Udaipur is known as a place of dreams, at least if you are a bride from a rich Indian family. The city of lakes, located in India’s northwestern state of Rajasthan, consistently ranks as a top wedding destination. Life within the city’s seven-star palatial hotels seems a world away from the chaos that most expect of India. Tranquil, extravagant, and picturesque, some refer to it as the “Venice of the East.”
But the city stretches beyond its tranquil lakes and 1,000-dollar-a-night hotels. And despite what the locals believe, it is much like other Indian cities, displaying the flaws of India’s rapid urbanization. The city center is a cacophonous mess; every driver seems to have a death wish and every inch of available space is taken up by shops.
It is in this part of the city that I stumbled upon a spot whose culinary creations stood out even in a country known for its rich food culture. It was not an upscale restaurant, nor was it run by a celebrated chef. This was a humble food stall tucked in a corner of a nondescript street. And the man behind this greasy laboratory was Jay Kumar Valecha.
The Egg World and its imitators, Egg Point and Mayur Egg Junction. Photo by: Mohit Pradhan.
Valecha has been whipping up egg dishes for close to 25 years, all from the same stall, aptly called The Egg World. About a year after I first met him, I braved a 16-hour train ride from my home in Mumbai back to the city, to try The Egg World’s delights and to try to understand Valecha’s unlikely egg-based success.
I was only one of the hundreds of people who queued up for the famous boiled egg bhurji on the eve of India’s 70th Independence Day. Others waited for the thick and spicy tandoori omelette. Those are just two of the 20-odd egg dishes served at The Egg World, each of which Valecha names himself: egg bunch, egg nice, fantoo omelette, gravy omelette, egg chopsuey, egg patty. Each one is pan-fried either in oil or butter, often smeared with mayonnaise, and served with a generous helping of grated cheese. Health food, it is not.