When it comes to comfort food, there’s nothing quite like what India has to offer. One does not have to be a food connoisseur to be able to appreciate the large assortment of options within the Indian cuisine. In fact, all of the meals I’ve had thus far constitute some of my favorite parts of this trip.
Indian food is famous worldwide for its fabulous blends of herbs and spices, rich with flavor and fragrance. Whether you’re trying the aromatic panch poron, or a crisp pani puri, the quintessential marriage of flavors evident in almost every dish has put India on a global map. Indian cuisine also reflects the country’s regional and cultural diversity beautifully. Each state consists of its own unique array of flavors and ingredients, where the spices and techniques used are typically its own regional concoction. This summer, I’ve had my fair share of addictive Indian street food. At local restaurants, I’ve devoured more paneer makhni, papri chaat, and aloo tikki than I’d like to admit. I also got the chance to experience a wide array of dishes I had never tried before. Out of all of these, I list my favorites below:
BUTTER RICE BHURJI
We tried this street food during our short weekend trip to Vadodara, Gujarat, at a roadside kitchen-come-restaurant called Raju Omlet. Butter rice bhurji is a simple dish made with scrambled eggs, fried rice, sautéed onions and chilies, fresh ginger and garlic, optional vegetables and, of course, a special formula-X of spices. It is often served with soft buns (known as pav), drenched in butter. Simple yet flavorful, this stall’s bhurji primarily owes its deliciousness to copious amounts of butter and decades of residual grease.
Although street foods are typically snacks, this warm dish is so filling that it could even serve as a meal. Sev, made of chickpeas and flour, are the fried noodle-like strands that are sprinkled with onions and coriander. It goes on top of the usal, a gravy made of dried peas and potatoes. Sev usal goes very well with pav, yogurt, date-tamarind chutney, and green-chutney. Another amazingly palatable experience!
Probably the epitome of an Indian roadside snack, this food is also extremely popular in my native country of Bangladesh (where we call it phuchka). The puri is the crunchy, round, hollow ball of deep-friend flour and semolina. The pani, which directly translates to water, refers to the chilled, tangy-flavored cilantro-mint water (in Bangladesh, this is made of tamarind instead). You must crack open the top of the puri with one finger, essentially making a hole. You then stuff the ball with spicy mashed potatoes (Bangladeshis add chickpeas too), chopped onions, and the sweet tamarind or cilantro-flavored pani, or any combination thereof – right to the brim – and experience all the flavors in one bite. The pani puri pictured above is home-made. But it is still well-worth the slight indigestion that might follow if you try it on the streets!
LEFT TO RIGHT: (1) SHAHI PANEER, (2) GOBI KI SABZI , (3) VEG KOFTA CURRY
(1) India is a massive producer of milk, so it comes as no surprise that milk products are part and parcel of Indian meals. Out of these, paneer or Indian cottage cheese is one of the most famous products. Shahi paneer is Indian cottage cheese in a thick and creamy gravy of tomatoes, fresh cream, as well as almond and cashew nuts. The word “shahi” refers to the imperial court, and the rich aroma and harmonious blend of spices within the curry/gravy that is absorbed by the paneer truly creates a dish that is, in fact, fit for royals.
(2) Gobi ki sabzi is a hearty vegetarian cauliflower curry that is both healthy and delicious. Whether you prefer it with naan or basmati rice, it makes for a meatless meal that won’t disappoint your appetite.
(3) Veggie kofta curries are made from vegetable dumplings dunked into an onion and tomato-based gravy. Koftas are small, round dumplings made from minced vegetables or paneer, deep-fried with mild spices. They often have a slightly crisp outer layer while being soft on the inside. With the lusciously creamy curry/gravy accompanying these protein-filled dumplings, this dish has it all!
All-in-all, the world of Indian cuisine is a fascinating one, rich in flavor, nutritional value, and regional culture. And I’m not sure which part I’ll miss the most.