in future depending on many factors), ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ packs more punch for one’s buck than anything else that’s available on the streets. This is the reason why it has become the most sought-after food and seen such an explosion in demand. Such a rise in demand has essentially brought more supply in the market which has made it more accessible than ever before.
As another vendor points out, ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ is easy to find and with a standardized menu and price, it has never been easier on the part of the consumer to buy themselves a plate of ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum.’
Whatever be the reasons, it is obvious that there are many; ‘Dahi Vada –Aloo Dum’ represents the economics which favors the consumers. As consumers, we now have more options.