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One for the road
The streets of Delhi are a veritable treasure trove of small savouries, doughy goodies, fried bites, charcoal-baked biscuits, and a whole lot of lip-smacking snacks. Step out and you will be able to tuck into anything from warm naan khatais on rickety thelas, medu vadas at around-the-corner south Indian stalls to tangy sweet potato chaat and besan-coated deep fried bread with spicy chick peas at dingy shacks. Each nook and cranny in Delhi has its share of heritage street food sites where shops continue to make one particular type of snack since aeons, and never run out of buyers ! Like in Chandni Chowk near the grand Jama Masjid. Kebabs and curries continue to be cooked and served even as a fair share of fried chicken and fish and new types of street food emerge from the old kitchens. Roasted changezi chicken in tomato gravy, and roasted chicken brushed with butter and mint chutney are the two new hot-selling items there. And of course, the famous chaat and kalmi vada never fail to make a show-stopping appearance at kitty-parties and farmhouse dos in upscale south Delhi and elsewhere in the capital. While foodies whole-heartedly devour street flavours from the walled city, there are other places that have managed to secure a firm place of pride on the north Indian papri chaat-palate. Take for example, CR Park's markets. On a wintry evening, people queue up to try the Bengali bhelpuri - ghugni - that is served with mutton or the super hot puchkas. The mutton, chicken, or fish cutlets called chops, and clog-yourartery variety deep-fried Mughlai paranthas enveloped with chicken also command a huge draw. Apart from the kathi rolls, Chinese manchurian chaat, chilli potatoes, and vegetable tempura are the other stars at these markets. And for those who take their pick from an assortment of chaats, tempting pastries, saucy namkeens, humble sandwiches, patties, and Bengali and north Indian sweets, Bengali Market is the place.
The financial capital is arguably the best bet in India for street food - in terms of variety, price points, and sheer accessibility. The city that is forever on the move and never sleeps sure knows how to throw a roadside banquet. The food is also reflective of the melting pot of cultures that Mumbai is - from the ubiquitous bhel puri, sev puri, vada pav and pav bhaji to south Indian staples like idlis and dosas (jazzed up with Chinese, cheese, paneer and keema fillings), Calcutta-style kathi rolls, to north-eastern momos, there's something to suit everyone's palate. Head to Marine Drive for your fill of the best chaats, and to Sardar Pav Bhaji in Tardeo for its iconic fare. Though vada pav is available at every street corner, do make a trip to Kirti College in Prabhadevi. There, a small outlet (not a part of the college ) sells spectacular vada pavs including a jumbo version that can substitute a full meal. Bachelor's on Marine Drive is your pitstop for innovative ice creams (including a chilli-flavoured one) and milkshakes;it is open till late into the night and a perfect stop on a midnight drive. Outside most Mumbai local stations, you will find someone conjuring up hot and delicious bhurji-pav, tawa pulao, noodles and gobi manchurian. If you want a to-go bite, get yourself a sandwich - from among the dozens of varieties on offer. The typical Bombay sandwich comes stuffed with vegetables, oozes butter, and is perked up with chutney. And yes, you have a choice of having it fresh or grilled. After a hard night's partying, if your tummy needs to be treated, head to the institution that goes by the name of Bademiyan's. Located on the lane next to the Taj by the Gateway of India, it is the place to go to for sumptuous paratha rolls, and kebabs and tikkas of a dozen varieties. What's more, it is open till the wee hours of the morning. And while you zip across the island metropolis, stop by at Haji Ali and pay your respects - by having a juice or shake at the holy shrine to non-alcoholic liquid diet in town.
VV Puram hosts what is popular as Bangalore's good old 'thindi beedi' (literally translated to snacks lane). It's a narrow congested street that's about half a km long and makes for a perfect eat-out. The ambience definitely makes for a leisurely stroll with friends while getting to taste a little of everything. Innovative corn snacks, dosa joints serving hot dosas with coconut and onion chutneys, bajjis slit and served stuffed with grated carrots, chopped onions, and topped with a dash of salt, chilly powder and lemon and the little table top stalls serving pav bhajis are just a few of the delights you will encounter here. The street is also famous for the holiges (sweet rotis), jamuns, and even hot badam milk. There's also enough room for Indianised Chinese counters. Amidst the food stalls, there's also a V B Bakery that's an institution in itself serving up potato buns, puffs, dil pasand, masala toast and other confections. Foodie or not, you are sure to enjoy the experience along the street. An evening for two can easily be made into a feast for as little as 100-150 rupees.
This metropolis is a foodie paradise and the list of Kolkata's gastronomic gems will always remain incomplete if one hasn't tried its street food. Locals vouch for the fare available at Decker's Lane and Lyons Range - both off Dalhousie, Kolkata's office para (locality). Try out the fish fries, fish rolls, and tea at Chitto-da's shop called Suruchi on Decker's Lane. Don't miss the strawberry, chiku, or grape kulfis sold by an anonymous chacha, and the cheese sandwich and daal chilla at Lyons Range. And then of course, you must tuck into the various varieties of chops (Calcutta-speak for cutlets, they can be made of mutton, prawn, fish, potato or even banana flowers), kathi rolls, deem-er-devil (devilled eggs), kachoris, jhal-muri (Bengali-style bhel puri, an incredible range of mishti (sweets), and Calcutta-style samosas called singhada. These can all be had at any of the joints dotting the streets of the city. And whatever you eat or do not, make sure you gorge on puchkas - there is something about them that no pani puri or gol gappa can match.
From Burmese mohinga and murukku sandwich to masala cola, stop at a local vendor for an inexpensive, mouth-watering feast while in Chennai. Name a street, any street, and you're bound to find food that goes with it. On Royapettah, kothu paratha is the star of the show while on Vepery High Road, murukku sandwiches, masala colas and ice golas steal the spotlight. Wondering what murukku sandwiches are? They are two 'slices' of murukku with a filling - from a continental pineapple-cheese variety to a more Indian chaat-flavoured one. While in T Nagar, tuck into idlis;on Mint Street, savour chaats and sample the sandwiches on Montieth Road. Travel all the way to north Chennai at sundown if you want some authentic Burmese cuisine - thohk (noodle salad) and mohinga (rice vermicelli in fish broth). And the best part? You don't have to enter a store or pull out a credit card because your bill is hardly likely to cross Rs 30. Chennai's street food hawkers have become so famous among residents that there are even treasure hunts themed on them. Vijay Prabhat Kamalakar, founder of Storytrails, a storytelling-with-a-twist company, has designed a Chennai Suvai Suttru (food search) for people interested in a food challenge.
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