Street food is popular in many Asian countries and India is no exception. In fact, one can identify a city just by mentioning what kind of street food you'll get there, like Mumbai and its vada pav and Chennai and its masala dosa. What sets street food apart from its restaurant counterpart is the convenience, price, and the unparalleled satisfaction to our hunger pangs.
While the main customers of street food on a regular basis might be the working populace and students, exploring street food options is on the bucket list of every millenial who loves to travel.
South India has its share of specialities but there are famous dishes from other parts of the country, too, which have become a common sight in these cities. Here's a look at popular South Indian street foods - their origin might be from elsewhere but are no longer considered exotic.
Mysuru and masala dosa are almost inseparable from each other in the flow of tongue. What’s better than a butter-smeared crunchy lentil dosa with the hearty goodness of the spiced potato within? And to make it bite-friendly, it’s cut up into delicious triangles and served with piping hot sambar and scintillating chutney. This one’s a winner all the way – filling and delicious.
For the unfamiliar few, that’s meat that’s rotating on an automated vertical rotisserie. The meat is grilled and kept moist at all times. When serving, it is shaved off from the edges and wrapped into roti/naan or any flat bread with other fillings to make it one of Hyderabad’s most coveted treats. With it’s charred flavour, delicately moist meat and delicious fillings, its wholesome and hearty and satiates every meat lover’s fantasy.
Indian Chinese is a cuisine in its own right and gobi manchurian is the reigning emperor of this kingdom. Golden fried cauliflower florets in a corn-starch reduced sauce garnished with spring onions, this dish works great as a starter, a side or just by itself. Made dry or with gravy as per taste, it’s the perfect snack - if you're not too finicky about oil! Pair with a street-style tawa pulao or Chinese fried rice for maximum impact.
Anything charred on a skewer is culinary gold. This Middle East-inspired version of the barbeque is Levantine in origin, like the shawarma, and owns the Hyderabad street food scene. While typically a kebab involves some form of meat – chicken, mutton, veal, or lamb, the vegetarian population of India wasn’t to be left behind and has innovated to produce its own versions of the kebab minus the meat. Notable among these are the hara bhara kebab and seekh kebab.
Punugulu – bonda with peanut chutney
Think Hyderabad and street food and you won’t go 3 counts without including their famous punugulu in your list. Also called bonda in some parts of the country, this fried treat is made from spiced idli/dosa batter and served with a signature peanut chutney. With its crisp exterior and super soft interior, this dish is melt-in-your-mouth indulgence at its best.
Kerala makes its distinctive stamp in this list with this phenomenal entry –the pazham pori – a crisp ripe banana fritter served with chaaya (tea) of course! The outer coating is a mix of rice flour and gram flour. A hint of semolina can give it a distinctive crunch too.
Another Tamil Nadu dish that has captured hearts around the world, the kothu barotta is not made from the North Indian style paratha. Instead it is made from the distinctively south barotta – a maida counterpart, specific to the south that is made in layers. Strips of leftover barotta are tossed around in a spicy vegetable dry-gravy and imbibe the combining flavours to perfection.
Borrowed from our North Eastern states, the momo is a steamed dumpling made with a variety of tantalizing fillings and served with dips. Its popularity has transcended its roots and now it is a very popular street food down south. Don’t miss Kailash Kitchen in Chennai to try out their distinctive momos.
Marinated chicken, chilli sauce, deep fried – what’s not to love? And if it’s all served on a kebab stick as it is street-side, it’s convenient too!
It wouldn’t be out of place to devote an entire article to the glories of chaat as the street side food of India. From pani puri to pav bhaji, from bhel puri to dahi papdi chaat, every single item is designed to tickle your taste buds and combine salt with sweet, spice with sourness and heat with yogurt in an indescribable blend of phenomenal tastes.
And that’s why it's no wonder that chaat has broken the old-day shackles of the street corners in Mumbai, the crowded streets of Kolkata or the winding lanes of Delhi to make its way into most nooks and corners across the country. The Southern states too have embraced the chaat culture, making variations to suit their local populace.
All images courtesy Youtube screenshots.