The flavours of India... street food


| February 27, 2015

Do you love to explore countries and cultures by cuisine? Find out why India is one of the best places to discover street food culture.

Street food in India. Photo credit: Thinkstock/ iStock

Food is one of the central components of cultural discovery, from the vegetables, fruits and grain produced by the local land to the tastes and creativity of the native people. Few cultures possess a culinary culture to rival India's, and street food is one of its cornerstones.

The thriving street food culture in India allows you to taste authentic dishes that the locals love. As such, it often provides a better window into the destination than dining in a restaurant. Today, we are going to introduce you to some of the many street food dishes you can find in India; these shift from one region to the next which, of course, is part of the joy of dining in this way. You'll find that most street food is vegetarian-friendly too.

Delhi

As you might expect, the capital is a wonderful place to embark on a voyage of culinary discovery. Its markets offer a mix of homegrown favourites and offerings from different states, making it possible to tour India by taste without leaving the capital.

Poori bhaji

This filling dish consists of deep-fried puffed bread which is, arguably, tempting enough in its own right, served with spicy curried potatoes.

Aloo tikki

Another potato-based street food dish, aloo tikki are spicy potato patties served with a mix of tamarind and anise sauce, green chillies and either chickpeas or peas. You can also enjoy a less spicy version, drizzled with a yoghurt sauce.

Golgappas

Something of a street food staple, golgappas make an excellent snack. These puffed dough morsels are stuffed with a combination of chickpeas, spicy potatoes and various sauces, delivering some characteristic Indian flavours. You get several variations including the infamous one where it is dipped in spicy mint and coriander water [ Pani Poori] before being served in your bowl. Immensely moreish, they make an excellent snack between sightseeing stops.

Daulat ki chaat

Should you possess a sweet tooth, daulat ki chaat is a must-try. Sold at several stalls in Delhi's Kinari Bazaar, this dish is made of sweetened milk and is incredibly light. Indeed, it is rather froth-like; while this means it is not particularly filling, it is absolutely delicious.

Kerala

Markedly different to the nation's capital, Kerala lies in the south of the country and is known for its traditional culture. Cuisine in the state tends to be particularly spicy, though the vegetarian dishes less so, and features fish and coconut milk heavily.

Idli

Among the most common breakfast foods in Kerala, idli also makes a popular snack. Idlis are made from a fermented dough of rice and black lentils, which are steamed to form a little cake. Typically, they are served with coconut chutney and sambhar, a spicy lentil soup.

Vellayappam

Another must-try on a voyage of culinary discovery around Kerala is vellayappam, which is a kind of pancake made with a fermented rice and coconut dough. Possessing a characteristic lacy texture, these, like idli, are commonly eaten at breakfast. They also make an excellent accompaniment to curry.

Sundal

Chickpeas are a common ingredient in Indian cooking, and here they form the basis of a salad. They are combined with ghee (clarified butter), mustard seeds, chillies and curry leaves before being sprinkled with grated coconut and chopped coriander.

Mumbai

Pulses, nuts, fish and breads are some of the staples of Mumbai's cuisine and, with one of the most exciting street food cultures in the country, it offers much to the keen gastronome.

Bhel puri

An immensely popular dish in Mumbai, bhel pari can be eaten at any time of day. You will find that many vendors will offer their own take on this delicious snack, which is a cold mix of puffed rice, diced potato, chopped onion, tamarind sauce and more.

Vada pav

Another local favourite is vada pav. This simple, tempting dish is deservedly held in high esteem and is a great example of street food at its best. 'Vada' are spicy potato patties, which are fried until golden. They are then placed in 'pav' – soft white baps spread with both butter and chutney, then sprinkled with garlic and chilli powder ready to receive the patties.

Wherever you sample India's street food, eat at stands heavily frequented by locals – a sign of good standards or in a restaurant. Also, avoid tap water and anything that may have been washed in it (without then having been cooked) and give your stomach a few days to adjust before diving into the hotter dishes.

Cox & Kings offers food holidays to India >

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