Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: STREET WOK IN INDIA

“When people wore hats and gloves, nobody would dream of eating on the street. Then white gloves went out of style and, suddenly, eating just about anything in the street became OK.”
Jane Addison

Am pleased to be invited by Foodbuzz to post once again for their 24,24,24, a monthly event that celebrates food across the globe. With foodbuzz featured publisher bloggers, the monthly Foodbuzz 24 highlights unique meals occurring around the globe during a 24-hour period. “From San Francisco to Sydney, Feast on it!” My previous 24,24,24 can be found here.

My choice for this February’s 24,24,24 is INDIAN STREET FOOD. Come relish a new take on food, rustic, moreish in every bite. A different charm altogether. There is a sense of urgency in street food, everything is done with a certain precision, & the level of enthusiasm is infectious. The hustle bustle generally picks up in the late evenings, after sunset.

Street food is synonymous with ‘food available on the street’. It is a quintessential part of the Indian culture & cuisine, & its popularity now ensures that you can find clean, amazing taste on the street. An explosion of flavours & textures, that entice your taste-buds, leaving you begging for more. Street food has always been one of the cornerstones of Asian life. Street food and drink can often bring an insight into the history of the city’s people, the geography of the land and is one of the best ways to taste authentic local culture, believes Discovery Travel and Living. It’s an intrinsic part of India cuisine, delicious & mouthwatering, & no visit to India is quite complete unless you gather the courage to try some. Just make sure you choose the right place! The delhi-belly didn’t gain its colloquial notoriety for nothing, but the right choice will transport you back to gastronomical nirvana. Join the hub & me as we roam the street & PEEP INTO THE WOK! Vegetarian options are generally based on fried food, which appear to blur boundaries of main meal, snack, appetizer etc. A kaleidoscope of flavours exist all in the same dish…sweet, sour, crisp, soft… & always the option of an extra spicy kick. The good thing is that with most non-marinated food on the street, you can customize the chili factor. Eat as you like. Treat it as a main meal or snack. To cover as much variety of street food we hit the street early. What do we find here…?We come face to face with HOT SAMS, or samosas as the world knows them!! Samosas are typically Indian street food, & you will find fresh samosas being fried at every corner you go around, or at a ‘Halwai’an Indian sweet-maker, baker & deep-fryer! Usually stuffed with a mixture of boiled potatoes, peas, raisins, cashew nuts & cottage-cheese, given a mighty kick with Indian masalas/spices & some green chilies thrown in, samosas are deep-fried Indian pastry. They are very enjoyable indeed on a cold winter day, even better on a rainy day. This triangular pastry (a small turnover deep-fried pastry) is quite popular, & jostles for space in a line of long & illustrious street food called CHAAT. Chaat is plate of savoury snacks, typically served at road-side tracks from stalls or carts in Pakistan, India and the rest of South Asia. The word derives from Hindi चाट (tasting, a delicacy), from चाटना (to taste), from Prakrit चट्टेइ (to devour with relish, eat noisily).The chaat variants are all based on fried dough, with various other ingredients. The original chaat is a mixture of potato pieces, crispy fried bread, gram bean and spices, but other popular variants included Aloo Tikkis (garnished with onion, coriander, hot spices and a dash of curd), bhel puri, dahi puri, panipuri, dahi vada, papdi chaat, and sev puri. There are common elements among these variants including dahi, or yogurt; chopped onions and coriander; sev (small dried yellow noodles); and chaat masala. Our second wok stop is at a Chaat Wala, to eat Aloo Tikkis, traditional crisp fried potato patties, somewhat like rosti, but with a mildly spiced lentil filling! The chef is obliging & his name is Suresh. He swears by ooodles of clarified butter / ghee, & proclaims that that’s where the real taste lies! He’s been doing this since he was 12, for the past 22 years. Oh boy! All that fat in the pan scares me, but he says he’s been eating & making this stuff forever & hasn’t put on or lost weight. New diet anyone? The Indian Chaatwalas Diet!!! YUM! He expertly makes the patties like a machine, & gets on with his job. He has an infectious level of enthusiasm & is out to please. Walks us through the by lanes of Chandni Chowk as he lovingly fries the croquettes, presenting to us the most delicious ‘tikkis’ ever! Each tikki is given TLC; there is uniformity in each piece! We choose our toppings, light & non-fussy, though you can go in for the works if you like! Street food meals have no norms, so breaking away from the ‘end of the meal dessert’ tradition, we get irresistibly tempted to come to a grinding halt at the sweet shop. There are gulab jamuns, jalebis & gajar-ka-halwa up for grabs. Gulab jamun is a sweet dish made of a dough consisting mainly of milk solids (often including double cream and flour), in a sugar syrup flavored with cardamom seeds and rosewater or saffron. Gajar-ka-halwa is a halwa/pudding where grated carrots are cooked in milk, with a generous sprinkling of dry fruits added to it. We get hopelessly distracted by fresh hot jalebis which are just being fried. One bite & you are hooked. Jalebis are crisp swirls of batter, piped into hot oil, fried to golden brown perfection, & then immediately dunked into sugar syrup. The man literally doodles them onto hot oil, somewhat like Spanish Churros. But here, the batter is much thinner, & it is piped out of cheesecloth, under pressure, in a thin stream. The result is sweet heaven … bite into a crisp exterior, & then the sweetness of the syrup within floods your mouth. It’s addictive to say the least, but we nibble on quite a few crispy bites, save some for after dinner & carry on. We have a trail to blaze & it leads us to the tandoor. HOT! HOT! HOT! One peep within & I’m almost transported to Hansel & Gretel & the witches’ hot oven! Wokking into non-vegetarian street, it’s a happening place here. The tandoor has been fired up, & you can see rows upon rows of skewered delicacies. Here you have to no choice on the level of spices; they’ve been included in the marination, & some can be quite SPICY!! We find a dazzling array of skewered meats & chunks of cottage cheese. There’s something for everyone – chicken tikka, reshmi kebabs, tandoori chicken, seekh kebab, burra kebab, paneer tikka…all waiting to be popped into a burning hot tandoor. If you want to move from snack to meal, then bread cannot be far behind. Expert hands fling thin roomali rotis in the air like handkerchiefs. They break off pieces of dough, roll out circles or triangles, & slap naans or tandoori rotis into searing hot ovens. The naans are liberally sprinkled with kalonji or onion seeds.Give the sober naan a slathering of butter, & reach butter naan nirvana! How good can it get! If that’s not quite your calorie ridden scene, then try a lachcha paratha…layers & layers of thin pastry dough which are cooked to perfection in the hot tandoor, to reveal layers of paper thin flatbread. We wind up our meal with a nibble at the jalebis, which are still quite warm &, surprisngly, still crisp. It’s been a wonderful experience, one that we are tempted to enjoy over & over again. So when you wok the street in gay abandon, leave the frills & fancies behind. No fancy china plates, no polished cutlery. Street food is often served on steel plates (reusable, unbreakable & can live a zillion years), on plastic ware, in paper bags, & sometimes in disposable & environment friendly plates & bowls made out of leaves. Anything goes!
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Comments

  1. How lucky are you? We don’t have a decent Indian restaurant here, forget about street food!!

  2. Poornima Nair says:

    Mumbai is not different from Delhi when it comes to street-food and I dont remember a day going by without having some kind of street-food and I so long for that now…Your post is actually making me cry…Can’t wait to get back home!

  3. Rachel says:

    That was a very wonderful read!

  4. meeso says:

    What a mouthwatering post, really nice to read… I wish I could taste each and every food that is pictured!

  5. deeba, what a great post for 24 24 24! love the food shots. i made a curry last night and had it with peshwari naan bread…but i didn’t make it quite hot enough. and looking at those delicious samosas, i’m thinking i didn’t put enough effort into it and kinda wish i was there with you now to savour indian street food. mmmm. :) x

  6. A_and_N says:

    I could die. I could die. I could die looking at the pics :(

    I love love street food and now these pictures :( I’m almost in tears missing India :(

  7. Priya says:

    Had a wonderful virtual street food walk through this post…just craving for these wonders:)

  8. Lovely post Deeba with lovely photos and a lot of information for us to learn about Indian street food.

  9. Happy cook says:

    I love, love this post and my key board is full of drool.
    I would have loved to join you and hubby to roam the streets.
    Well badluck for me i can just drool.

  10. The Duo Dishes says:

    Jalebis, naan, samosas! So many delicious things. We looooooove authentic street food, and what you’ve shown us is that we need to get a trip scheduled to India stat! Great 24 post. We did one too, and it’s great to read them all.

  11. Bellini Valli says:

    This was a wonderful journey through the streets of India Deeba. If I can’t be there myself I thoroughly enjoyed the virtual trip!!

  12. Helene says:

    Congratulations! What a great post. I’d love to visit this place.

  13. Reeni♥ says:

    You did a wonderful job of making me feel like I was there with you. How I wish I was! The food has my mouth watering and wishing for such delicacies!

  14. Lori Lynn says:

    This is just fabulous! What a great contribution to 24,24,24.
    LL

  15. noble pig says:

    Wow what a tour you have taken us on! Just amazing!

    Well, you know i am in love with those potato patties!

    Good work. You are like an investigative reporter.

  16. Maria says:

    How great is that! Thank you for that lovely trip … it was mouthwatering!

  17. Bharti says:

    That is just torture for USA desis Deeba! I miss it all.

  18. 5 Star Foodie says:

    What a wonderful and educational post! All that food looks delicious!

  19. Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella says:

    Great idea Deeba and thankyou for taking us on a culinary tour of Indian Street Food. I have a real soft spot for street food. In my experience it’s always delicious :)

  20. Nachiketa says:

    WOW!!!! I love street food….
    sometimes i just go off on my own when i don’t get company….

    Eating chaat and gol gappe is therapeutic

    Did you go to chandni chowk?

  21. Hélène (Cannes) says:

    I love this post, as much as as love street food. Unfortunatelly, my stomach doesn’t always love it as much as I do (great souvenirs in Mexico !)but never mind ! ;o))
    I’ve never been to India … After this post, I’d love to …
    Hélène

  22. MeetaK says:

    I am getting homesick now! I miss all this colorful food from India!

  23. Natashya says:

    Oh my! What a wonderful array of street foods!
    Unfortunately the only thing you can get on the street in Toronto is hotdogs.. sigh.
    That is supposed to change soon though. I can’t wait!
    I love the variety of flavours that you have showcased, very hungry now!

  24. Nicisme says:

    That’s brilliant that you can go out and try all the different foods. My favourites are the samosas, I’d love to try the other things.

  25. Elenka says:

    That was a fantastic journey down the street. It’s 20 minutes until lunch and my mouth is just watering!!
    Those jalebis’s look wonderful !

  26. I am super jealous. part of me did not want to scroll down further, I was miserably missing the charm of dust, that nifty hands working to cook those delicious food, the other part of me had to, just to see what else u had:-)

  27. ♥Rosie♥ says:

    I am licking my lips here Deeba with all this gorgeous food on show!! What a lovely glimpse into street food – Bravo!!

    Rosie x

  28. Superchef says:

    you have soo weonderfully captured the essence of street food in india!! what an entry to 24,24,24!!!

  29. Maggie says:

    Gorgeous photos! I’ve never had really fresh jalebis. I bet they were wonderful.

  30. ice tea: sugar high says:

    yumm.. I love street food. You made me want to go to India now..

  31. Divya Vikram says:

    Jai Ho Indian food! Miss India! :(

  32. Arlette says:

    Hello Deeba,

    thanks for sharing this posting, its very interesting.
    we have a similar dessert in lebanon, they swirel one circle of dough in hot hot then its dipped in syrup , I am interested to learn your technique in this one if you have a recipe to share…
    thanks

  33. coffeegrounded says:

    I LOVE your posts, but I truly believe you have out-done yourself with this one. I enjoy Indian food and am so lost since my dear friend moved away. She was a wonderful and talented cook. I never knew food could center the universe in such splendor until I entered her kichen. She would grind her own spices and cook for hours. I treasure all the memories and today you have evoked them, once again. Thank you, dearly!

  34. Chandani says:

    such a mouthwatering post!! am so jealous of you right now;) can’t wait to go back home and try all of this yummy food!!

  35. FoodJunkie says:

    What a great 24 submission! Street food is amazing in general but this is truly gourmet…

  36. Great 24 24 submission and a lovely post. This was definitely a visual treat :-)

  37. Anonymous says:

    Dear Deeba, this post is really mean. I really wish I was in Delhi right now. How I miss the street food. sigggghhhh.
    Shy

  38. Tangled Noodle says:

    This post is a fantatastic treat for the at least the visual senses! Your photography is so vibrant that I can almost taste these snacks. Thank you so much for sharing the experience!

  39. Can I be magically transported there!? Pretty please? The food looks amazing!

  40. Mediterranean Turkish Cook says:

    All this food is so tempting! I wish I had them close by!

  41. noobcook says:

    Thanks for a glimpse into Indian street food, street food definitely has a charm of its own. What a great foodbuzz feature!

  42. Marija says:

    Another wonderful post! I am so jealous I can’t taste this food. I think I’d love it!

  43. <a href="food-foodandrecipe.blogspot.com">bayu</a> says:

    article in this blog very grade and benefit for me, am will be to visit again to here

  44. wonderful post…..reading the post made me nostalgic

  45. s. stockwell says:

    Wow, what a wonderful, wonderful post! I was in Ragistan last year and was fearful about eating the street food…next time i’ll try! Thanks for such a complete view with great photos. Best, S

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