The food industry has changed rapidly over the last few months in Gurgaon. Sector 29 which has become a haven for pub-like restaurants – amongst others – has a new restaurant opening almost every month especially in the ground floors of what till only last year were hotel lobbies. Parking – which thanks for the government still remains free – is chock-a-block full during weekday lunch hours and on almost all evenings. A similar boost has also been seen in the food-truck industry with trucking becoming the new trend that has been taken up by a number of enthusiasts as a viable business and in return has been accepted by the residents of Gurgaon with open arms.
A recent article in Times of India talked about how MCG (Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon) is working on regularizing the trucks. This is a great move on part of the government which will hopefully give the trucks a designated space to park – away from their present location which as I’ve stated many times before is dangerous and one step away from a serious accident – and also bring them under food laws. This in all likelihood will weed out trucks that have started primarily and only as businesses and are less enthusiastic about food.
Another aspect of food-trucking that needs to pick up is diversity. Go to any food-truck and you are likely to find similar concoction with different ingredients; wraps, burgers, Mexican, hot dogs, pasta – everyone is doing the same food items and what should be the primary focus of a food-truck – individuality – is as a result lost. That is not to say things are not changing as Sushi House Mafia has brought those tiny Japanese rolls of heaven to the market and upped the game tremendously and in the process shown that being different isn’t all that bad. In addition I noticed a truck that serves only salad or Frugurpop – one of my favourites – with their gourmet popsicles, which again aim at a niche market but simultaneously are different from the remaining crowd.
That brings us to Food Stopper. There is high probability that you’ll make a stop or at least slow down your car as your approach one of the newer food-trucks in G-town and that is primarily because of its in-your-face brightness. Be it the yellow truck colour, all the glittering of the neon sign boards and lights, or the cooking smoke and fire clearly emerging from all ends of it, Traffic Stopper is unmistakenly noticeable to say the least.
While they stock the usual suspects – Burgers, Pizza, Grilled Salad, Hot Dogs, Footlongs – the thing that caught my eye were the Paranthas they had going. I am yet to see this age old roadside classic at any other food-truck – please excuse my lack of information if incorrect as I am slowly trying to get through all the trucks which are mushrooming much faster than the time it takes me to digest food.
Accompanied by my brother-in-law, we sat down after ordering three Paranthas (Paneer, Mattar, and Plain with Veg Kebabs) on the small tables and chairs they had placed on the footpath – how quaint and Dhabba like. We then proceeded to wait with high expectations in the hope that the food would replicate the charm of the famous road-side establishments found along all the major highways of this country.
On arrival of the Mattar (Pea) Parantha (with a chilli sauce and somewhat runny coriander chutney) we knew we had ordered too much. The size of the Parantha was huge, but it came laden with a big dollop of butter on top – the way it should be – and at first glance looked inviting. Sadly though, the Parantha lacked the fluffiness, softness, and flakiness that makes the ordinary everyday bread into a heavenly one. It was doughy, thick, unevenly cooked, and chewy. While the flavours were all there and there was good quantity of filling in it, the “hardness” of the dough made it average at best.
Eating the Paneer Parantha – after having asked to pack our third Parantha for consumption later – was like playing reverse Russian roulette. For every five “empty” bites of the Parantha I would get one with substantial amount of paneer in it and that one would finally relieve me of the hullabaloo my taste buds were causing inside my mouth. It’s not the price of the food that bothered me as I sat there tearing up the bread to find any signs of the cottage cheese. The Paranthas are reasonably priced. It’s the quantity of the ingredients, or the lack thereof, that I found troubling. Or maybe that’s why the costs are low. Surprisingly, the Parantha in itself was lovely and lighter than the one we had had minutes earlier. Furthermore, there was a very slight sweetness to it which I presume was the residue of the Barfi Parantha that is a specialty at Traffic Stopper. In taste, the few bites where the paneer did find a way into the Parantha – and my mouth subsequently – it was actually very good.
While both the Paranthas had good flavours they lacked the finesse or the simplicity that makes a good Parantha. One needed to be fluffier and softer in order to accentuate the filling while the other needed more – a lot more – filling.
It’s time like these that I keep going back to the Parathas I had at Chabbra Resturant earlier this year. Agreed, they were tandoori – which adds to the taste immensely – but they have over-time become a benchmark of sorts for me and so far have been hard to beat.
The Veg Kebab Parantha, consumed a day later, turned out to be the best of the three. It had to be re-heated but still was relatively soft. The winner though were the vegetarian kebabs which were tender, melt-in-your-mouth good (again, this is a day later) and spiced beautifully.
Here’s the thing, I think all said and done Traffic Stopper has a good thing going with the Paranthas they are serving. What they need to do is make the size a tad smaller, get the texture right, use the fillings generously and they will surely have a winner on hand. For now, I’d only recommend them if you want to try something different than what is being served at the other food-trucks.
One last thing, if any of you is planning to start a food-truck, there seems to be a need for one that serves the quintessential Indian fast foods like Channa Bhatura/Kulcha, Cheelas, and the likes. And, a food-truck that makes only unique sandwiches would also be much appreciated. Just an idea, for all the future restaurateurs, to get those cogs in your brains to start working.