King of Chaat

Near KD Singh ‘Babu’ Metro Station

Originally set up in 1941 by Hari Narayan Tandon, this outlet is famous for aloo chaat, matar, spinach (pataura), brinjal pakoras and of course, paani ke bataashe. It is currently run by Hari Narayan Tandon’s grandson, 56-year-old Arjun Tandon. According to him, his grandfather was a freedom fighter, and set up a cart selling chaat as part of his ‘cover.’ After independence, the first Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Sarojini Naidu helped him get permission to operate his cart near the zoo. She herself used to call him ‘the king of chaat’ and he used the name for his outlet. In later days, Arjun Tandon’s father took the cart to the main street of Hazratganj. He would ring a bell to attract customers. The little brass bell is still kept in the outlet. From 1980 onwards, the location shifted to the stadium. Arjun was 16 then. Today his son Rahul also helps out. Arjun feels that tastes have changed with the times. The emphasis today is on the size of the portion, and the diversity of spices and condiments is not appreciated. “There was a time when cutlery was not used for chaat. People would use their fingers, and would end up licking the fingers to savor the snacks. This act of licking gave its name to the food. There is no point to chaat until it is finger-licking good. We still use a grindstone to prepare spices for our chaat as my grandfather used to. We prepare enough for 15 days or so. Preparations for other dishes starts in the night itself. This spinach, it’s the oldest among chaat dishes. You won’t find such taste anywhere else. Earlier, there was demand for eggplant fitters, kachaalu, whole horse gram and many other things that have now vanished. Today, they eat what they enjoy—such as south Indian snacks, Chinese food, Mughlai—cuisine from all over the world. But chaat holds its place, especially among foodies. Lucknow is a city of gourmets, and we maintain the same standards as in my grandfather’s time. Customers have never had, and never will have, any cause of complaint about our quality. People come from Lucknow and outside to eat here or take away our packaged chaat. It is their love that has made us famous—we have always earned more goodwill than money.” 

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