How to enjoy street food in India

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.


  1. How true a post :)

    Pani-Puri after 3 years??? I'm shocked...I can't imagine living without it for 15 days :P

    And the vada paav picture...oohhh...i'm drooling now..7 am and I'm hungry !!! Street foods like these can do this to you at any hour of the day and night ;)

  2. ... recently me n my friend went to have gol gappe ... but we ended up eating tikki - pappri n gol gappe ... we didn't eat dinner that night :)

    p.s. it's sad u had pani-puri after 3 yrs ... but why - do u live out of India ... it has to be otherwise u would miss them !!

  3. Ha ha.. :) you reminded me of the good old days ... If you are talking about street vendors... Even our college canteen was in the same state :)

  4. Wonder why the food on the street is always tastier in spite of different factors ppl line up so we dislike them:)

    we have vada pav for bf on lazy saturdays after the morning walk, ...along with that chai from the street...

    I'm going down to get some pani puri and vada pav... :)

  5. after 3 years..dats is tragic..LOL .but i understand.the trials n tribulations of an NRI!What all v must sacrifice in return for fast Internet n toilet paper??!!hehehehe.
    Here v do have chaats n stuff but need 2 pay an arm n leg for it.So it restricted 2 mebbe twice a month :( loved d pics d most..had me drooling ..def a no-no at office..hehehe

  6. i love chaat and have been very lucky to find a good place here which serves authentic delhi chaat!! yummy!! my fav. is bhel puri!!

  7. I love the street food. For us NRIs, it's also one of the best weight loss diets know to man - thanks to the gastroenteritis we contract afterwards!

  8. Despite all the yucky things you have listed to make the finicky eater aware of what he or she is sinking their teeth into, street food is really yummy! Slurp, slurp!

    Haven't you tried the Haldiram packs of panipuri that can be taken away to all corners of the world?

  9. woww!! how true!! street food, especially paani poori has its own taste that you will never get in any of the restaurants. I had been without street food for more than 9 months and when I had it after the 9 month break, It was divine :) very well written..


  10. I love paani puri et al, but street food is far far away even in my thoughts...coz the third and even the fourth point are for me. Gosh...sweat=flavour...eeeeeeeeeeeks!!!!!
    So, its either home made stuff or from somewhere hygienic for me. :P
    No. 1 and No. 2 is so very true for street food lovers!!

  11. I realised after reading your post that I am a qualified street food person. Until you mentioned all the gory details, I realised I had never once noticed the rag used by the vendor or the state of his hands or nasal hygiene. What the heck! My attntion is always on the smell of the spices frying (if its a vada pau) or the colourful layout of the "thela"

  12. :) well said!!
    one may venture at their own risk!

  13. The fun is in in enjoying the sizzling flavors with out the need of sophistication. That was a wonderful account LP.
    You made me crave for something spicy :)


  14. MY mouth is watering and I just had dinner! Love pani puri...I had it last year when I visited India after 4 and a half years...I went that long without any! Gotta love the street food...the vada pavs, the samosas, pani puri, bhel puri...*drool*

  15. Delicious post!!!
    D famous 'Thattu kadas' in Kerala deserve a special mention!
    Dey hav introduced many dishes and combinations which many 5 star hotels shamelessly copied!!

  16. I love this post :)

    You know how I decided whether a Paani Puri wala is good?

    1- The thela shud be stationed near a naala!!
    2- The golgappe wala should have one loooong nail with dirt ste in it.
    3- He shud at least wipe his nose once while dishing out Golgappa's to you!
    4- He shud be having that dirty cloth to wipe away the dirt et al ;)

    And I hate the Golgappa vendors who wear plastic gloves!!! :D

  17. Wow. Indian food sounds so delicious and unique. Would love to eat Paani Poori sometime...:)
    Nice post.

  18. Exactly the things to be on mind to enjoy street food. It is so much fun here than anywhere else in the world.

  19. Heh. You've caught the gist perfectly. I am one of those #4s, so I just close my eyes and eat ;-)

    Yes, you're right. No chaat ever tastes good as the one you get on the roadside!

  20. The one thing I deeply missed while abroad, was in the Indian street cuisine. Many a day I would yearn for it.
    Everything you have written with regard to the "etiquette" of Indian dining spells true!!!
    One reason I will never leave for foreign shores again!!! )

  21. How could you have lived with paanipuri or golgappe as we call it in Delhi man!

    Nice description...loved it :)

    the best ones that iv done a lot are elbow flicking and anger stare...infact Im a master at anger stare :)

  22. Ohhhhhhhhhh YUMMMMMMMMMY!!!!!!! I too love love love street food and chaat!!! Loved your post, and am all droooling now. Have to make my way to the Indian chaat outlets soon!!

  23. Ahhh...Pani Puris's...had lived in the south of india for like a year and by the end of it all..I was craving for pani puris like crazy!!!!
    Your point 4 always bothers me..But doesn't stop me from eating street food..Though I am not very frequent at it!

    Great post! :)

  24. Oh Ghosh!! after 3 years, that must seem like a delicacy now. And yeah, it reminded me of our local eating joint that we had named it "Chat Street" in Basavangudi and NR Colony in Bangalore.. I sure miss those days

  25. Yummmy! No air conditioned ambiance can match the taste of a perfect street food :D and hunting for the perfect taste and finding the right vendor is an art and when you find one it is truly a heavenly bliss :D

  26. You have summed up the pleasure and privilege of eating street food in such eloquent words! Cool blog!


  27. I have a friend who is hygiene freak i think i must send her this post....lovely...unfortunate that u are not able to have the street food here in india...its always lovely....

  28. hehe..LP-nice tips for eating street food in India...and, paani puri after three years??Maybe it's time to coin a slogan for 'Incredible India'- India jaao, asli paani poori khaao'.

  29. I looooooove street food.Even now when I go back, I need a good dose every day ..and then an ENO .. :) When you have time .. you can check out my post. ...

    Enjoyed and related to all part of this post !!

  30. very true post.. amazing.. in a very beautifully and interestingly u have described indian street food... music of horns and murmuring & shouting of mob.. the hotch potch n elbow jabbing at vendors'stop.. straying dogs and cows in india..ha there is always running a village fair.

  31. Hey nice post!

    I am most annoying pani puri eater!
    Place - mostly street thela, tried and "tasted" one.

    It goes like this -
    Bhaiyya pehle pani taste karna hai. Bhaiya pyaaz do!
    Mere pani puri mein masala jyada, khata meetha dono pani, puri ka size bohat bada ya bohat chotta nahi chahiyye! After a point of time all my friends immitate and keep reminding the poor fellow abt how I want, but if you have to consume 18-20 at a time, it should be perfect - the way you want!


  32. Gol Gappe, matter kulcha, dahi ke bataase, stick kulfi...Orgasmic indeed.

    But hey, now a days most gole gappa vendors wear plastic gloves and use mineral water.

  33. I can eat gol gappes(or phuchkas as the Bengalis call them) for breakfast, lunch, dinner and still have place for more.
    Yummy post.

  34. The best is One Track Mind. That's my Waterloo. I find it really difficult to head to the chatwala bhaiyya outside our flat to get it. My sister is thick stomached....:) I go to Elco to their 'roadside stall' for my panipuris.

    When you have time go through my ode to chaats..:)

  35. I was salivating after reading your post. Paani poori is indispensable man ! Happy chaating :)

  36. 3 years? :O
    tsk tsk. 'paani puri ki tauheen hai yeh toh'

  37. Ok, I am drooling here. But not for very long sis. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! (laughing sinisterly!).

  38. Ah! Chats and Paani puris! Nothing packaged can meet up to the taste of the real street ones :)

    And for some reason, the taste of the street food , one ate when one was growing up, never ever can be matched up :) I can never find as tasty street food that was made in my old hometown :) The thought of it is making me droooool..

    And yes posh restaurants can never match the taste :) My dad says the street vendor's sweat and all the pollution must be adding to the taste ;)

  39. You know what..All this truggle makes it more worthwhile..DOesn it!!

    And why caring learing thes tricks, the crowd would themselves teach us that :D

  40. How to enjoy street food ...
    by sitting in toilet for long time.

  41. As a teenager I have eaten all this and thrived on it - gol-gappe, jaljeera, kulfi, chole bhature, flavoured milk, lassi, mango shake, ganne ka ras, cut and salted kakri (cucumber), guava (in Delhi), and ten paise per glass of cold water. Your description made me wonder how I survived ;)

    But not all street food is so horrifying :) The best Alu-Vonda I ever ate with red chilli, coconut and garlic chutney was not by the road side but inside a thatched shed, where an old woman was sitting on clean mud floor and making them right there (in Lonavla).

  42. How true ur observation skills are at par with sherlock holmes

  43. Interesting post, only thing is my system has never had it easy on street food. So, I tend to get less adventurous when it comes to it.

  44. Hilariously true article and wonderfully written!!
    being away from home I miss the raw fun of enjoying the street food like we can in india...
    and trust me I am a Chef and an aspiring food writer too drowned in the world of fine dine that i really want to have the savage pleasure of having food this way!!! Thanks for writing made my day!!

  45. nice post..and i agree with all ur pointers!!!

  46. Nice post, I bookmark your blog because I found very good information on your blog, Thanks for sharing

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