Sometimes, a Botched Meal Makes an Even Better Meal
Locho in Surat
“Surat nu jaman, Kashi nu maran” (eat in Surat and die in Kashi and you’ll attain nirvana). This adage inspired me to get an early morning train from Mumbai to Surat. The love for food is apparent in the city; the weekends are planned according to what to eat and where, I am told by a local auto rickshaw guy. And even though I am in the city in the middle of a busy week, my plan is to eat.
My train halts at Surat station at around 9 a.m. I get off and start walking, not towards my hotel but to Gopal Locho Khaman House in Macharpura Kharadi Sheri, a 15-20 minute walk from the station. Dhokla (steamed cake made with rice batter) is a staple breakfast in this part of Gujarat, and the shop here makes a version of it called khaman, made with Bengal gram that’s soaked for a few hours, ground into a paste, and fermented. Khaman is softer and fluffier than dhokla, and light yellow, served with a multitude of garnishes including butter, cheese, and sev.
But I’m not here for the khaman; I’m here for the locho. Locho in Gujarati means ‘botched up’ and that’s what the dish is; a botched version of khaman. The story goes that it was created when a batch of khaman wasn’t steamed properly, so instead of rising the dish went flat—creating locho, which is denser and has a more concentrated flavor. Locho eventually became a regular feature on Surat menus.
At Gopal Locho Khaman House, locho is served tossed in butter and topped with cheese. During winters it’s topped with green garlic (our favorite.) The mild flavor of the tender garlic uplifts the buttery, cheesy locho. For the more experimental eaters, there’s locho hot dog, locho burger, locho pizza, locho open sandwich and locho grilled sandwich too.
I polish off a plate each of sev khaman and green garlic locho, served with a side of green chutney and sliced onions. Satiated until lunch, as I walk back to my hotel, I feel like I have attained the kind of food nirvana only found in simple local flavors.