Fast food is popular all over the world, be it a hot dog or veggie burger. But nothing can beat the variety of fast food in India. Simple, yet exotic flavors make Indian street food different and an all-time favorite pastime. No matter where you are, at a mela (carnival / fair), a mall or an upscale restaurant, you will find an extensive list of mouth-watering choices. No outing is ever complete without some chaat, egg rolls or pakore (vegetable tempura) on the go.
While most fast-food in India is synonymous to “street food“, I highly recommend that you not get your grub from roadside vendors. Find a “Haldiram” or decent sit-in restaurant where you can be assured your food is prepared with care.
Here is my list of top 11 fast food dishes…
1. Chole Bhature
Chole-Bhature is a combination of spicy chick pea (Chole) and fried flat dough (Bhature) made of all-purpose flour. It is served with sliced onions, green chilies and pickle. The chole curry has a tangy taste and the consistency varies from slightly thick to semi-dry and dry.
Chole bhature taste best when served hot, they are yummy and filing. The next time you have one, make sure you have built an appetite to do justice to this dish.
Note: This is a heavy dish… that is, you are likely to feel sluggish and in need of a nap afterwards. I always feel that it expands in my tummy after I eat it.
2. Aloo Tikki
Aloo tikki, or spiced potato fritters, is to India what french fries are to Americans: a near ubiquitous street food, best served hot, crisp, and satisfyingly salty. Substitute ketchup for chutney, and it’s a perfect match. Though it must be admitted that aloo tikki is a bit more sophisticated than french fries. The explosion of flavors in your mouth is a treat to match.
Sometimes served with yogurt, red chutney, and pomegranate seeds, aloo tikki is a must try.
3. Pav Bhaji
Pav bhaji is India’s chicken-soup-for-the-soul food at it’s best. Buns (pav) fried in butter are served with a thick vegetable gravy (bhaji) cooked with fragrant spices (that taste like heaven reincarnated) will elevate your taste buds and spirits — all in a good way.
Served with a generous amount of butter, topped along with some fresh chopped onions & lemon juice, it is especially the favorite street food of Mumbai (Bombay).
4. Dahi Bhalle
Dahi Bhalle is a delicious, yummy snack that is sweet, sour, tangy, spicy and crispy all at the same time… with so many flavors tantalizing your taste-buds that you might need a referee to keep them in check. Dahi literally means yogurt, and bhalle is a fermented-lentil dumpling.
Dahi Bhalle are often served as a chilled snack or a starter dish as they are light and appetizing. Made by deep-frying fermented urad dal (white lentil) dumplings, served drenched in chilled sweet yogurt, laced with tamarind chutney. A generous sprinkling of freshly roasted cumin powder is a must for that robust earthy taste and aroma!
It is rumored that a craving for dahi bhalle is tell-tale sign that you are in love.
Momos, though not originally from India, are one of North India’s favorite street foods. Introduced by Tibetan refugees in the 1960s, these are similar to potstickers in texture and style.
Quite simply, these are dumplings stuffed with meat (chicken, lamb or goat meat) or vegetables coupled with a tangy sauce. They can be served steamed, fried, or in a gravy, and a treat not to miss when visiting North India.
6. Raj Kachori
Made from a daal (lentil) and all-purpose flour mix, these deep fried kachoris (oval shaped crackers) come with different fillings: onion, peas, potato and fried lentils. They taste delicious served with garnished cilantro and tamarind chutney.
One of the most loved Indian snacks, Raj kachori is absolutely sensational.
7. Gol Gappas
Also widely known as pani puri, these consist of a delicate, hollow, crispy-fried puffed balls (puri, or poori) that are filled with potato, chickpea, onion, spices, and flavored water, usually tamarind and/or mint. These are eaten by popping the whole puri into one’s mouth, often while standing.
Gol gappa is a very popular Indian street food, just like samosas. Spicy, crunchy, mouth-watering, lip-smacking good!
8. Papri Chaat
Papri Chaat is a yummy snack assorted with crunchy base of crispy poori (wafers/chips) which are topped with lip-smacking chutneys, vegetables and yogurt.
Crunchy, flaky, salty, and sweet flavors combine to make papri chaat delicious to eat.
Papri refers to the wafers, and the word chaat is to denote spicy tasty snacks. In Hindi, chaat literally means “to lick.” So don’t be surprised if you catch yourself licking your fingers in public!
The triangular shaped flaky pastry filled with spicy potato, onions, peas, meat (chicken or lamb) or lentils is a popular snack not only in India, but in several countries of the world.
You can find samosa and chai at every other street corner of India. Often served as appetizers at restaurants, they are often served with mint chutney, or even just plain ketchup.
Pakora, also called bhaji, is a deep-fried snack popularly served as an appetizer at upscale restaurants and street vendors alike.
Made by dipping vegetables or bread in a batter made from gram flour and then deep-frying, these are served hot and crunchy alongside a tangy mint chutney.
Pakoras can be made with onions, eggplants, potato, spinach, plantain, paneer (cottage cheese), cauliflower, or chili peppers. They are also occasionally prepared with bread, buckwheat, groundnut, fish, or chicken.
11. Idli Vada Sambhar
Idli vada sambar is a delicious breakfast platter usually served with coconut chutney and hot filter coffee.
Idlis are round dumplings made from a batter of steamed rice and fermented black lentil.
Vadas are donut-shaped and deep-fried, and power-packed with proteins. Soft and fluffy from inside, but with a crispier outside crust, they are eaten dipped in sambhar.
Sambhar, is a lentil-based vegetable stew, cooked with daal and tamarind broth. It is the equivalent of chicken-soup on a cold rainy day, and enjoyed best with rice, idli or dosa.
Indian fast food is easy to afford, and delicious. Typically assembled right in front of your eyes as you order, you get to choose which condiments to exclude, and how much spice you would like. Happy feasting!
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