Anyone who knows me will know that I am a little bit obsessed with Indian street food. Even in England I seek it out, from Dabbawal in Newcastle to Tuk Tuk in Edinburgh. So I thought I’d compile a list of my favourites and share it, to give you a guide when confronted with the proliferation of options that any busy Indian street will provide.
Despite its reputation as being something you should steer clear of if you want to maintain control over your bowels, Indian street food has got to be some of the best in the world. There’s such a variety that you will certainly be able to find one that you love. Or you might, like me, hardly be able to pick between them.
Some, like poha, are great for a light snack (or a swift breakfast, if you’re on the go), while others you can pass off as a whole meal. Street food in India is an essential part of the culture, so don’t miss out by avoiding it. That being said, err on the side of caution and know your own limits. Eat where the locals eat, only go for stuff that’s freshly cooked in front of you, and if you’ve got a bad feeling about it, then you should probably pay attention to your instinct.
Read on for (a small sample of) some of my favourites.
This light snack is a good way to ease your tastebuds into Indian street food. Poha is a kind of flattened rice, and can be eaten hot or cold (mostly depending on how early you get to the stall!). It is made up with turmeric and the usual blend of cumin and coriander, and topped with sev (similar to the noodles from Bombay mix), red onion and chopped tomato. It’s a great way to kick off a morning, with a squeeze of fresh lime on top.
2 Aloo Tikki Chaat
‘Tikkis’ are a little bit like burger patties. They are made from chickpeas and a blend of spices, then fried on a hotplate. They make a delicious combination when smashed up with potato (aloo), spring onion, red onion, tomato, and creamy sauces. This is an easy one to take away in a cardboard plate: good if you’re a bit pushed for time. The Guardian recently published a recipe on how to make Aloo Tikki, so if you fancy having a go try that out here.
3 Pav (Pao) Bhaji
Pao bhaji is one of the most delicious street foods available. You would never think that your bog-standard bread roll could taste so good. Usually served on school-dinner style trays, you get a wet vegetable curry with accompanying red onion and coriander as a garnish, and use the bread rolls to mop it all up. This is an absolute steal at only around 40 rupees (about 40p!) for a plate!
This needs no explanation, but I promise you that once you have had a proper Indian samosa the Iceland party selection will never hold the same appeal again. Deep fried in ghee with thick, crunchy pastry, and stuffed with potato curry, there is no better comfort food around. If you get the chance to sit in and eat a couple of these, make sure to have a taste of the sweet hot sauce they usually have to go with them in street-side cafes – spicy but delicious.
5 Onion Kachori
If you’re a bit bored with samosas, these are a great alternative, and are usually sold alongside them in cafes. Filled with spicy onion and deep fried (of course), these are great if you just fancy a quick snack, and they are a relatively safe bet if you’re unsure about trying anything too ‘out there’ on your trip. You can also get lentil versions, but personally I prefer the onion ones. Top them off with the same sauce that you use on your samosas and you’ve got yourself a delicious mouthful. And they’re a bargain at only around 10 rupees each!
6 Chole Bhature
One of my personal favourites, this dish doesn’t only taste incredible, it looks impressive too. Chole bhature consists of chickpea (chole) curry served with a big, puffy type of bread. It’s usually accompanied by the ubiquitous red onion and chutney. Often served as a breakfast meal, I always preferr it as a (large) afternoon snack, or lunch.
7 Pani Puri
The mother of Indian street foods, and perhaps the dodgiest, panipuri is a mini taste explosion with every bite. They are made of hollow, flaky balls, stuffed with a pinch of spiced potato and onion and a dash of tamarind chutney, then filled with tangy flavoured water (the ‘pani’). Be very careful where (or if!) you try these. Stick to fancier restaurants, or if you must try it on the street, wait until Jaipur, which is renowned for the relative safety of its street food. Water is usually the source of the infamous Delhi belly!
So there you have a quick culinary tour of India’s finest street food institutions. There are so many great things to try, and if you’re sensible it will be one of the best parts of your trip. I still can’t get enough of it!
Where’s your favourite street food from? Share in the comment box below!