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If we are entirely honest, it is easy to acknowledge that there are very few snacks that are as ubiquitously beloved on a Pan Indian scale as Maggi instant noodles. You will find it pretty much everywhere – from a tiny tapri in the Himalayas to a bustling market in the national capital, a crowded thela in Mumbai or a highway eatery tucked away in vast road expanses. A quick fix for lazy students, busy professionals, tired parents or even inspired chefs, its popularity has been approached by several other noodle brands in the markets today (Top Ramen, Yippee!, Koka, Ching’s Secret, and their many flavours, for instance) – but for many, there is something a little irreplaceable about the childhood memories associated with those sunshine yellow, slurp some, umami and masala-packed noodles.
This brings us to the perfect season to indulge in this snack – the monsoon. Especially when a bunch of Pune eateries have managed to reinvent the brand’s simple noodle soup/stir-fry avatar into a veritable host of mouth-watering options, right from loading it with unusual toppings to using it as one.
Good Foods, for example, a modest outlet in a busy student-majority area, serves almost only Maggi – much to the delight of hundreds of ‘broke’ kids that frequent it for a sumptuous and value-for-money meal. Here, you will find that the cheese butter masala Maggi does not scrimp on the tsunami of fat you have to wade through to get to the noodles, while the well-steeped chicken schezwan Maggi is easily comparable to a meal in an upscale Chinese restaurant (okay, maybe not, but I really like it!). Both mingle with the likes of butter-curry, atta ‘magic’, cheese-manchurian and tons of more flavours.
The similarly unassuming Cheezy Bites pulls it out of the hat by serving Maggi in an innovative mint-mayonnaise gravy, besides its paneer masala and jeera chicken renditions. For those who cannot do without cracking an egg into their soupy-stew-snack, this joint serves both boiled egg and scrambled egg versions of Maggi, full of yolky goodness.
The Beer Café has a smaller dedicated section on its menu, and ensures some interesting texture to the gooey, melting mass that some of us prefer our Maggi to be – the crispy vegetable variant brings crumb fried veggies into the picture, instead of those plain old boiled veggies our mums would try and slip in to make the treat healthier; the chicken tikka option is chock-a-block with succulent chunks of well-marinated chicken with that familiar buttery-spicy flavour we love; and, the tandoor sausage whirls peppery, chilli chicken sausages into the mix.
Double Roti, on similar lines, plays innovative with toppings. The ‘Himalayan’ version imbues Maggi with a delicious combination of onion, green chillies, coriander and lettuce, while the ‘Corny’ gives it a crown of corn, black olives, jalapeños and a dollop of sour cream (it really does makes everything better). Meat lovers will enjoy the ‘Hoggers’, crammed with bacon, chicken sausage chunks, lots of sweet caramelised onions and cheese. Try them all with a giant jar of the Oreo cookie shake here.
If you would rather not just eat your noodles like a stew, Roll House serves up Maggi on toast, as well as a nice egg omelette version of the same, for a boost of nutrition. And, speaking of carb-laden bases, Dosa Delicious has a truly tear-inducing creation of a Maggi cheese dosa, which has the crisp South Indian creation gently enveloping a masaledaar inner stuffing of the noodles with oodles of cheese.
Now, if only someone could put this snack in a burger or on a pizza! Any takers, Pune?
Shweta has been writing about food for a few years now and has dabbled in TV, print and online journalism for over almost a decade. She has written on and edited for topics ranging from the environment, culture and lifestyle to politics, business and, of course, food. She has written for publications under the Times Group, Fox Life India and NDTV. When she's not devouring a good book or spending vast swathes of time on the Interweb, she loves to set off on all manner of culinary explorations.