Chattisgarh Chronicles IV – Tokapol Haat and Lal Chinti ki Chutney!

We were hungry as we left Tiratgarh. Chetan suggested that we go to Makri dhabha on the way to Tokapal haat which was our next stop. We were not sure how the food in dhabha would be as we had not seen many in Chattisgarh. Wherever we go, we try and eat local cuisine. Unfortunately, we were not able to get much in Chattisgarh. The dhabha served us typical Punjabi dish. Surprisingly, the food was very good. The best part of lunch was the Kheer.
Weekly haats or Weekly market in Chattisgarh is a scene not to be missed. Every village has a weekly haat. These are something similar to weekly markets we have in our villages. The haats in Bastar generally starts by afternoon and end by sun set. These haats are held on one of the days in the week. The weekly haat in Narayanpur is supposed to be largest and most colourful. Since it is held on Mondays, we had missed it and had to settle for haat at Tokapal which is held on Tuesdays.
These haats are the nerve centre of Chhattisgarh’s economy. This is also the place for social networking among the tribals. As we moved towards Tokapal, we could see tribals walking over long distances  on bare foot to the haat with their produce.
What makes Bastar’s weekly haats a “not to be missed” event on any tourist itenarary is the amazing vibrancy and energy it has. It is also a place to buy mindboggling variety of items. Everything is sold and bought here. From home made jiggery (gur) to dried fish to dried mahua flowers and fighter cocks! If lucky, you can taste local cuisine as well. We had Bajjis and samosas and washed it with Salfi, the freshly brewed palm beer. Salfi is light beer and taste little tangy and good. We were looking for liquor made of mahua but could not get any. Women in colourful dresses dominate these haats and obviously make the place very colourful.
Mounds of Home Made Jaggery
Women in all hues and colours
As we were moving around, we stop at a stall selling a familiar looking sweet. It looked like what we call it as “Haalu bai” in Kannada and is made of Coconut, Rice and Jaggery (Halu in Kannada means Milk and Bayi means sweet). We were surprised to see it being sold in the market in Bastar! It almost tasted like ours. I could not get the recipe from the lady selling as she could not speak Hindi!
Jaggery and Rice sweet similar to our “Haalu Bayi”
Moving on, we saw mounds of dried Mahua flowers being sold. I asked Chetan, our guide as what do they do with it. I get a surprise answer from him “Liquor”. Yes. The tribals brew liquor out of these dried Mahua flowers. Mahua trees grow in abundance in the region and they produce mildly scented mahua flowers which tribal women adorn their hair with.
Dried Mahua flowers
We continue our exploration of Haat soaking in its vibrant colours and energy. We stop suddenly to see this woman selling live red ants! Is it “lal chinti ki chutney” (Red ants chutney), I ask Chetan. He nods in affirmative. We could not believe our eyes. These were live red ants peppered with Masala!! Like Russian caviar and French blue cheese, this has to be an acquired taste. Either you like it or despise it. We did not dare to experiment being veggies. But for non vegetarians it should be an experience of life time! We had read about lal chinti ki chutney and we were seeing it live now!
Live ants marinated in Masala – Lal Chinti ki Chutney!!
We come out of the Haat and see a group of people negotiating the price of a chicken. I ask Chetan what was this all about. Chetan say that these are fightingcocks and prized ones! Cockfighting is a big game in Chattisgarh and huge bets are laid during these fights. It is also a prestige issue for owners. Fierce competition ensues in these cockfighting sessions. We could not see any in Tokapal haat and Chetan said it was being held at a place which was ten KMs away.
Negotiating to buy a fightingcock!
It was getting late to go to Chitrakote falls. We had to drop the idea of seeing the cockfight.
Next post in the series – Chitrakote falls, the Niagara of Asia!
If you are planning a trip to Chattisgarh, you may follow this series. The last post in the series can be found here –
Chattisgarh Chronicles III – Caving in Kutumsar and Tiratgarh falls
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