Traveling this summer allowed me to experience street foods in different countries and I realized that our experience of foods from other cultures can be very commercialized and devoid of soul. Street food is flavorful, quick and probably not very good for you. It is also very involved with the culture of the streets around it and updates itself frequently.
However, it does not translate very well into sit down restaurants, where the 'street' has to give way to a chef's vision and the more proper food a restaurant is expected to offer—which is why we are often deprived of the street foods of other countries. I ended my travels by going back home to India and decided to rediscover my country's street food. The most obvious road to go down was Chaat.
Chaat literally means 'to lick' and refers to a family of Indian street food with complex flavors employing a mix of hot and cold, sweet and spicy that will make your mouth water. Ingredients used in Chaat include semolina wafers and fries, potatoes, yogurt, a variety of sauces, and pomegranate. If you ever get the chance, here are a few Chaats you shouldn't miss.
A mixture of potato, sev (semolina fries) and a mixture of sauces including tamarind served on round chips (basically street canapes). Sev Puri is perfectly bite-sized and so good that you won't realize you are making a mess.
Pani Puri is some of the most fun you can have with food. You take a puri (round, hollow globes of semolina) crack it open, fill it with potatoes, beans and spices and then dunk it in the pani (a cool but spicy water concoction).
#SpoonTip: North Indians call these gol gappas.
A spice-heavy mixture of potato and other vegetables (bhajji) served with hot and buttery fresh bread (pav). Pav Bhaji manages to be the perfect comfort food whether it's served at home or at a roadside cart.
K'naan knows there are not a lot of things better than a Samosa. These savoury pastries are normally filled with potato or lamb's meat and served with a sweet sauce.
Potato patties that have been panfried and then covered with a mixture of spices and sev, also called a ragda patty. This slightly heavier dish becomes more popular towards the winter.
A mash up of semolina chips, potato, and garbanzo beans tossed in spices and often covered in yogurt. Papdi chat was the result of someone saying, "Hm, what if we just mashed all this stuff together?"
The answer: It's pretty delicious.
The Indian response to a butty—a thick patty of mashed potato and spices in a bun with green mint chutney and red chili paste.
#SpoonTip: The spreads used with vada pav tend to be very spicy, be careful.
Dahi is the hindi word for yogurt and many chaats have a 'dahi' version available. Dahi puri is a variation on pani puri. The yogurt makes these dishes more refreshing and is a welcome addition on a hot summer day.