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While Indian cuisine is beloved and enjoyed all over the world, these rich, flavorful, and truly delicious Indian street foods will open your mind, heart, and palate to Indian cooking in its truest and purest form.
Crafted with love and care, utilizing age-old cooking techniques, and melding, searing, and fusing the freshest, most flavorsome native ingredients together for some timeless dishes, this really is Indian cooking like you’ve never experienced before.
When you visit India, I urge you to seek out and try as many of these dishes as you can from street vendors and food markets – you will not regret it!
Indian Street Foods
1 – Panipuri
Panipuri, also known as gol guppa, puchka, fulki, and padake, depending on which part of the country you are from, is one of the most popular Indian street foods.
A panipuri is a mini crispy and crunchy puri, a deed fried bread made from unleavened wheat flour, loaded with various fillings, including pani, a popular flavored water, potatoes, tamarind, mint chutneys, spices, and many other ingredients depending on the region.
Trying to eat a panipuri while keeping your hands clean is quite the challenge, I can assure you! The dish is believed to have originated from Uttar Pradesh but can now be found in all parts of the subcontinent.
2 – Sundal
This traditional South Indian snack is often sold in paper cones at beaches along the southern coast. Sundal is a snack that is made with legumes and beans, spiced, tempered, and garnished with coconut flakes and a squirt of lemon juice.
The dish can be made with garbanzo beans, navy beans, or even peanuts or green peas, but the beans are always firstly cooked and then roasted or sauteed along with whatever spices are called for, commonly turmeric or amchur powder.
The beans are finally tempered with mustard seeds, curry leaves, and red or green chilis before serving. Sundal is common in many public places in the southern part of the subcontinent, especially on the beaches of Tamil Nadu.
3 – Bhutta
Bhutta means “corn,” and this dish that is found in many parts of India, especially the coastal parts, is a deliciously spiced and fire-roasted whole corn.
The corn is husked and then cooked over an open flame until it is roasted with a nice char. Then, a generous helping of salt, chili powder, and lime is spread all over it.
Bhutta vendors often line beaches across India, so you enjoy some wholesome and delicious bhutta while watching the sun setting over the water.
4 – Sliced Mango
Mango is considered the king of fruits in India, and rightfully so. Come summer, the country is bursting with mangoes of every kind, color, and sweetness. However, nothing captures the heart of Indian street food better than sliced, spiced green mangoes, renowned for their tartness when ripe.
Typically, street vendors cut the mango into thin, long slices and then make smaller cuts in the tart flesh. A mixture of various spices, salt, and lemon juice is then added to each slice. These slices of cut, spiced mangoes are found all across the country.
5 – Kathi Rolls
Kathi rolls or kati rolls are Indian wraps that originated in West Bengal but can now be found in most cities across India. The original recipe consisted of skewer-roasted meats and kebabs that were wrapped in a paratha and served with a chutney dip or spread.
Nowadays, there are so many variations of the Kati roll to try, including rolls made with vegetables, paneer, various types of meat, and plenty of dips and chutneys. Kathi rolls are especially popular in the capital of Delhi.
6 – Chai
India’s most popular beverage is just as popular in “tea stalls” across the country as it is on breakfast tables. From the tiniest villages to urban cities, one thing you will find everywhere in India is a tea stall.
Along with delicious, sweet, and milky chai, tea stalls sell many other treats, too, like biscuits, bananas, peanuts, and other Indian snacks to accompany the tea.
“Cutting chai,” essentially a half cup of tea, is a hugely popular order at tea stalls, especially from people taking a break from work. Besides sweet tea, you can also try masala chai (from tea stalls), which is infused with spices like dry ginger, cardamon, cloves, and cinnamon, among others.
7 – Bombay Sandwich
The Bombay Sandwich is one of Mumbai’s most famous street foods. Having originated in the streets of Bombay, Mumbai’s old moniker, the Bombay Sandwich kept its name and, to this day, continues to be a beloved staple.
After the slices of white bread are slathered with mint-coriander chutney and butter, the sandwich is then filled with onions, cucumber, and tomato slices before being toasted. Each bite is filled with the spicy-tangy flavor of the mint-coriander chutney, the freshness of vegetables, and of course, the crunch of the toasted bread.
8 – Thattu Dosa
Thattu Dosa is a Kerala specialty, and this street food is a very popular breakfast choice. Thattu dosas are not thin and flat like regular dosas but are instead smaller and thicker. They are called thattu dosas because they were popularized by thattu kadas (street-side vendors).
Dosa is made with fermented rice and lentil batter and resembles a pancake or crepe. Thattu dosas are served in street stalls in Kerala, along with chutneys, sambar, rasam, and even omelets.
9 – Idli-Vada
Idli and vada are everyday breakfast foods across the states of South India, found in every home, restaurant, canteen, and street vendor. Idli are steamed rice dumplings and vadai are deep-fried lentil fritters. They are traditionally accompanied by sambar, chutney, and an assortment of spice powders.
Tuck shops and kiosks across not only South India, but many other states, sell this glorious combination on the streets for breakfast. It is hearty, healthy, and inexpensive, and vendors will start making their first batches to sell as early as 5 a.m. to catch the first of the morning commuters.
10 – Chilli Bajji
There is a version of this spicy, delectable street food on every corner of the country, using different chilis, differently spiced batters, and with a variety of dips and chutneys.
Chili bajji, mirchi bajji, or milagai bajji are dishes of big green chilis dipped in batter and deep-fried, usually served with tomato or coconut chutneys. While bajji itself isn’t highly spicy, it definitely has enough kick to raise some eyebrows!
11 – Momos
While believed to be of Tibetan and Nepali origin, in time, momos became a common street food across the Northeast of India. Momos are steamed dumplings with different fillings, traditionally with meat, such as yak, as well as cheese and potatoes. There are also a number of vegetable options.
Momos are most commonly found in Sikkim, Assam, Nagaland, and neighboring territories. Momos, while commonly steamed, can also be fried and served with chili sauce and spicy and sweet chutneys.
12 – Punukulu
Hailing from the state of Andhra Pradesh, punukulu or punugulu is a common street snack that is often made with leftover dosa or idli batter, which is made with rice and lentils.
Semolina and herbs and spices like curry leaves, ginger, cumin, green chilis, and pepper, to name a few, are added to the batter and then deep-fried. Punugulu is especially popular in Vijayawada and is served with coconut, tomato, or other chutneys.
13 – Vada Pav
Another iconic street dish from Maharashtra, think of vada pav as an Indian burger. It consists of a fried potato patty wedged between two soft Indian buns, known as pav.
Vada pav is usually served with a variety of chutneys and a whole green chili. While Maharashtra is credited with its inception, vada pav can be found all over the subcontinent.
14 – Kachori
Kachori is a deep-fried snack that hails from the state of Rajasthan. The kachori is packed with spicy, sweet, and sour stuffing and spices and then deep-fried.
While Rajasthan invented kachori, of which so many variations exist within Rajasthan itself, you can also find multiple varieties across India, with the kachoris from the state of Gujarat in particular renowned for their flavor. The Gujarati kachori is sweeter than regular kachori, and all can be enjoyed with both sweet and spicy chutneys.
15 – Indori Poha
Indori Poha or Poha Jalebi is a unique street snack that is special to the city of Indore in the state of Madhya Pradesh. While poha, or flattened rice, is traditionally eaten at breakfast or as a snack and is a savory dish, Indori Poha is served along with jalebi, a sugary, syrupy Indian sweet.
Indori Poha is also steamed instead of cooked and includes spices, herbs, and vegetables like peas in its recipe. Street vendors usually sell it throughout the morning, along with other chaat food.
16 – Sugarcane Juice
India is the second largest exporter of sugarcane. Hence, it should come as no surprise that is the key ingredient in a very popular drink sold by roadside vendors.
The sugarcane juice machine is a common sight on Indian sidewalks. Stalks of sugarcane sticks are put through the machine that squeezes the juice out, which is then served with sugar, water, and often ice.
Sugarcane juice sold from street vendors is sweet, cold, and served in small plastic or glass tumblers. It is a perfectly refreshing drink to refresh and revitalize you in the searing Indian heat.
17 – Paan
Widely popular throughout South Asia, paan is eaten both to freshen the mouth and help with digestion, commonly sold from paan stalls, usually outside restaurants. Paan is made from betel leaves that are wrapped around areca nuts and slaked lime and folded into small triangular packets.
Another popular variant of paan is sweet paan, which often contains other sweet treats like sugar-dipped fennel, tutti-frutti, and sugar balls with a clove inside the betel leaves.
18 – Mishti Doi
While Bengali sweets are a genre of their own, mishit doi has reached iconic status across not just West Bengal, but the entire country. Mishti Doi literally translates to “sweet yogurt” and is a hugely popular dish that is made with thick, reduced yogurt that has been sweetened with jaggery, milk, and sugar.
Mishti Doi has a rich, caramel-like flavor, and street vendors sell it in small mutkas, or earthen pots. The dish is often flavored and garnished with pistachios, almonds, saffron, cardamom, and other flavorings. It can be eaten as both a dessert and a snack.
19 – Ice Gola
Nothing makes summers in India better than a treat of ice gola on a scorching hot day. Essentially a dish of ice and syrup, it really is as simple as it is delicious.
You can buy this refreshing treat from a golawala, a man who sells golas, usually from a small cart, who will fill a plastic cup with syrup of your choice and then hand you the ice on a stick. You then stick the ice in the syrup or pour the syrup over the ice and enjoy this sweet and sticky dessert.
Ice Gola is essentially an Indian version of snow cones. The most popular ice gola flavors are orange, rose, lemon, and, of course, the original Kala Khatta, which is sweet, tangy, and truly delicious.
20 – Kothu Parotta
Kothu or Kottu parotta means “shredded parotta.” This street food is hearty enough to be a meal in its own right and is popular in parts of South India as well as Sri Lanka. Kothu Parotta was originally created to make use of leftover parottas, a form of flaky South Indian bread similar to the paratha.
The dish is made by roughly chopping leftover parotta and sauteeing it with onions, tomatoes, and a bunch of spices. Often, an egg is scrambled in with the parotta to make for one filling and satisfying meal. Kothu parotta is served with raita, a yogurt dip, or a salan, a spicy curry.
Indian Street Foods Summary
The incredible street food of India is quite like any other type of food. No matter where you travel to in India, you will find these dishes, and so many more, sold by food vendors who make these foods with such craft, care, and passion.
I urge you to try as much street food as possible when in India. You will experience a side of Indian cuisine that is truly special while eating as local people do, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in local Indian culture and everyday life.
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Local Insight Contributor: Nandhini Parthib is an Indian content writer, deeply passionate about Indian culture, travel, and cuisine.