It is often reported by first-time visitors to India that the big city destinations of this mighty country can take a bit of getting used to. The hot streets are alive with unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells – it can be somewhat overwhelming to travellers fresh off a 10 hour flight.
However, despite the honking traffic and frenetic activity, India’s cities offer a greeting that will brighten the day of any hungry explorer in the form of the ever-present street-side vendors and hawkers offering up a range of tasty snacks and meals. Some of these delicious morsels wouldn’t seem out of place on the menus of some of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants, but at a price that is – quite frankly – cheaper than chips.
Welcome to the world of Indian street food, an integral part of the country’s famous culinary culture… and where else to go to find some of the choicest eats on the street? Why, one of India’s largest and busiest cities – Kolkata.
Kolkata has a reputation for presenting some of the best street food you’ll find in India, from bite-sized Bengali tidbits to satisfyingly hearty meals, complete with rice and accompaniments. Here are some of the snacks you might encounter in Kolkata when hunger strikes:
- Phuchka and Churmer
This tasty snack is a Bengali favourite and the perfect size to pick up when you need something to eat on the go. Similar to the famous golgappa or pani puri, phuchka is a delicate, crispy snack, puffed to perfection with a variety of interesting fillings to choose from. Dahi phuchka, when the phuchka is filled with creamy yoghurt, is a popular option as are the versions consisting of spiced potatoes soaked in tangy tamarind flavoured water. Whichever flavour you choose, the beauty of the phuchka is in the combination of crunchy and soft textures as well as the explosion of flavour that fills your mouth when you break through the outer shell.
- Jhal Muri
Eaten by hand, often out of a wrapped piece of newspaper, jhal muri could be thought of as India’s answer to a packet of crisps. Puffed rice is mixed in with an assortment of ingredients such as nuts, fried daal with some chopped onion, coriander, mustard oil and a dusting of masala spice – after all, this is India.
- Kathi Roll
Essentially an Indian wrap, the kathi roll makes an excellent lunchtime meal. It comprises of an Indian flatbread such as a paratha or chapatti stuffed with a selection of fillings depending on preference. Meat-eaters will enjoy kathi rolls chunky with juicy mutton or fried chicken, whilst vegetarians will prefer chopped vegetables flavoured with paneer cheese. You won’t go hungry when the roll wallah comes around!
- Dahi Vada
A firm favourite with many different variations popping up all over India, the dahi vada of Kolkata is an unusual snack that sees deep fried vadas soaked in yoghurt. The yoghurt is beaten until it is thick, rich and creamy and the dish is sprinkled with spices and green chillies before a garnish of coriander, mint or grated coconut is added.