There is nothing better than Indian cuisine in my humble opinion. The spices, sauces, vibrant colours and the crispy batters, Indian food is the perfect blend of flavour and textures. And I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into the delicious street food of Delhi when I finally booked my flights to India for a trip that would take me through some of the most amazing parts of Delhi and Rajasthan.
Street food is an integral part of Indian culture, very much like the sari, the many roaming cows on the roads, and the delightfully charming Indian head wobble. During my three-week tour of India, I discovered that without street food, the narrow and winding streets of India would be a lot less crowded and much less tasty.
The many colourful stalls outside shops and on the sides of roads provide a meeting place, a rest stop, and refreshment for Indian people as they go about their daily business.
When you eat from street food vendors in India, you get a taste (literally) of everyday life in India from the perspective of a local. The food is always five stars in my book, and the entire experience is as authentic as it can get.
Then there are the budget-friendly prices of Indian street food that don’t pinch the pocket. In fact, by eating street food, you’ll end up saving money for other excursions.
So, I want to share with you some of the most taste-bud-tantalising street-side snacks I encountered on my trip through the land of the maharajahs.
First up on my list of street food are these slightly-larger than bite-size crispy morsels. Pani Puri is a deep-fried, hollow, crispy bread which is first punctured in the middle by the street vendor, using their thumb. Then, the vendor fills in a potato mixture with onion and chickpea, followed by spiced water.
As I watched the man dip the pani-puri into the green water, in an unlabelled jar, I felt a bit sceptical about enjoying the snack. In my hesitation and inexperience, I crunched only off half my pani puri, leaving the water to drain out of the batter and into the little aluminium cup handed to me earlier.
The man serving me laughed and explained that I am to eat the pani puri in one bite. Yes! The entire thing in one go. Enlightened, I tried it with much more success and a lot less mess after that.
Eating pani puri was a sensory overload. The first thing you notice is the satisfying crunch of the batter. Then, the hit of flavour comes from the liquid inside, followed by the softness and familiarity of the potato mix.
The water comes in 5 different flavours, all of which were unique and tasty. Once you hand over 10 rupees, you will get all five flavours served to you, one at a time so that you can appreciate them individually.
Next, on my street food adventure is the Pav Bhaji. One of my absolute favourites by far, I think a good Pav Bhaji can satisfy the most ardent of gourmands.
A thick, smooth, slightly spicy vegetable curry sauce, served with generously buttery brioche buns had me salivating. Oozing of butter – I am not complaining – I dipped the buns into straight into the sauce and was transformed instantly to curry heaven. I ended up mopping the plate clean in no time and was soon enough on my way for seconds.
I loved this unique Indian take on takeaway coffee. Kulhad coffee is exclusive in the way it is served – in a little clay cup called a Kulhad!
I also loved the way the coffee tasted. Since they sprinkle chocolate powder to the coffee mix, there’s a slight sweetness to the taste, and it resembles a beautifully creamy mocha coffee. And the little clay cups are the perfect serving to give you a little afternoon boost of caffeine.
A deep-fried potato dumpling, served inside of a bread roll, with a spread of green chilli sauce, Vada Pav is quintessential Indian street food.
I loved the crunch from the fried dumpling and softness of the bread roll, whereas the chilli gave an incredible spicy heat to the whole thing.
An Indian street food round-up wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include samosas in it. Being a big fan of Indian food, I had obviously tried samosas many times from Indian restaurants and takeaway joints during my travels and at home.
But let me tell you, the authentic Indian street samosa is in a league of its own. Walking around the streets of Delhi and Rajasthan, whenever I saw those golden triangles bubbling away in a huge pot at a street food stall, my mouth would begin to water, and I knew I had to try some.
My first time, I bought two as they were huge. Surprisingly, they cost only 10 rupees each. However, the main thing I noticed about these samosas was how thin the outer batter was. It was crispy but not too crunchy, and ever so light.
The inside consisted of the most deliciously spiced mix of vegetables such as potatoes, peas, onion, and coriander. It had way more flavour than any samosa I had ever tried, and I loved every bite of it.
What better way to cool down on a hot summer day than with an ice lolly the Indian way!? That’s precisely what a Kulfi is.
The Kulfi, made from milk, sugar and fruit, has a much richer and creamier texture than ice cream. This is partly because making kulfi does not involve whipping air into the mix.
Kulfi is also available on a stick and comes in many different fruit flavours; however, my favourite had to be the pistachio one.
The Notorious “Delly Belly” & How to Avoid It
While street food in India is fantastic, and I encourage everyone to try it, I still urge you to be cautious when eating outside. No matter how careful you are, there is always a likelihood of getting sick, and that’s the last thing you want during your travels. Here are some ways of preventing the dreaded ‘Delhi Belly’;
- Look for street food stalls where lots of locals are eating, especially families with children. There’s no better way of telling what’s good than the local seal of approval and if there are children around, then you can assume that this street food vendor is trusted and probably very hygienic. Adult’s don’t want to risk their little ones getting sick.
- Look for freshly cooked food. If you see a stall that has lots of pre-cooked food sitting out in the open, then maybe give it a miss. Vendors cooking things up fresh or ‘made to order’ are always a safer bet.
- Avoid fruit and uncooked vegetables whenever possible. Often, street vendors selling fruit and smoothies will spray their goods with untreated water to keep them looking fresh and luscious. Eating this is a sure-fire way of getting a tummy bug.
About the Author: Rhianne is one half of the Wanderfully Living travel and adventure team. She’s from Scotland but has spent the best part of the last two years travelling the world and finding work as she goes. Her blog and YouTube channel depict what it’s like to live a life of travel and adventure and the uncertainty that comes with it. You can also follow her awesome travels on Instagram.