Street Food Discoveries: Indian Favourites We Need Here!

Many favourite street foods from the subcontinent rate at the top of the international grab-and-go menu. In fact, many Indians and others across Asia live almost entirely on it. No wonder there’s such a variety of great-tasting, nutritious nibbles available!

Papdi Chaat - © indianhealthyrecipes.comPapdi Chaat: An icon of Indian and pan-Central-Asian – street foods!

There is one word that’s used to refer to street food across central Asia: Chaat. It’s more a concept than a particular dish. But the term is most commonly used to denote a chickpea and crispy-fried dough concoction. But that’s just the one of many forms and flavours of Indian street foods, some of which you’ll find familiar…

Chaat: Served on a plate, Chaat is fundamentally composed of alternate layers of boiled chickpeas (or potatoes), and thin crispy-fried dough called Papri, topped with spiced yogurt sauce, tamarind chutney and a the ubiquitous Indian nibble, sev; small crispy, deep-fried noodles spiced with turmeric, cayenne, and ajwain. This is not a snack; it’s a meal in itself.

Samosas: You’ve probably heard of these, and maybe even had them. They’re sometimes described as the empanadas of the Eastern Hemisphere.

Samosas - ©

A thin, crispy, flaky, triangular dough envelope is stuffed with potatoes, peas, onions and spices, then deep dried or baked. They come in all sizes from one- or two-bites to meal-sized (4 in. / 10 cm across).

Pakora: Where you find Samosas, you’ll also find Pakora. They’re golf ball-sized fritters made by dipping almost anything in a spicy, tempura-like chickpea batter and deep-frying it. They have dual advantages of being easy to make and so tasty you can’t stop at just one. A classic hand-munched street treat!

Bhelpuri: This is a truly festive crunchy snack, often served up by the scoopful in a paper cone, like English Fish and Chips. It’s a mix of puffed rice and sev noodles, onions, tomatoes, green chilies and cilantro.

Bhelpuri - © @culinarydiggers via Instagram

You’ve probably never seen anything like it before! This one can also qualify as a meal in itself.

Aloo Tiki: Everybody’s favourite potato dish. Boiled potatoes are mashed with onions and spices, formed into patties and fried until golden on the outside, and pillowy-soft and steamy inside. (See photo, top of page.) Like most Indian street foods, they’re usually served with your choice of chutney, yogurt sauce or Maggie Ketchup (hot and/or sweet tomato sauce).

Khati Roll: If Samosas are the empanadas of the Eastern Hemisphere, then Khati are the burritos. They’re large Roti flatbreads topped with just about anything you might want: from scrambled eggs, to paneer (fresh cheese), to chicken or lamb, to raw or cooked veggies – or tantalizing mixtures of same.

Kathi Rolls - ©

The stuffing is finished with dusting of Chaat Masala – the characteristic spice blend of Indian street foods. Then  it’s all rolled up and wrapped in a sheet of paper to help keep your hands from getting too greasy.

Dosa: Crèpes made from a fermented batter of rice flour and black lentils. They’re usually topped with savoury fillings, most often with mashed potatoes or cheese. They’re a South Indian favourite, found at street stalls everywhere in the major cities.

Just a tiny sample…

The above are just a small sample of the street foods you’ll find all over India and Central Asia. And today’s menu selection doesn’t even span the entire catalogue of forms and ingredients. You could, in theory, survive as a traveller in India for weeks without ever going into an actual restaurant! And remember, when you try these amazing finger food treats, that the sauces and spice masalas are as important to their unique characters as the main ingredients!

~ Maggie J.