Step on to the streets of India
A cacophony of loud noises erupts from every corner. Jam-packed with vehicles of all sizes and colours, the roads are as intimidating as they can get. In the sweltering heat, drivers communicate with each other using their blaring horns and loud voices while motorists swerve through small spaces to get to the front of jams. It is, however, on these very roads that many find small pockets of joy at street-side stores.
A country famous for curries and chai buries its best treasures in plain sight. Vendors attach small tin rooftops to the back of their motorcycles at a roadside to shelter stoves on which piping hot food gets served up. Huddled together in the small shade, locals feast on a dozen or maybe two dozen pani puris even as their mouths burn from the sheer power of chilis. Or, eat in the open air in front of long wooden tables, piled with sweet treats. Turn to your left and spot a weather-beaten man pulling an ox cart along the road with hundreds of coconuts burgeoning from the edges. Get yourself a fresh young coconut, carved up on the spot by expert hands.
These small shops might be intimidating to travellers because of the sheer variety but worry not! In this feature, we are curating a list of street-side snacks that will leave you salivating for more.
Also known as gol gappa, phuchka and gup chup, this snack can be found on most roadsides. It consists of a round hollow puri filled with flavoured water, tamarind chutney, chaat masala, potatoes/chickpeas and onions. Pop the entire puri into your mouth and when you take that first bite, an explosion of flavour will greet you. Sweet, salty, spicy and sour dance on your tongue for a taste like no other. Oh and have we mentioned, a few is never enough.
A favourite on the streets of Mumbai – Toasted buttered buns stuffed with a thick vegetable curry and topped off with a wedge of lemon and crunchy red onions. Need I say more? This snack is a cult favourite in Mumbai because of its sinful taste, a hint of spice and low price tag. Be sure to keep a bottle of water on hand if you plan on going crazy with the green chilis!
Made from legume, potatoes or sago, vada is an incredibly popular street snack in Southern India. While they can be eaten alone, people often get them with dips such as sambar, yogurt and chutney and a large green chilli. Any way you eat it, this savoury dish will leave you salivating for more. A personal favourite- Vadas soaked in yogurt and chutney with green chilis on the side
Photo credits: stu_spivack
Singapore has air batu (ice pops) and India has its Kulfi. The denser and creamier version of ice cream can be found coating the moustaches of children who gather in small troops at a street corner during a hot summer’s day. Traditional flavours include cream (a personal favourite), rose, mango and cardamom. Sprinkled with assorted nuts and dried fruits, this dessert is a respite in India’s sweltering heat.
Whether you’re vegetarian or a meat lover, there are momos for everyone! It is a steamed dumpling with either vegetarian or meat fillings. This traditional delicacy in Tibetan, Nepali and Northeastern Regions of India made its way down the maps and won the hearts of Indians across the country. From the frosty streets of Shimla to the sweltering corners of Chennai, you can find these little bundles of joy steaming away. Dipped in chutney or chilli sauce, you will come to realise that one plate is never enough.
Fruits with chilli powder
Green Mangoes with Chilli Powder | Photo credits: Ratna Rajaiah
I remember the first time I saw a vendor sprinkling chilli powder onto my fruits and wondering if it made sense – well, it did. The mild spice cuts through the sweetness/tang of the fruits and in some cases even deepen the flavours. Usually, you would find pineapples and mangoes (green and yellow) being tossed around in chilli powder. Some vendors even add a touch of lime! Don’t be discouraged by the vivid redness of the powder as the spice is pretty mild. This snack can be found at any street and promises to leave you smacking your lips in enjoyment.
Photo credits: Travelling Slacker
Stuffed into a cone made of day-old newspaper, Poha is a snack that is eaten on the go by people who want something to munch on as they commute from one place to another. It is also fancied as a breakfast item by many! Made of flattened rice, potatoes and onions (each region has its own variation), this light dish packs a punch if you decide to opt for a spicier blend.