Anyone who has been to India knows that the country is a burst (shock) to all your senses. You are hit by a lot of colors, sounds and noises, fragrances and smells as soon as you set your foot here in this country. When it comes to street foods in India, things are the same – a burst to your senses!
There are flavors ranging from sweet and spicy to hot and bitter. Anything you pick up will bring a tsunami of flavors in your mouth for sure.
India is also a paradise for vegans. Indians know very well how to cook their veggies in thousands of different ways.
When it comes to street foods in India, there is only one word I will say – “Explore.”
In India, every state has a different language, culture, folklore, clothing, traditions – and also different food. While it would be difficult to itemize all of them in a single post, I have put together a list of the top street foods in India and where, or in which state, you can find them.
Is Street Food in India Safe?
Before we start the topic of street foods in India, this is the question which most of us ask or have. The food is delicious, no doubt, but is it safe? People from India eat this food daily and they don’t die or even fall ill. Why? Because they know the tricks of finding a good street food vendor.
They are as follows:
- Firstly, you must find the most famous and busy street food joint. That way you will get fresh food, guaranteed.
- Secondly, if it is made in front of you it is safe, and you can judge it for yourselves.
- Thirdly, just like any other place in the world, follow the locals. Indians are inherently foodies. If you ask someone “where do you eat?” they will most likely take you to the best food joint that they visit frequently.
Do not worry about having Delhi belly. And even if it does happen, you will be all right. After all, climbing Mount Everest is not safe but some people still do it for the thrill!
Now without further delay, let me present to you some amazing street food from my country – India.
Street Foods in India
Momos are cute South Asian dumplings, which originated from the Tibetan plateau, but now are the king of street food in Delhi, India.
The outer cover of the dumpling is made of simple white flour and water. It is stuffed with anything ranging from various types of meat to veggies like – cabbage, soy granules, potato or beans. It is served with a lip-smacking dip called chutney, which can be made of mint or tamarind or tomato. The beauty of Momos lies in the way they are sealed after being stuffed. And then they are steamed or fried as per your preference.
Matar Kulcha: Delhi
The kulchas are flatbreads that originated in India. The dough is made from refined flour or all-purpose flour, some salt and water. They are left in an earthen clay oven to cook. These are served with amazing Matar Sabzi (peas), which is full of north Indian flavors.
Vada Pav: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Vada pav is a snack from Mumbai. It is just another version of the burger but this was invented first. Vada is a round ball made of potato, which is seasoned with some spices. And pav is a type of bread in which vada is wrapped. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Half of Mumbai survives on this crazy snack!
Zunka Bhakar: Pune, Maharashtra
Zunka-Bhakar is a traditional food from Maharashtra. To eat authentic Zunka-Bhakar in Pune you have to climb to the nearby foodie’s heaven, Sinhagad Fort. There are various old local street foods atop the hill inside the old fort.
Zunka is the dip made from Chickpea flour and Bhakar is the bread made from gram flour and water.
What makes Zunka delicious is the way it is cooked slowly on an earthen stove. Its served with fresh curd/yogurt made in small earthen pots and some onion chutney on the side.
Apart from the traditional Zunka-Bhakar, you will find other local street food like – Kanda Bhajji (fried mix of onion, chickpea flour, and spices) and Palak Bhajji (fried mix of spinach, chickpea flour, and spices). Luscious Chicken gravy is also available here.
Misal Pav: Kolhapur, Maharashtra
Misal is a mix of sprouts made into spicy gravy. It is served with Pav bread. Misal is generally topped off with Farsan – a dry snack and some chopped onions.
Kolhapur in Maharashtra is well known for its most spicy Misal Pav. This street food item can also be found in well-known cities like Mumbai and Delhi.
Dabeli: Kutch, Gujarat
Dabeli, also known as Kacchi Dabeli, is a street food snack that originated in the area of Kutch in Gujarat. It is essentially bread inside which is wrapped a mixture of boiled potatoes, Dabeli masala or some spices, tamarind chutney, pomegranate seeds, and spicy peanuts. To top it off it is sprinkled with some dry Sev on top.
Kachori: Bikaner, Rajasthan
Kachori (or katchudi) is a common Indian street food snack that can be found all over India. The outer crispy covering is made from gram flour. The insides are stuffed with a mixture of Moong Daal or Horse beans and some spices.
Its brother, samosa, is stuffed with boiled potatoes seasoned with spices. Another brother – the Kachori of Nasirabaad, Rajasthan – is also very famous. The kachora is essentially a kachori but is a larger one.
Chole Bhature: Punjab
This dish is a huge hit in the state of Punjab. Now its variants can be found all over India. Bhature (also called Puri) is a fried flatbread made from Maida – all-purpose flour. The Chole ki Sabzi is a dip made from chickpeas and delicious gravy. They are mostly eaten for breakfast and served with chutney or onions.
Kathi Rolls: Kolkata, Bengal
If you go towards eastern India, in Kolkata you will see that Kathi Rolls have a huge following. This is essentially a crispy rolled roti, stuffed with Kebab and some veggies and spices. Various versions of Kathi kebabs have evolved and are a must-try when you are in Kolkata. Although the dish originated in West Bengal, various versions can be found in many other places in North India.
Idli Sambar: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Idli is a steamed cake made of rice, typically found in southern India. This is served along with Sambar – a curry made of boiled gram seeds. They will give you some coconut and mint chutney on the side.
Idli Sambar also has a brother – the dosa. Dosa is also made from rice, where the rice batter is spread flat on a pan and cooked. Some joints in south India sell different flavored idlis and dosas.
Bhutta (roasted corn): India
Bhutta is roasted corn, sold by street vendors all over India. The whole maize/ corn is roasted on some fiery coals. Then lemon and salt are applied to the hot Bhutta and served. You have to bite off the roasted maize grains and leave out the center of the branch.
This tastes best in monsoon or after you got wet while playing in a waterfall.
You can call it Pani-puri in Maharashtra and Gujarat or Punchka in Bengal or Pani ke Patashe in Uttar Pradesh or Gup Chup in Odisha. One dish and the several names? Yes, India is a country with many languages.
Pani-puri consists of a crispy fried Puri which is stuffed with boiled chickpeas, tamarind sauce, onions, and sev.
In some places in Gujarat and Maharashtra, Pani-puri is served in 7-10 different flavors.
The trick to eating Pani-puri is to stuff the whole Puri in your mouth before the water runs off it! Once you have mastered the art, you are going to enjoy this street snack immensely. You should not leave the country without trying this street snack.
More of Asia’s Best Culinary Countries
So these are the top street foods in India which are loved the most by us locals. Most of them are widely found all over India.
I have not included some region-specific street foods like Litti Chokha from Bihar or Thukpa soup from the North East, or Jalebi-Poha of Madhya Pradesh or Pav Bhajji in the above list. There are also endless cold and hot beverages in this tropical country like Lassi (Sweet Buttermilk), Tak (salted buttermilk), Chai (Indian Tea) and Coffee.
Honestly speaking, the list of Indian street foods is endless, and I could go on and on. And if you wish to taste all these street foods in one place, then you must attend an Indian wedding!
About the Author
Shraddha Maheshwari is a travel blogger from India who frequently writes about her experiences on her blog Shepherd Traveller. Apart from paragliding, bird watching and climbing the mountains, she also likes tasting unique cuisines around India and the world. You can connect with her on Instagram @shepherdtraveller.
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