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Indian Street Foods
Street Foods in India
Street food occupies a major part of Indian culinary culture, and tracing their origins often reveals splices of history and culture of the city. Case in point is the pav bhaji of Mumbai, which was devised as a quick, nutritious go to meal for textile mill workers in the city. Or the kathi rolls in Kolkata which was invented so that British officers stationed in the city could eat the meat without touching them with their fingers. Most of the street food treats in India tend to be vegetarian and hits multiple pleasure centers – gooey, crunchy, sweet, spicy and crispy.
To ensure you don't end up with the infamous “Delhi Belly”, look for the crowds, however keep in mind that this may not be an accurate indicator as locals may be more tolerant to street-food, so even though a crowded stall is a good thing, use this as only a secondary consideration. Fried food is your friend, look for stalls that prepares the food right in front of you. Pay attention to the cook rather than the stall, most of the stalls will be battered and worn down but check the cook's clothes. It is fine for them to be splattered with food but should be otherwise relatively clean. Another thing to check out is the cook's fingernails, since most of them handle food with bare hands, you would want to eat from a vendor who has cleaned his hands and trimmed his nails.
Vada Pav, Mumbai
Head to the place that supposedly invented this quintessential Mumbai street food, Ashok Vada Pav. They sell piping hot Vada Pav with cilantro chutney and added crumbs. Other places where you can enjoy good vada pavs include Anand Vada Pav near Mithabai College and Aram Milk Bar near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Vada Pav Images
Masala Dosa, Bangalore
There are handful of eateries in Bangalore which has held onto its charm from the city's sleepy little town days. One such spot is Vidhyarthi Bhavan which serves the crispiest dosa in town and whose ingredients are kept top secret. Once the mayor of London visited the restaurant and was so impressed by the dosa that he invited them to open a branch in London. Other popular spots where you can gorge on delicious dosas are Central Tiffin Room (CTR) in Malleshwaram and Mavelli Tiffin Room (MTR) in Lal Bagh Road.
Chole Bature, Delhi
Sita Ram Diwan Chand in Paharganj, Delhi serves the best Chole Bature in the entire country. The baturas have a filling of paneer to give them a unique taste and the chole is spiced to perfection. Other places in Delhi which serve equally good Chole Batures are Baba Nagpal Corner at Lajpat Nagar and Chache di Hatti at Kamla Nagar.
Pyaz Kachori, Jaipur
Kachori is a round flattened bread with a spicy filling of horse beans, gram flour, pepper and other spices. To enjoy this snack at its finest, head to Rawat Mishthan Bhandar in Sindhi Camp in Jaipur. The only place that comes remotely close to making such amazing kachoris is Janta Sweet Home at Nai Sadak.
Kathi Roll, Kolkata
This delicious wrap was born in the kitchens of Nizam's Restaurant in 1930s and they still serve the best ones in the country. The parathas are fried with egg, lathered with tangy sauces and then wrapped onto stir fried vegetables and meat. Other places worth checking out are Hot Kathi Roll on Park Street and Zeeshan on Sarat Bose Road.
Kathi Roll Images
Tunday Kabab located on Naaz Cinema Road in Lucknow has been serving what is widely hailed as the best kabab in India for almost 100 years. The recipe and the spices are a closely guarded secret that has been passed down each generation. The restaurant is located on Naaz Cinema Road in Aminabad.
Mirchi Baji, Hyderabad
These are popular across the country but to taste the best ones you need to head to Hyderabad – where it was first conceptualized. The chillies are filled with a mixture of coriander,cumin and sesame seeds, coconut powdered and tamarind juice. Head to Andaal Swamy in HMT Nagar or Agra Chat in Parklane. Another famous spot is Bandi in Anand Nagar Colony.
Alook Tikki, Delhi
Typically served in roadside stalls all over northen India. It is made of a lightly flavored and golden fried potato patty that is stuffed with peas and chickpea and served with an assortment of sauces. The snack is known by different names in different regions like ragda pattic, aloo chat etc. Head to Nathu’s Sweets in Bengali Market, near Connaught Place.
Litti Chokha, Patna
The soul food for people of Bihar and Jharkhand, this delicious snack is made with ground chickpea and served with a thick gravy made out of brinjal, tomato and potato. Litti Chokha is eaten at lunch and dinner and is one of the most vital dish in Bihari cuisine. Best places to have them are from a tiny shack near Biscomaun Bhavan and Raj Sweets shop near Sanjay Gandhi Biological Garden.
Poha, Jalebi, Indore
Every morning, Indore wakes up to the mouth watering aroma of Poha and Jalebi. Jalebi is a crispy saffron-colored sweet popular across India. They are made by deep frying refined flour batter and dipping them in sugar syrup. Poha is made from soaked flattened rice, an assortment of spices and garnished with chat masala. The best places to have them are the stalls in chappan dukan near MG road and sarafa gold market.
Kothu Parotta, Chennai
Chennai has a massive street food scene and it can be tough to pick a single specialty. The list of contenders is huge - idllis, egg dosa, seafood, bajjis and biryani. However, the one dish that epitomizes the city's culinary culture is the 'kothu parotta'. The origin of the dish can be traced to neighboring Sri Lanka and it is prepared by chopping pieces of parotta with eggs, vegetables and curry and mixing it all on a hot iron griddle. Finally it is garnished by with curry leaves and served hot with coconut chutney. Head to any of the fast food shops in Choolaimedu or Grand Fast Foods in Anna Nagar.
Pav Bhaji, Mumbai
A spicy fast food born in the back alleys of Mumbai but now popular across India. Pav is the unflavored bread and bhaji is a spicy gravy made with blended cauliflower, eggplant, green peas and carrots. The pav is seared on a hot girdle with butter and served with the bhaji, onion rings and lemon. To taste the best pav bhajis in Mumbai, head to Juhu Chowpatty, Sardar Pav Bhaji in Tardeo and Maruti Pav Bhaji in Vile Parle.
This snack is popular across the country and is quite hard to tie it down to a specific region. It consists of hollow puris that are filled with tangy cilantro flavored water, mashed potatoes, chickpeas and a range of spices. Paani puris are popular in Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata and pretty much every other city in India. The ideal way to eat it is to shove the puris into the mouth and savour the composite flavors all at once.
Striking the Balance
The Indian street food culture is as vibrant, complex and vast as the country and exploring it can be a deeply rewarding experience. However, like most things in life, there is a fine line that you will need to balance - being too timid will result in missing out on some amazing experiences while being reckless will cause a nasty case of food poisoning. You need to take the cues and listen closely to your gut feeling(literally) when you are out there!
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