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Indian Street Food: a culinary phenomenon

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India is truly a culinary phenomenon with a cuisine as rich and varied as the country itself. Street food is a significant part of the story, fuelling much of the urban population as they go about their daily business. Whether it’s tiny morsels or a full meal, the Indian street food scene is an energetic and memorable experience. Expect explosive flavours and moderate sensory overload as you absorb the cacophony of sights, sounds, smells and sensations of the day.

Mumbai

Mohammed Ali Road is where it's at for a swift solution to that rumbling tum. The obvious choice here is a seekh kebab, richly spiced meat cooked on skewers over coals for the perfect flavour. Simply presented with onion, salad and a squeeze of lemon, it's fresh and flavourful.

Kebabs on Mohammed Ali Road, Mumbai

Pav Bhaji is another must-try dish of tomato, potato, onion and spice mashed with plenty of butter and served with soft rolls for scooping. Also Vada Pav, known as the Mumbai burger, is an unmissable blend of potato, coriander, mustard seeds and masala spice, deep fried in patties and eaten with chutneys in a bun.

Vada pav (paav) Mumbai street food

Kolkata

If you want to experience Chinatown at its best, go early as most treats are sold out by 9am. The stalls and street kitchens scattered around the Tirati Bazaar sell everything from soup and dim sum to Chinese style sausages. Don’t miss the chance to try the famous Kolkata speciality of Kathi rolls - grilled spiced meat, onion and egg all wrapped up in a warm paratha, available in the New Market and throughout the city. Beware: very moreish!

Kathi rolls Kolkata India

Lucknow

The Chowk area is where much of the street food action happens, and it's all about the kebabs. Many Lucknow kebabs are patties made from minced lamb, green papaya, onion, ginger and a secret blend of spices. Tunday kebabs are particularly well known. For a sweet finish, look out for nimish, a kind of whipped panna cotta with delicate flavours of saffron and rosewater.

Kakori kebab India

Cochin

French, Dutch and Portuguese influences coupled with the locally abundant seafood, coconut and spices create a match made in heaven. Look out for toddy shops, not so much for the fermented coconut water ‘toddy’ but for the incredible spicy seafood dishes and that Keralan speciality; rich and fragrant beef fry. Street food staples here include idli, dosa and parrota - ideal for a quick snack on the go.

India - dosa street food

Delhi

If you’re in Delhi looking for street food there’s really only one place to start - Chandni Chowk. The pace here is frenetic ensuring the food is freshly prepared for the throngs of hungry customers. Lanes are bursting with historic eateries where local specialties have been prepared by the same families for generations. Chandni Chowk’s most famous dishes include Paratha flatbread, cooked on a hot griddle and served either plain or stuffed with spiced vegetables such as potato or cauliflower. There is a clutch of venerable old paratha vendors - some founded in the 1870s - on the aptly named Gali Paranthe Wali or Paratha Street.

Paratha flatbread Chandni Chowk India

Golgappa, also known as Pani Puri, are little hollow pillows of crisp dough (puri) pierced and filled with spiced tamarind water (pani), chutney, chickpeas, onion and spices. A crunchy mouthful that explodes with flavour.

Pani puri street food Delhi

Chennai

A great selection of southern Indian specialties awaits you in Chennai. One of the best areas of town for sampling the local street food is Anna Nagar. The most popular snack in Chennai is probably idlis which are steamed white rice cakes served with a sambar (spicy tamarind dal) and chutneys for dipping. If you are by the beach in Chennai, you have to try Sundal, a spicy treat involving chickpeas, onions and coconut.

Idlis being cooked in south India

Make it happen:

Mouth watering? Our local experts in India are ready and waiting to organise your culinary tour of India. Send them a little bit of info and let them take the strain out of organising your trip. For more ideas on what to see and do in India, have a look at our India page. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.

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