Street food culture in India or a dummy guide on how to eat on Indian streets.

Disclaimer: All pictures in the blog are intellectual property of the author and cannot be used or copied without written permission.

Nothing represents India and its diverse, intriguing character better than its street food. First thing you need to understand about street food in India is – there is no room for fear.  Just like India itself, it may come across to tourists as a mess and dangerous affair, but in reality, taste and experience will reward the brave enough to try.

Street food in India is not a matter of taste, it’s a whole culture in itself. From kids to elders, from poor to rich – you will find these people united, side by side at a pani puri stall.

Moreover, it is so popular that it has even been added in menu of some 5-star restaurants and had the most renowned world chefs, like Jiggs Carla experiment with its presentation in their menu.

But then again, trying street food at a restaurant will be as successful as getting your plastic surgery done by dentist. Its place is on the street and that’s where you get the authentic experience and understanding of it.

Types of street food, spices used and taste palettes vary according to the region, but some of the most popular street foods are spread across India.

Mumbai, though located in Maharashtra, is generally considered as one of the biggest hubs for cross-regional street food. Here, you will find not just traditional Maharashtrian delicacies, such as wada pav and missal pav, but also south-Indian dosas and idlis, north Indian Pani puri, and even Indian Chinese.

First question that comes to mind for a person visiting India – hygiene…How safe it is to try anything cooked on the street in very poor sanitary conditions…

The answer is: if you are careful and follow few simple rules, it’s quite safe and extremely delicious.

Rule No.1: Always choose stalls surrounded by a lot of people. This crowd is a quality certificate. Even locals themselves follow this rule.

Rule No.2: Avoid direct mouth contact with glasses and bottles. Better eliminate it. It is the fastest way to end up with food poisoning. If you can’t resist a refreshing glass of sweet sugar cane juice – just ask for a straw and drink from it.

Rule No.3: Carry with you a packet of wet tissues or Detol – antibacterial gel, sold on every corner – and clean your hands before and after enjoying street food.

Now, since we know how, let’s find out what.

Below is the list of most popular must try street food dishes and best areas to try it:

Pani Puri, Bhel Puri, Sev Puri – probably the most well-known types of Indian chaat (snack), made using flat or hollow round deep fried bread, onions, potatoes and dressing. Pani puri are served in special spiced water, which gives it its name (pani –“water” in hindi)

Best places to try are Mumbai and North Indian states, especially Delhi. Although by now, dominance of this dishes has spread across and been mastered by other parts of India as well.

***

Dahi Puri – same principle as other puris, but with addition of yogurt to it (dahi).

So far, the best Dahi Puri I tried was in Jaipur. Mumbai is second in the lead, followed by Delhi.


***
Dosa – one of my personal favourites, egg-less type of pancake, thin and crisp. Do try varieties of it, including those with filling (masala dosa).

Traditionally South Indian dish, so the most authentic ones you will get there or…surprise – in Mumbai.

***

Idli – another South Indian dish, made of rice and reminding rice cutlets. Served always with coconut chutney and sambar (watery tomato broth).

***
Wada pav – ball of potato mash with chilly deep fried in batter and served with spices and chutney on a pav (fluffy bread)

The most famous and beloved dish in Mumbai, traditional Maharashtrian snack. Together with cutting chai wada pav is the most followed religion of Bombay =)

***
Pav Bhaji – a mash of vegetables fried in butter and served on bread. It is a flavor explosion in your mouth, a must try.

Do make sure you add extra butter to your pav bhaji and sprinkle it with lemon juice for a full flavor experience.

Try it in Mumbai.

***
Pakoda – potato, onion, cheese, chili or chicken deep fried in batter. One more must-try. Best when combined with hot cup of street chai. A Mumbai monsoon season special, though served throughout the year.

***

Non-vegetarians will definitely enjoy Omlette Pav.

Mumbai special, which is also a famous stoner snack in Curlies, Goa.

***

If you feel like trying a meat variety of street food - the best place for it in Mumbai is Mohhamed Ali road, especially in Ramazan. You will get to eat the softest and juiciest selection of chicken and mutton, cooked in tandoor or fried.

In North-East, you will need to add Momos on your to-eat list.

***

And finally, for sweet-tooths, list of sinful treats:
Falooda – mix and match of milk, syrup, ice-cream and surprise additions that creates not just tasty, but textured combos in your mouth.

Gola (yes, it’s an ice cone dipped into syrups and its worth every calorie)


Kulfi – ice cream that tastes like frozen condensed milk

Jalebi  - this one is a breakfast favorite. Have it with chai and start your morning with sweet mood.

   
China grass
Street gulab jamun

Hope this will guide you on the religiously followed in India foodie-path and help you to get to know Incredible India, starting from its delicious streets. If that won’t make you fall in love with it, I don’t know what will…


What happens when you become an expat?

It doesn’t matter if you move for a year, for few or for good- once you make another country your home, even temporarily, your life is bound to change. And these are the changes you cannot undo. Those that some call “eyes opened”.

  • You’re now in no man’s land
  • You will forever remain a foreigner to the county you live in, and will very fast become a stranger to the country you left.

    No matter how much you adapt to the new place, speak the language or even adopt the mentality, majority will keep seeing you as a guest at the best and as invader at the worst.

    But at the same time, visiting your home country won’t feel the same either. Your friends and family will sense the changes within you and you will not see the place in the way you did.

    People may become uncomfortable around you, like you are a new creature they are afraid to touch unsure if it bites.

  • You’ll be judged
  • I wonder if there is any topic on which this issue will not pop-up, but what can I say – people like to judge.

    In this case, most common questions  you will be hearing is “How can you leave the place you were born in? All your friends and family?” as if leaving means I isolate myself on a stranded island or get a lobotomy.

    And how does this question even work when you live in the age of Facetime and Facebook, instant messages and snapchats, which give my friends and family an opportunity to peak on what I ate for lunch today, not just “keep in touch”.

    You will also be judged on your patriotism and moral principles by residents of the country you left.

    And if you’re lucky enough- judged on the choice you made as well. (“But why would you move to a place like that? Is it better than your home country?”) Of course! Because their opinion is the ultimate one and there is only one truth!

    Locals will judge your confidence and explain the ease you are getting your way mostly with your ethnicity or color.


    Personal: The reality of what happens when you are a transnational couple travelling.

    This topic comes across to most of us as a certain taboo, as it leads to something no one likes to accept – that discrimination nowadays is not only reserved for women and minorities, but it spreads across to anything which seems somehow “unusual” or “different” to those looking at it.

    As travelers and especially expats we are used to dealing with stereotypes, judgement and at the same time curiosity from many. By now I have managed to get used, but not tolerant to constantly being judged on my looks as a woman, and especially as Scandinavian appearance woman. In many Asian or Middle Eastern counties fair women are considered “easy” and “loose”, and most Europeans are taken as necessarily rich (and it doesn’t matter if you spent your last money for this holiday) which is what justifies everyone trying to loot them.

    But at the same time, our social constructs teach us that once you are a couple – it should get easier. That, minding, you couple up with someone exactly like you.

    And what can be more evidently “different” than a couple which is not from the same country, not from the same race or ethnic group. That’s what I call “a free prick show” where every time you step out on the street, you get a package, which varies depending on your location and/or nationalities you encounter.

    Here’s a list of few things which will happen to you if you are a transnational couple travelling:

  • They may think you are not a couple – funnily, on occasion, people deny the possibility so much, that till the time they see absolutely evident signs of your togetherness, they will keep denying it, because it is easier for them than explaining such couple.
  • They ask “But how…?” implying one or the other side’s race/color. Both sides are judged by how they managed to get attracted to each other when they look so different.
  • Occasionally, the above point takes uglier development going even further than racial stereotypes. This is where the same nationality/race couple would have at the worst being discriminated or judged on the basis of race, a multinational one has to go through a character scan – the one that’s supposed to justify this “yin and yang” phenomenon for them.
  • On the bright side, sometimes, you will hear the reversed comments: “Oh you guys looks so great together. You look so different that you are perfect for each other”. Well…at least thanks for that.
  • You are judged by elders – that happens way too often. I will explain it with their much lower exposure to globalization and their probable lack of travel experience.
  • You get to be called “Ebony and Ivory” – and that is when world has come up with much better analogies! We wouldn’t mind being called “Sheridan’s” for a change.
  • You are terrorized with “baby questions”. They all wonder what your kids will look like. And if you dare say, you haven’t thought of kids yet, you should definitely reconsider, because…well, don’t be egoistic- world wants to know.
  • In the end, even when you are aware of all these encounter types, there is only one thing you have to remember and one thing that will keep you sane – you have each other, your Ivory has its ebony, your yin has its yang – and that’s all that matters. That, and Sheridan’s from duty free. Cheers!

    Using Format