I have been craving for some Delhi style paani puri and the rolls that Kolkata is famous for. And since I am at neither of these places at the moment, the best I can do tell you to go and explore the world of Indian fast food.
A lot of times when you hear people talking about traveling to India, they are worried about catching a stomach bug. The water is not always clean, and it is an serious issue, but despite that and the dirty hands, Indian fastfood is best enjoyed on the streets with the traffic whizzing by.
Disclaimer: None of the below photos are mine or taken by anyone I know. I am sorry that they have not been properly credited, but I am thankful for the photographs.
Here are my favorite munchies from the streets:
Paani puri/puchkas/golgappas: The names might be different but they all mean the same. Tangy and sweet flavors bursting in your mouth. A fried dough ball is stuffed with mashed potatoes and black chickpeas, and dipped in tamarind and spicy mint water.
Best place to try: Ambala, where there is a shop that serves a round of 10 puris, each with different flavored water. Yummy!
Avoid: Hyderabd-they a do strange version of it, filled with warm chickpeas.
Bhelpuri: My brother has fallen ill numerous times on his bhel adventures, but that has never stopped him from trying another plate. Essentially these are puffed rice mixed with chopped onions, tomatoes, chillis and coriander. It can be served dry or with a generous splashing of sweet tamarind chutney.
Best place to try: Delhi
Avoid: I am yet to eat a bad plate of bhel
Tikki: Perfect for the cold winter months, these are crisp flat cakes made of boiled potatoes mixed with onions and shallow fried. They are served right off the pan, and topping including chick peas and curd along with radish and onions. Each seller makes his own little variation.
Best place to try: Delhi during the winter months
Avoid: not a big fan of what is served here in Mumbai and Nasik
Momos: This Nepalese import used to be ubiquitous during the winter season, but these days you will find them at many street corners. Similar to dumplings, these are stuffed with either chicken or finely grated vegetables, and served with a spicy sauce.
Best place to try: I still dream of the ones we used to order in Kolkata
Avoid: If in doubt, order the vegetarian version, though the non-veg is better
Best place to try: anywhere in Maharashtra
Avoid: this is made really well here
Kathi Roll: or simply rolls, these are rotis made of rising flour, and more or less shallow fried, and then filled with the yummiest of stuffing’s, and a generous heaping on onions and then rolled for your pleasure.
Best place to try: Kolkata
Avoid: at stalls that are not packed.
Samosas: this is a triangle shaped dough that is usually stuffed with a spicy mix of mashed potatoes and peas, and served with a sweet tamarind chutney. Some places also serve it with piping hot chickpeas and curd.
Best place to try: these are mad really well across India, but are more popular in the North
Avoid: when in doubt, find another stall
Best place to try: I only started eating them here so Nasik for me
Avoid: those packed variety sold by Haldiram. They are vile.
Shakkarkandi: this is basically a sweet potato chaat. The vegetable is either boiled or grilled on coals and then peeled and chopped. It is simply sprinkled with salt, chili powder and chaat masala. Lovely during the winters.
Best place to try: Janpath in Delhi while browsing the kitschy stalls.
Avoid: this is the only place I have tried it…
Vada Pav: This is one of those dishes that is associated with Maharashtra, the other being sevpuri. A fried ball of spicy mashed potatoes is placed in a bun and is topped with spicy garlic chutney. They can be had for breakfast, or as an evening snack, and is essentially the Indian burger.
Best place to try: anywhere in Maharashtra is good, but the best I have had is from a tiny stall in Panvel (Mumbai)
Avoid: I am yet to eat a bad one
Writing the list I realized our fast food uses a lot of potatoes and a lot of it fried. These are definitely not something that you should be eating daily if you want to be on good terms wih your body.
Which ones are your favorite?