Hollow (potato) Man

Updated: Feb 02, 2020, 09:43 IST | P Vatsalya | Mumbai

A chaat vendor in Sion has been hawking a novel potato snack for 30 years and his popularity is far from waning

A native of Uttar Pradesh, Laxmikant Mishra, 50, has been hawking aloo handi at a stall near SIES College for 30 years. His modest stall is strategically located on a footpath next to a busy road adjoining Sion Circle. Hungry students gather here to gobble little potato "caps" spiced with onion and masala.

He inherited the business from his uncle, who ran the stall for 60 years before him. "He used to sell chana chaat. He was having an easy day once, and he absentmindedly scooped out the innards of a potato. A customer, who happened to visit his stall, asked him to fill it with chana. He played along and the customer loved the new creation. That's how the aloo handi was born," recounts Mishra, who hopes to pass on the business to his son Shubham. His older son is already an apprentice, dutifully peeling boiled potatoes as the father whips up a plate of the signature dish for this writer.

Laxmikant Mishra's son assists him in setting up the stall every day from noon to 10.30 pm at Sion Circle. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Laxmikant Mishra's son assists him in setting up the stall every day from noon to 10.30 pm at Sion Circle. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

Come rain or shine, Mishra sets up shop here every day at 12 noon and winds up by 10.30 pm.

The commute to GTB Nagar is carried out with 20 kilos of potatoes. The humble vegetable snack has sustained his family of five, including two young children who are being schooled and he hopes will find white-collar jobs. We ask how long he sees himself do this. "As long as my body permits I will work. I have never thought of selling something else. As long as customers relish my dish, why should I? Some copycats have tried to recreate what I make, but they haven't managed my unique taste," Mishra says with a hint of pride.

What is aloo handi?

Each plate consists of four halves of a boiled potato (R20). Mishra scoops out the flesh, creating a hollow potato shell. He sprinkles it with salt and pepper, adds a drizzle of spicy tamarind water and finely chopped onions. A bit of boiled chana goes in next. Pop the handi whole, much like you would a pani puri. "All the ingredients are homemade," says Mishra.

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