There is a general opinion among tourists that street food in India is bad for health, lacks standard hygiene and should be avoided. Well, it’s not true. Street food on Indian streets is often much safer and cleaner than the food in big restaurants which are often dirty, unkept and full of rats. Street vendors have their stalls and maintain their cooking standards nicely. Maybe their standards are not as high as one Westerner would expect but that doesn’t mean we should avoid it. The only thing to be avoided is of course, water. And eating too many sweets !
One of the things I like most about India is evening. The time when all the streets are full with people and street vendors come out to start preparing their delicious items. Smell of sweets, namkeens, juices and milk products fills the streets and people’s nostrils. The scene reminds me of the beautiful description of Madurai found in the Tamil classic Shilapadikaram:
“Do you not feel the southern breeze blowing from the city and bringing us the mixed fragrance of sacred black akil and sandalwood? This breeze comes here laden with the odors of saffron,chives,sandal paste, and musk.On its way it may have wandered near newly opened buds of sweet water lilies pouring out their abundant pollen;or trailed among champaks in bloom, or lost its way in groves of jasmine and madhavi, or caressed the buds of garden mullai. It brings us the smell of good food,for it went through the fumes of big bazaars,where pan cakes are fried in countless little stalls. It brings with it a heavy odor from the terraces where men and women crowd close together.It is thick with smoke of sacrifices and many other pleasing smells…
First thing you don’t want to miss are juices: mausambi (citrus limetta) juice, sugarcane juice, anar (pomegranate) juice, ananas juice and so on…the price is around 20-40 Rs for a glass and it’s the best energy shot which you can drink everyday.
The fruit is also very cheap in India, especially mangos when you visit India during the mango season. I have to compare it with my own country: While in India 1 kg of sweet, delicious mango costs only 20 Rs during the mango season, here in Europe one piece of mango costs around 100-200 Rs.
My second favourite drinks are sweet and salted lassi and milk shakes (like badam milk shake). The price is again around 20 Rs. There is an opinion that milk products should be avoided. From my own experience it is safe to drink lassi and milk shakes as long as they are stored in fridge.
Then namkeens (salty items): famous Indian snack food. There is a neverending list of namkeens you can eat in India. Banana chips,paranthas, bhajji, bhujia,chole bature, then gujarati dhokla and khandvi, jalebi, samose, kachori, papad, vadas and so on.
Cucumber and popcorn are also good snack choice.
Indian sweets are mostly made of milk. Most popular are peda, barfi and laddu. Best sweets I found were in Gujarat. They are famous for it’s sweets. And I have to mention that in Gujarat, everything is sweet. Sweet sweets, sweet rice, sweet subji, sweet water…
One of the best things I have ever tried in India is rabri. What is rabri? It is a sweet dish made of milk. It is easy to make but it takes time.It’s made by boiling the milk for hours until it becomes dense. Then the sugar and spices are added.