Street Foods of India

I have grown up in the small town of Hisar in Haryana. In the sixties and seventies, it was a really small town. The only happening place was the university campus and that was where my home was. There were no street vendors allowed inside the university campus. It was only when I went to my friends' places, I could relish the street foods. My favourite street foods in those days were - aloo-tikki, kulfi, golguppa/ pani puri. I think, in those days, these were the most popular street foods in that small town. 

Why street foods are so popular?

  • Prepared and sold on the streets: Street food is typically prepared and sold by vendors who set up makeshift stalls or carts on the streets or in public places such as parks and markets. The food is usually cooked on the spot, and customers can watch as the vendor prepares their order.
  • Affordable and accessible: Street food in India is often more affordable and accessible than food served in restaurants or hotels, making it popular among people from all walks of life.
  • Quick and easy to eat: Street food is often designed to be quick and easy to eat on the go. Many street food dishes can be eaten with your hands or served in disposable containers, making them a convenient snack or meal option.
  • Regional and cultural significance: Many street food dishes in India have regional and cultural significance, reflecting the diverse culinary traditions of the country. For example, vada pav is a popular street food dish in Mumbai, while chaat is a beloved street food snack from Delhi.
  • Bold and flavorful: Street food in India is known for its bold and flavorful spices and seasonings, which can vary depending on the region and culture. The use of spices and seasonings can make street food dishes taste unique and exciting.

Overall, a food item is classified as street food in India if it is prepared and sold by vendors on the streets or in public places, is affordable and accessible, quick and easy to eat, has regional and cultural significance, and is bold and flavorful.  Indian street food is known for its bold flavours, diverse ingredients, and affordable prices. 

Here are some popular street foods in India:

  • Pav Bhaji: This is a popular street food dish from Mumbai. It's a spicy vegetable curry that's served with buttery toasted buns called pav.
  • Vada Pav: Another popular Mumbai street food, vada pav is a deep-fried potato patty served on a bun with chutney and spices.
  • Chaat: Chaat is a family of savoury snacks that are typically sold by street vendors across India. It can include a variety of ingredients such as potatoes, chickpeas, yoghurt, tamarind chutney, and spices.
  • Samosas: These are crispy, fried pastries that are filled with spiced vegetables or meat. Samosas are popular street food snacks in many parts of India.
  • Pani Puri: Pani puri is a popular street food snack that consists of a small, crispy hollow puri filled with spiced potato, chickpeas, and tamarind chutney. It's then dunked into a tangy and spicy water-based mixture.
  • Bhel Puri: Bhel puri is a popular snack in Mumbai and other parts of India. It's made from puffed rice, vegetables, chutney, and spices.
  • Dosa: Dosa is a South Indian street food that's similar to a crepe. It's made from fermented rice and lentil batter, and it can be filled with a variety of ingredients such as potatoes, onions, and cheese.
  • Aloo Tikki: Aloo tikki is a North Indian street food made from mashed potatoes, spices, and herbs that are formed into patties and then fried until crispy. It's often served with chutneys and yoghurt.
  • Kati Roll: Kati rolls are popular street food snacks that originated in Kolkata. They consist of a paratha (a type of flatbread) wrapped around a filling of spiced meat or vegetables.
  • Chole Bhature: Chole bhature is a popular Punjabi street food that consists of spicy chickpeas (chole) served with deep-fried bread (bhature).
  • Kulfi: Kulfi is a popular frozen dessert that's often sold by street vendors in India. It's similar to ice cream, but it's made from thickened and sweetened milk that's frozen in small moulds.
  • Jalebi: Jalebi is a popular sweet street food that's made by deep-frying a batter of flour and yoghurt, which is then soaked in sugar syrup. It's often served warm and crispy.
  • Ghugni: Ghugni is a popular street food from the state of West Bengal. It's made from dried yellow peas that are boiled and then cooked with spices and served with chopped onions, coriander leaves, and green chillies.
  • Litti Chokha: Litti chokha is a popular street food from the state of Bihar. It's made from dough balls that are stuffed with a spiced mixture of roasted gram flour and baked over a charcoal fire. It's served with chokha, a mashed vegetable side dish made from roasted eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes.
  • Momos: Momos are a popular street food snack in the eastern states of India, especially in Sikkim, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh. They are steamed or fried dumplings that are typically filled with vegetables or meat and served with spicy chutneys.
  • Puchka: Puchka, also known as golgappa or panipuri, is a popular street food snack in Kolkata and other parts of Eastern India. It's a hollow, crispy fried ball that's filled with spiced mashed potatoes and tangy tamarind water.
  • Chhena Poda: Chhena poda is a popular sweet street food from the state of Odisha. It's made from chhena, a type of Indian cottage cheese, that's mixed with sugar, and cardamom, and baked until it's golden brown.

  • Bhelpuri

Each state and region has its own specialities, so there's always something new and exciting to try. These are just a few examples of the diverse and delicious street foods that can be found in India.  From sweet to savoury, vegetarian to non-vegetarian, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Each region has its own specialities, so there's always something new and exciting to try.

What precautions should be taken to choose a street food vendor?

While street food can be delicious and enjoyable, it's important to take some precautions when choosing a street food vendor to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. 

Here are some tips to help you choose a safe street food vendor:

  • Look for a clean and hygienic stall: Make sure that the vendor's stall and cooking area look clean and well-maintained. The vendor should be wearing clean clothes and using gloves or tongs to handle the food.
  • Check the food for freshness: Look for signs that the food is fresh, such as steam rising from the dishes or the vendor cooking the food to order. Avoid food that has been sitting out for a long time, as it may be more likely to cause foodborne illness.
  • Choose vendors with a lot of customers: If a street food vendor has a lot of customers, it's usually a good sign that the food is popular and safe to eat. However, be cautious of vendors who are popular only because of their low prices or convenience.
  • Ask about the ingredients: If you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, ask the vendor about the ingredients in the food to make sure that it's safe for you to eat.
  • Avoid raw or undercooked food: Raw or undercooked food can increase the risk of foodborne illness. Make sure that the food is cooked thoroughly before you eat it.
  • Water source: Always check if they have access to a water source. Always remember that non-access to water is one major reason for unhygienic practices.

By following these tips, you can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and enjoy the delicious flavours of street food in a safe and responsible way.

Why street food is delicious than routine food?

Street food is often considered to be more delicious than routine food because of its unique and bold flavours, as well as its cultural and historical significance. Here are some reasons why street food can be so delicious:

  • Use of fresh and local ingredients: Street food vendors often use fresh and locally sourced ingredients to prepare their dishes, which can enhance the flavours of the food and make it taste more vibrant and flavorful.
  • Cooking techniques: Street food vendors use a wide range of cooking techniques, such as grilling, frying, and roasting, to create unique and delicious flavours that are not always found in routine food.
  • Bold and complex flavours: Street food often has bold and complex flavours that can be a result of the spices and seasonings used in the dishes. The spices and seasonings used in street food can vary depending on the region and culture, which can make the food taste unique and exciting.
  • Cultural significance: Street food is often deeply rooted in the culture and history of a region. The food may have been passed down from generation to generation or may have been created as a result of cultural exchange. This cultural significance can add to the overall enjoyment and appreciation of the food.
  • Availability and convenience: Street food is often available in busy and bustling areas, making it convenient for people who are on the go or looking for a quick bite. This convenience factor can make street food more appealing and enjoyable.

Overall, street food is often considered more delicious than routine food because of its unique and bold flavours, cultural and historical significance, and availability and convenience.

Aloo tikki
Spicy fun eating!
Neerja Bhatnagar
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