India is a culinary paradise due to its extensive and varied gastronomic offering, especially in its street food. Paani Ke Patashe, Kathi Rolls and Murukku among many others, are unique taste experiences that can be found anywhere in India at affordable prices.
These delicious spicy, sweet, or sour treats are more than just snacks, they can be considered a reflection of India’s culture and customs as well. But enough said, let me introduce you to the best and most popular street food recipes in India.
Dabeli is perhaps the quintessential Indian street food. This snack, originally from the region of Kutch, in Gujarat, is soft and at the same time crunchy, all in one. Due to its popularity, it is practically impossible to miss, as it can be found on any street corner or alley in Gujarat.
Dabeli consists of stuffing a mixture of potatoes with various spices, which are roasted with butter in a tawa (a frying pan). It also has masala (a mixture of seasonings and spices) unique to dabali, as well as tamarind, chutney and garlic. The crunchy touch results from sprinkling sev gathia (small pieces of chickpea flour noodles) and some pomegranate seeds on top.
Kesha Malam was the creator of Dabeli (meaning pressed) in the 1960s. This dish began to be sold in Mandvi, Kutch, where its inventor lived. Later his relatives took over the business and today it is one of the most representative dishes of Indian cuisine.
This snack can be eaten at any time, as it is light for breakfast, and as a side dish at lunch. As a snack it is excellent and is very popular as an appetizer at parties or informal gatherings with a cup of tea.
Just one glance is enough to realize that Kathi rolls are the most abundant snacks on the streets of Kolkata. These are pieces of grilled meat or vegetables that are rolled in flaky bread, slices of red onion, some lime juice and topped with chutney.
These Kathi rolls have become very popular amongst Calcuttans and visitors alike because they can be eaten literally anywhere. In fact, after a party in the wee hours of the morning, it is possible to quickly find an establishment where you can get them and thus recover some energy.
According to the Indian culinary tradition, the meats of the kebabs were cooked on wooden or metal skewers, hence the word Kathi which means stick. It is a world-famous fast food with many variations. Some include potato stuffing, egg, mixed vegetables, and even Thai curry.
Appam is a kind of pancake made with coconut milk and rice flour dough. Its concave shape, a primary characteristic, comes from the frying pan in which it is prepared. Very popular in southern India and Sri Lanka, it is preferably eaten as part of breakfast or dinner. Appam, which is equivalent to bread, is made with spicy seasonings such as curry and stuffed with steamed eggs, meat, vegetables and/or fish.
Although some historians claim that appam is of Jewish origin, it is certainly related to the Christian culture of the Syrian Nasranis who baked it on stones. There are a great number of versions of this dish, but the most requested are the palappam, the achappam and the honey hoppers. The sweetest ones are usually prepared for parties and special occasions.
Besides appam, this pancake has other names depending on the region of India or Sri Lanka, such as aap, aappam, appa, gulle eriyappa, paddu, chitau pitha. In Burma it is called arpone. It should be noted that in Sri Lanka it is widely known as hoopers.
Pakora is an Indian fast food consisting of vegetables such as eggplant and cauliflower, chopped and fried. This snack, simple to prepare at home, is traditionally eaten during spring when locals celebrate the monsoon season.
Despite the varieties, the main ingredients of pakora are: potato, eggplant or cauliflower according to taste and meat dipped in flour which is then fried in ghee (a type of butter). Garam masala, which means fiery spice, is a combination of spices that is widely used in India to prepare this dish. There are as many variations of pakora as there are combinations of garam masala.
This appetizer, present in the streets of India and Pakistan, can also become the main dish depending on the size of the plate. However, most people prefer to eat it with some chutney sauce, while drinking a cup of tea.
Mirchi Ke Pakode
Mirchi Ke Pakode is a very popular snack in Rajasthan, North India where it originated. Its popularity is due to the crispness of the fried coating after the mirchis are dipped in the kissing batter. A touch of chutney sauce is all it takes to enjoy this excellent snack.
In street establishments, it is very common to serve cut mirchi. To prepare it, vendors cut the mirchi pakoda in half and fry it again, served with tomato, lemon, and onion chutney to taste.
The filling varies according to the region, for example in Andhara a filling of tamarind paste, besan and Ajwain powder is common. Meanwhile, in Hyderabad, the method is similar although in other regions it is made without stuffing.
Mirchi ka pakode is definitely a street food that is enjoyed everywhere in India and consumed by millions of people all over the world.
Murukku is an Indian snack characterized by its crunchy texture thanks to the rice and bean flour with which it is usually made. Everything is combined into a paste that is given a spiral shape and then fried in oil. Cumin, onion, or chili powder are essential ingredients that flavor the tasty appetizer.
Murukku, which means twisted, originates from Tamil Nadu. Although it is consumed all over India, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat are the places where it enjoys great popularity. There are several versions of this dish, one of which consists of sprinkled sesame seeds, salt, and chopped vegetables which are added to the paste before the cooking process.
Mullu Murukku is a crunchier version. The name Mullu is derived from Tamil thorns. Another famous one is Kai Murukku, the dough is harder and is made by hand. The Manapparai murukku made a place called Attayampatti Kai Murukku famous because only there this variety is prepared.
Chhole Bhature is a street food originating from Puntaj, North India. This snack is a combination of fried bread made with maida flour (bhature) with spiced chickpeas (chole). Chana Bhatura, as it is also known, is a spicy and filling dish, which is why it is in great demand.
Each restaurant has its own particular style to prepare this dish, even in the dhaba (roadside restaurants) there are great differences in this dish, the idea is to prepare a version to the taste of the customer. It is possible to find some very spicy, others with a somewhat sour taste. The consistency of the curry also varies from one place to another.
The Chloe Bhature are best eaten hot and fresh, otherwise, their appearance declines greatly, they become soft and somewhat dense.
They are excellent as a garnish, served with green chilies, onion slices, and lemon wedges. It is a perfect meal for weekends or during the holiday season.
In Bombay you will find some of the best vada pav. The name of this sandwich is related to its ingredients: vada is a spicy mashed potato fried in a chickpea dough, pav are white bread rolls.
Historians place the origin of this snack in the Dadar train station, between the 60s and 70s of the last century, when a peddler named Ashok Vaidya traded them in that area.
This kind of fritter, one of the tastiest and most affordable street foods in Bombay, is topped with sweet chutney, dry garlic chutney and green chutney. The most popular combination is when fried green chilies and Indian chai are added.
In India, students flock to the hawkers outside schools and colleges. And the fact is that lovers of fast street food have made this snack a culinary reference for Bombay.
To determine whether a vada pav was perfectly made, it should be crunchy with a strong taste of garlic, coriander leaves, and ginger. Their shapes are usually oval although this is not a mandatory condition per se.
Bhopal’s culinary delight is Poha Jalebi, one of India’s most tempting street foods that is usually consumed during breakfast. It is light, but satisfying and quite cheap too. This snack is topped with peanuts, although some prefer tomato and pomegranate. The jabelis must be conveniently hot.
Poha, the quintessential breakfast of the Malwa region, consists of fried rice flakes with potatoes, curry leaves, onions, and other spices according to taste and is usually served with sev. Jabeli is prepared with maida (Indian wheat flour), fried in oil and then sugar syrup is added.
This snack can be found literally anywhere in Bhopal, at any time. From bus stops, at traffic lights or at railway stations, groups of people can usually be found enjoying a poha Jabeli.
Other regions also serve this dish, but the spicy flavor is a hallmark of the Bhopal version.
Paani Ke Patashe
Paani Ke Patashe, also known as Panipuri, puchkas, gup chup and gol gappas among many other names is a tasty delicacy originating from the region now known as Uttar Pradesh, in northern India. The number of names it has is due to the different regions where it is made and the variants that can be found in each of these places.
This snack is made with puri (a thin, crispy, fried, hollow, spherical-shaped pal), a kind of crispy crepe shell that is filled with imli pani (a mixture of flavored water), chili powder, tamarind chutney, mashed potato, cheat masala, chickpea or onion.
Panipuri has transcended the borders of India to conquer the palates of people in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. Both children and adults enjoy the crunchy texture of this famous street food. Paani Ke Patashe stalls are a staple at fairs, festivals and even weddings throughout the region.
The version called puchkas has spices added to the mashed potato filling, its flavor is consequently spicier.
Pav bhaji is one of the favorite street dishes of Maharashtra for its spicy taste. Locals and tourists usually eat it with buttered pav. This dish is the result of an excellent combination of myriad vegetables with exotic spices that make it very appetizing.
It also has a generous amount of tomatoes and onions that help to increase the acidic flavor of the snack. A few drops of lemon juice on top of the bhaji and you can enjoy one of the most sought after delicacies in India.
Insiders indicate that pav bhaji originated as a lunch option for textile mill workers because of its quick preparation. Its popularity gradually spread to become one of the most representative street dishes in Mumbai and all of India.
To prepare the pav bhaji you need to have pav bhaji masala, a mixture of spices that can be easily found in the numerous small shops in India.
Samosa is a great way to start your journey into the delicacies of India’s street food. It is one of the most famous and popular Indian snacks worldwide and can be found on any corner of India.
It is a triangle-shaped fried pastry, which is filled with various ingredients such as chopped meat, vegetables, lentils, onions, peas, and potatoes. The origin of this snack is in Central Asia from where it reached India through the old trade routes.
These succulent triangular patties are served hot, with chopped onion, Indian chutney or yogurt which is handcrafted with mint, tamarind or coriander. Indian street foods often have several versions and samosas are no exception, there are even sweet ones. These have mango, raisins and pomegranate, for example. What is common among them is that they can all be found in the numerous street stalls or restaurants at almost any time.
Among the samosas, one of the most popular is the onion samosa. Obviously, it is filled with finely sliced onions, previously seasoned with spices such as poha, coriander, and red chili. Regardless of the version you choose, you are sure to enjoy an original, delicious and authentic dish.
Dosa is a traditional and very famous thin cake from India. For its preparation, rice and black beans are soaked, ground to form a paste, and then mixed until a thick dough is created. This preparation is left to ferment overnight. To enrich it, fenugreek seeds are added so that the dosa is golden and crunchy, characteristic elements of this dish.
It is then baked on an oiled and previously heated griddle, which contributes to its fine and delicate texture and rounded shape. It is an essential dish in India, which originated in Tamil Nadu according to historians. They claim that it was first mentioned in Tamil literature around the 1st century AD.
Traditionally stuffed with different ingredients and then wrapped, it is also served as a side dish to a main meal such as meat and vegetable curry for example. The versatility of the dosa has allowed it to be adapted with various ingredients to create new versions.
Some of these variants are made with rice flour or soy milk, semolina, and wheat flour, resulting in much softer and interesting dosas.
Aloo Tikki/Aloo Chaat
Potato lovers will fall for the Aloo Tikki/Aloo Chaat. It is one of the first choices when it comes to street food, thanks to the chunks of potatoes that are masterfully combined with coriander chutney, sweet and spicy tamarind, some powdered spices and crispy sev. It is usually served with tea.
These snacks are very much appreciated by the inhabitants of India especially for the number of versions it has. In the northern part of the country they practically rave about Chaats and the Aloo Tikki Chaat, there are innumerable ways in which this snack can be prepared, in fact each street cart has its own version. In other places street vendors offer the Aloo Tikkis crispy, topped with chutneys and sev (crispy noodles) and cold yogurt.
Aloo Tikkis can be considered the Indian version of potato burgers. When boiled potatoes are mixed with seasonings they are shaped into a patty which is then fried in ghee or oil.
Street food lovers cannot miss the Matar Kulcha. Once you try it you will hardly be satisfied with just one bite. It is a simple yet addictive combination of roasted kulcha with white Matar, a challenge to any dietary regimen.
Matar Kulcha is a quick, tangy, and spicy meal, sprinkled with sour chutney and semi-fatty gravy. It also has onions for a crunchy touch, sliced tomatoes and ginger juliennes for that irresistible flavor combination.
Matar Kulcha can be found on any corner in the north of India; however, in the south of the country, it is possible to eat it in various restaurants too. This snack differs from Bhatura in that it remains soft after it is chilled. This allows it to be prepared well in advance and can even be stored in the refrigerator.
Matar Kulcha can be reheated in the microwave or on a griddle before serving until they are somewhat warm. This appetizer is hearty enough to be considered a main dish. The leftover, which is saved for the next day, always tastes better because the ingredients have more time to integrate.
Indian Street food offers a whole plethora of crispy textured and fried snacks to delight locals as well as tourists. In addition to the great tourist attractions of India, millions of people visit Dheli, Bombay, Kohsi and other cities year after year, and are captivated by the delicious street food.
If you’ve been to India and tried some of these amazing snacks or if you made some of them at home, please leave a comment below and let me know how you liked it.