Indian Street Food that you cannot live without
India is a land of variety. We speak more than 700 languages and there is a perfect amalgamation of various cultures and rituals. There was Indus Valley civilization which prospered 5000 years ago and then there were invasions in the last 2000 years which transformed India into a country of variety. Indian rulers always invited other cultures to be a part of our country and many religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikkhism took birth and flourished here.
So when we talk about cuisines, you will not come across this kind of variety in any country across the globe. Over the years the street foods too have evolved and today we will be looking at some of the popular street foods of India. These are my personal favourites and without the taste of these street foods, my life will be quite bland.
Gol gappa, pani poori, phuchka
It is known as gol gappa in the northern parts of India, phuchka in the eastern parts of India and pani poori – the most indulgent Indian street food in the Western parts of India. Basically round spheres are made with wheat flour, sooji and a few other ingredients. A filling using mashed potato and spices is prepared and these gol gappas are perforated and the filling is inserted. There is a pani (it means water) which is prepared with mint and tamarind extracts and the gol gappa is immersed in the pani and served.
This street food has remained my favourite since my childhood days and till date if I see a kiosk selling gol gappas, I end up eating to my heart’s delight. I have tasted gol gappas in Delhi, Mumbai, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune and many other cities in India and there is a variation in the taste and preparation technique in every place. My favourite ones among them are the Kolkata phuchkas.
One has to be careful while eating this street food as sometimes the water is contaminated and the street food seller does not wash his hands while mashing the potatoes. Government has come up with stringent rules and now mineral water cans have to be used while preparing the pani and the vendor has to wear disposable gloves while mashing the potatoes.
Egg Chicken Roll
This is somewhat like the wraps sold in the West, however the special spicy filling which is filled in here cannot be found anywhere else. This was a street food which was available in West Bengal and Odisha however its popularity has taken it to other parts of India too. Most of the vendors who sell these rolls still call them as ‘’Kolkata Rolls’’ and there are other varieties of roles available in these counters.
If you are a vegetarian then you can opt for aloo (potato filled) roll, paneer (cottage cheese) roll or vegetable roll. There are mutton rolls, egg mutton rolls, egg rolls and various other permutations and combinations used to prepare the fillings of these rolls. There is a round flour based bread made initially using a rolling pin and the filling is inserted and served along with sauces and onions.
This is my favourite evening snack and in Kolkata we often used to eat it on the way back from our evening tuition classes. Now since it is available in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore in many other parts of India, I need not have to wait for my trips to Kolkata – The City of Joy to enjoy this spicy and filling dish.
This dish is extremely popular in the Western part of India and this is one street food which is now available all across India. Burger like buns known as pav is the main component which is served with a specially prepared vegetable cooked using potatoes and other vegetables. It is wholesome and keeps the tummy full for a few hours. This is often eaten on the railway platforms when one is waiting for the local trains in Mumbai.
I can’t imagine the life of Mumbai without pav bhaji. I remember asking the vendor on the railway station to pack my lunch box with pav bhaji on the way to work in the evenings (I being a Call Center employee always had late evening shifts). My train journeys would have lacked spice if pav bhaji wouldn’t have been there in my life during my working life in Mumbai.
These rice and urad dal (black lentil) cakes are baked early in the morning in many South Indian households and if you go to any breakfast joint in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, you will find this steaming dish being served along with coconut chutney and sambhar (Cooked Lentil). There are various types of idlis available in the southern part of India like thatte idli which are much bigger in size, rava idli (it is made of sooji instead of rice and urad dal) etc. and there are other shapes of idlis too.
There are many dishes made of idli which are sold as popular street food too. Idli chilli, poha idli, idli vegetable sandwich and many other innovative dishes have evolved from the prime dish over the years. Now health conscious mothers mix oats, spinach, shredded vegetables etc. to the idli batter and make various dishes out of this favourite breakfast item of South India.
2-3 idlis as morning breakfast keeps me full and hence I love this street food immensely in Bangalore where I live now. I need not wait for a long time in the morning in a breakfast joint as idlis are prepared and kept in hot cases unlike dosa and uttapam which are prepared right in front of you. So if I have an early morning meeting, I always opt for this breakfast if I am in a South Indian breakfast joint.
Chider pulao/ Poha/ Avalakki Bath
Flaked rice is used to make this delicious snack item and it is a wholesome and healthy diet. In the northern and western parts of India it is called poha, in the southern parts it is known as avalakki bath and in the eastern parts chirer pulao. It is a simple dish which is cooked using onions, turmeric powder, mustard seeds/ cumin seeds, oil and salt. It is often savoured as a breakfast or evening snack item. We Bengalis put raisins too in their form of chirer pulao as we love to add a sweet taste to almost everything we cook.