My mouth was salivating as I opened the container sent by a friend and the tangy and pungent smell hit my nose. Ahh! the smell of the sweet and sour taste of the Paani ( Spiced Water for a street food in India called Paani- Poori) hit me with a force. It brought back sweet memories of stuffing my face with street food countless number of times, when I was in India.
Today, I ate ‘Paani poori’ after a gap of nearly 3 years and the whole experience was orgasmic and beyond description. I still have the lingering taste of the dish in my mouth.
Despite having innumerable restaurants and fast food joints, Indians love their street food. It is one of the best and cheapest way to enjoy the cuisine of a particular community and in turn the culture of that region. To enjoy street food in India, you have to let go of your inhibitions about hygiene and concentrate only on gratifying your taste buds. You have to be like a warrior who is ready to weather anything and march into the unknown.
How to enjoy street food in India ?
If you are meek hearted, this type of eating style is not for you…you need the heart of a lion and the stomach of a cow to digest all the delicious dirt dished out at these roadside eateries.
1) Elbow Flicking: Maybe flicking is too mild a word, elbow jabbing would be better. Be prepared to poke sundry humans with your elbows to make way to the front of the line at the food stall . India is amass with humans and you need to learn this art pretty soon, standing politely in a line and waiting for your turn is just not done. Others will try the same with you, so be prepared to put some force into your jabs. We believe in standing up for our right to eat delicious food.
2) Angry Stare: Learn to perfect the art of giving a dirty stare in front of the mirror at home. You can add a growl to that angry stare for added effect. ‘You want yummy food and you want it now, no one on earth can take that right away from you’, this should be your motivation. Add this with the elbow jab and you are all prepared to jump into the crowds and are now ready for the battle.
3) Hygiene Stoicism: If you are the type who carries a hand sanitizer in your bag and believes in living on bottled water, then you are just not the right person to try street food in India. There will be a mishmash of smells emanating from near the eatery, there will be flies buzzing close by, you might even see an odd cow or a stray dog nearby. The fun part is to turn a blind eye to all these useless things and dig in to the ‘Bhel-puri’, ‘Vada-Paav’, Samosa, chaat and Kulfi. Let your taste buds savor the burst of flavors on your tongue, let your soul be united with your stomach and your eyes with the the wonderful colors of food.
4) One track mind: Learn to be totally single minded about food. Why worry if the vendor has washed his hands? If his blackened nails are because of the spices or something else? Ignore the rag (which is of indescribable color) with which he wipes down the plates and spoons. Ignore the fact that he has a cold and is wiping his nose with the back of his hand. Don’t observe that he is sweating and maybe you saw a drop or two falling down in the food. It all adds to the flavor of the dish.
5) Ambience: If you prefer air conditioning, nice seating arrangements and music in the background, better not venture near a street food vendor. The ambience you will have is cacophony of traffic, chattering of people, honking of horns, a bit of dust, heat and lots of pollution. There is a certain music to this too..but it is for the hardened street food junkie.
Across India you will find such street vendors selling food, juice, tea and desserts. Some of them have become so famous because of the unique taste that there are chains of such food vendors throughout the city. The food is cheap and can be eaten on the go.
To find the best street food, check around with the locals and they will surely guide you and will even boast about the taste as if they themselves have prepared it. The best part about street food is that you will never find such delicious food in any of the posh restaurants you go to in India.
So munch into a Samosa, taste the smooth creamy mango Kulfi or have that cool refreshing Sugarcane juice. Nowhere in the world you will find such an eclectic mix of street food that you will find in all corners of India.
P.S: To know more about the wide variety of street food in India go here.