While going through the Education Times to get an insight into the education opportunities existing abroad, I was just thinking about all the lovely things that someone would miss about India if they were to ever leave home. Family and loved ones, home, college, home-made food, all the celebrations and festivals, Bollywood films (no matter how much we criticize them), auto rides with friends, shopping at cheap markets trying to bargain for every penny charged, eating gol-gappas and chaats with water dripping down our chins, laughing away at the silliest jokes, enjoying life to the fullest as if there was no tomorrow.
Clearly, Indian street food is not just another thing that adds to my list of things I love about India. The tantalizing chaats with the chatpata masalas and chutneys are just too good to resist. As it clear, this article is dedicated to all the roadside foodies!
It is interesting to note that the word ‘chaat’ is derived from the Hindi verb ‘chaatna’, which means to lick one’s fingers after eating a scrumptious dish. Thus, from fried aloo-chaat to bhalle-paapri to aloo-tikki to gol gappas, there’s no end to the exquisite concoction of tastes. The tamarind and mint chutneys, with their exquisite combination of spices tickle your taste glands and make you fall in love with them.
Items like bhel-puri and sev-puri involving a combination of puffed rice, paapri and mashed potato, the sweet and spicy chutneys, onions, coriander and a final sprinkling of sev are equally tempting. Dahi-kachori is also made in much the similar way, except that it has a sprouts filling.
Pav-bhaji is another such delicious concoction, although it is slightly heavier on the stomach. The matara-chaat, especially the one prepared on the streets of Old Delhi is truly appetizing. This place is also known for its tikka wraps and the rumali roti with kebabs. The seekh and shammi kebabs are especially popular (heard of them as I am a thorough vegetarian!!!).
The fruit chaats with sliced guavas, bananas and apples sprinkled with some tangy chaat masala and a squeeze of lemon offer a complete feast for all the health freaks. In winters, the sweet potato and roasted corn chaats work wonders for you.
Among drinks, sherbet, jaljeera, and masala nimbu pani are truly sought after. The sugarcane juice spiced up with a dash of lemon is mouth-watering. Also, the multicolored chuskis are extraordinary and give you a heavenly feeling under the hot summer heat. The winter evenings, on the other hand, can be warmed up to with masala chai and spicy pakoras.
However, gol-gappas or paani-poori are my top favorite among them all. They are simply irresistible! The hollow rounds are filled with mashed potatoes, chickpeas, or sprouts and are dipped in water spiked up with coriander, black salt, chillies, tamaraind and various other spices. Defying all the norms of table manners and eating etiquette, the gol-gappas have to be eaten with a wide open mouth with some of the water trickling down your chin. But their sheer size makes eating them even more fun. The entire street food experience remains incomplete without tasting this remarkable delicacy!
The latest additions on the streets are the Tibetan momos and American corn which appeal to a large number of people; however, they still have a long way to go before they catch up with the indigenous treats.
Ending on a sweet note, the appetizing lassi/ kulfi-falooda and the spiral jalebis deserve special mention.
Thus, even though the western fast food culture is quickly taking over, the street food continues to remain an eternal favorite due to its roadside availability, quick service and extremely low prices. The chatpata masalas seem to run magic on you. The two chutneys, the green one made up of green coriander, mint, green chillies and salt, and the sweet one made of dates, tamarind and jaggery entrap you in their web of exquisite tastes. All you need is a zest for life, an appetite for great food, and most importantly, a strong stomach to digest it all.
Although the health freaks keep warning us about the lack of hygiene, the use of unclean water and stale food items, these warnings fall on deaf years. Simply because, what is the point of living a hundred years without enjoying all the wonderful things that the world has to offer.
Although ‘chatting’ is the new mantra with the youth, ‘chaat-ing’ is something that will continue to be a favorite for generations to come…