I realized I had not written much at all about one of my favorite topics: food, of course. Indian food encompasses an unbelievable variety of dishes and characteristics, so maybe I will save that for a later post. This one is about some of the street food I have had here.
Going to food stands is one of my favorite things to do with friends, whether for an afternoon or midnight snack. Well, the foods are often somewhere between a snack and a meal because they are rather filling. Among our favorites, one can observe influences from different parts of India and different parts of the world, too.
Momos are dumplings much like the ones China is known for. They can be prepared in a number of ways, but we have liked fried ones and steamed ones with veggie fillings. Chili sauce and mayonnaise or chutney are usually served on the side for dipping. Momos are originally from near the Himalayan region: Tibet and Nepal, also Bhutan and Northeast India. However, here they are modified to Indian tastes. For example, fillings are less meat-based than could probably be found elsewhere, or they could be made of the classic Indian paneer cheese.
Maggi is a brand of instant noodles popular in India, but it can refer to any instant noodles. The noodles can be made in soup or fried, with toppings to order. Instant noodles as a street food is a familiar in countries like Korea, and Maggi in particular is also popular in Malaysia. Shawarma is meat cooked on a turning vertical grill, and it is put in a wrap with vegetables and sauce. It has Middle Eastern origins and is delicious. The food we most often buy from a food stall is corn, without contest. I have had it grilled, steamed, or boiled; always, it is then rubbed with a chili-lime-salt mix and handed over in its husk. We actually have a cart just opposite our Tagore dorms that we frequent, often during afternoon homework breaks before tea time. It has become somewhat of a routine.
Other typical foods sold by street stalls include samosa, chaat, medu vada, and vada pav. A samosa is fried dough with fillings like potatoes and spices, usually in a triangular form or thicker and more puffed up. They are found everywhere in India. Chaat is made of pieces of fried dough, chickpeas, chutneys (sauces), yogurt, and spices/garnishes mixed together. Vada can basically be anything little, savory, and fried. Medu vada is made of a lentil, and batata vada of potatoes. Vada pav is vada in a small bun.
These are some of my favorites so far. There are many others, as well as endless variations of each. In general, I like being able to buy from street vendors: fruits and vegetables, fabrics, flowers, etc. The street foods on a late-night run are hard to beat, though.