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