If you ever visit an Indian household, be sure to arrive hungry. Most Indians believe it is their duty to feed (stuff is a better word) everyone that walks in their door. However, with heavy urbanization and more young people leaving their homes for big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, there has been a marked rise in the amount of Indian street food vendors.
The increasing popularity of street food can be linked to its ease of access, affordability and convenience. The food vendors are around every corner and offer customers a variety of different foods at a much more affordable rate than larger restaurants.
Young customers find it convenient to unwind with their colleagues over a shared meal. Most college students find themselves away from home for the first time missing the snacks they enjoyed back home. All these factors have caused a major increase in street food vendors across the major metropolitans in India.
“Having moved from Vapi to Mumbai, I really miss my mom’s cooking, especially her jalebis,” a student at Whistling Woods Film Academy, Arth Desai, said. “I know I may not be able to get them for another few months but for now the Mumbadevi Jalebiwala will have to do.”
Jalebis are coils of deep fried wheat flour soaked in sugar syrup and then flash fried. These bright orange sweet desserts can be found on various streets in Indian cities and also in some parts of South Asia and the Middle East.
The southern part of the country has its own unique flavor. A popular breakfast in Bangalore in southwestern India is Dosa, which is made out of rice batter and black lentils. The plain variety is the butter Dosa but you can also get it stuffed with flavored potatoes. The Dosa resembles a pancake and is usually eaten with coconut chutney.
“There is usually a line of over 50 people waiting to order Dosa at Shri Sagar,” a resident of Malleswaram in Bangalore, Nikita Katke, said. “I try to come early so I can grab a quick bite and then head to work.”
Moving to the very northern part of India, a common street snack is Momos. These boiled dumplings that originated in Tibet and Nepal have slowly spread into northern India’s street food scene. You can buy varieties filled with chicken, lamb or vegetables. A wide variety of dipping sauces include soy-sesame and hot chilli sauce. The most popular spot for Momos, called Momo Hut, can be found in Jammu City.
In Mumbai, Vada Pav is a common street food found in railway stations. It is a fried spicy potato ball served on a bun with tamarind sauce and hot garlic sauce. The most famous spot to get some is Samrat Vada Pav, where they’re served with coconut pieces.
“Samrat vada pav fits my tight budget and that makes me very happy,” a resident of Andheri Mumbai, Payal Kamath, said. “With restaurant prices going up every day, it is challenging for young professionals to find a meal that fits their schedules and their budgets.”
Another famous one among India’s street food places is Parathas. They are wholewheat pancakes, fried on a buttered pan. The are stuffed with potatoes, radish, paneer or spinach and are accompanied by yogurt or pickles. Walking to Gali Parathe Wali (translates to Paratha Lane) in Chandni Chowk in New Delhi, Sunny Arora shared: “I love meeting a few friends over some street food after a long day of work, it’s our way to unwind and relax.”
Arora added that the stores down Gali Parathe Wali offer a variety of food for quite an affordable price. “It makes sense for university students and younger workers.”