On-the-go breakfast, an in-between meal snack, a meal in itself, a Sunday morning ritual, an emotion for enthusiasts or just pure satisfaction – that’s Misal for Punekars!
It literally means ‘a mixture’, likely originating from ‘usal‘, topped with farsan, shev, onions, served alongside bread (could be a white loaf/ ladi pav, even puris or bhakaris back in the days!)
Jayesh Paranjape, founder of The Western Routes – a Pune-based travel company which curates itineraries across India themed around food, culture, history, nature and wildlife – conducts food trails in Pune, introducing travellers to the local cuisine, street food and culinary history of the city through it. When asked about the origin of Misal he says, “Not much is written as such about the origins per se. Probably because it is not a traditional dish made in homes for festivals etc. It originated as the labourer’s food, which needed to be filling, nutritious and perfect for a mid-day snack. So, it’s an assembly of ingredients which are preferred and available locally. Originally, Misal was not eaten with bread. People used to eat it on its own with a dollop of Dahi, some would carry their own Bhakris to accompany the Misal. Bakeries then were owned by the British, Muslim or Parsi communities so the local crowd viewed bread skeptically. But later, in the 1940s-50s, things changed and the bread came along as the accompaniment to Misal“
Local eateries in Pune have been serving this dish for decades now, some even a century old – enthusiasts swear by these joints over the ones opening up in recent years on every nook and corner of the city!
Each legendary place serves its own style and thus, creating its own distinct identity. Be it Vaidy Upahar Gruhas ‘green’ sample, use of bottle gourd and pumpkin instead of sprouts, like the one by Bedekar, use of Pohe, like by Shrikrishna Bhuvan. Then there’s the Kolhapuri version by Ramnath and the one with white peas by Vateshwar, and of course, the spiciest in city by Newale!
Over the years, Puneri Misal has found its recognition – not overly spicy and well-balanced. “The Puneri Misal has ingredients which are consumed and loved by everyone. So Pohe, Batatyachi Bhaaji, Pohyacha Chivda and Shev or maybe Farsan. The sample may or may not have Sprouts or Matki. The older establishments don’t have Matki in the katt. The sample is also fairly mild compared to other cities. The community here is not big on spice, so it’s developed that way. Like each city has its own Misal tradition, Pune does too and it’s extremely delicious”, add Jayesh.
From classic places to some who have earned their following in Pune and its outskirts over the years like Bhairavnath (Wagholi), Rajusheth (Vishrantwadi) , Rupesh (Shirgaon) are here to stay for sure. But many restaurants picking up Misal and modifying it into a fine-dining dish has definitely become a trend since the last 2-3 years- Misal Lasagna, Misal Fondue, Misal Bunny Chow, we have it all. The ‘Farali Misal‘ is another variation comprising Khichdi, shengdana Amti topped with Potato chivda! If these innovative ideas weren’t enough, there’s also BBQ Misal, Matka Misal and a Misal Ice Cream available in the city!
Classic vs. newer places, Bread vs. Pav, this place or that, sprouts vs. no sprouts, mildly spiced vs. extra spicy, the debates are endless. Favourites won’t change and enthusiasts won’t budge, but no street food story of Pune will be complete without Misal. It may not be included amongst traditional dishes, but Misal is definitely a Puneri tradition and it’s here to stay.
Feature image clicked at Shivneri Misal by @veggie_pune