As someone who doesn’t live in India, the thing I miss most when I’m gone is the food (don’t tell my cousins). Although Indian food is widely accessible all over the world, anyone who has travelled outside of India knows it’s really not the same. My family and I always joke that what makes Indian street food special is everything else on the streets that flies into the food, and who knows what’s on the streets, amirite?

When I arrived in India in January this year, not anticipating the global pandemic, I had all intentions of making the most out of my trip in terms of eating and shopping. Now that the world is on hold, so is my list of foods to eat. But I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring the Instagram world of Indian street food, and it really scratches the itch for you, know what I mean? So, here’s a list of 9 foods I would be eating if our world hadn’t turned upside down this year:

1. Dahi Ke Sholay

This ingenious dish is definitely the first that comes to my mind when I think of Indian street food. These crispy balls are filled with thick yoghurt and chopped vegetables, encased in breading and served with a dipping sauce (generally mint chutney). The result is a tangy, delectable snack that is a delight to bite into, every single time!

2. Kathal Ke Pakode

Kathal (Jackfruit) has always been one of my favourite vegetables, and eating it in pakoda form is a dream come true. The chewiness of the jackfruit complements the crispy, fried outside, and paired with some chutney, it’s a deadly combination. A little pinch of chaat masala on top goes a long way.

3. Noodle Samosa

Call me a traitor to the culture, but I would die for a noodle samosa. Although I will never say no to a traditional aloo samosa, in my opinion, the noodle samosa is the epitome of a new wave of fusion street food. Sure, you’re not eating anything but fried, spiced dough, but it tastes incredible, so who cares? What your nutritionist doesn’t know won’t hurt them.

4. Jalebi

This is what a typical day living outside India looks like: wake up, crave jalebi, realise the jalebi you have access to has been dyed orange and should not even be called jalebi, cry. Growing up, there was a Jalebiwala on the corner of my street, so anything less than fresh jalebi simply does not make the cut. If you gave me crispy, hot jalebi with a little bowl of warm milk, you could get me to do pretty much anything in return.

5. Moong Dal Bhajiyas

Okay, here’s the thing about moong dal bhajiya—we’ve all been kids, and we’ve all disliked everything that has the word ‘dal’ in it. But I have come to firmly believe that the day you start enjoying moong dal bhajiya is the day you become an adult. These little balls are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and taste like almost nothing you’ve ever had before. Paired with various chutneys, they’re also often served alongside grated Indian radish, and if that doesn’t turn you away, you get extra adult points.

6. Chicken Shawarma

I have to be honest, I’m a heavy consumer of red meat, and a lamb döner kebab purist on top, so the idea of chicken shawarma was not necessarily appealing to me at first. But I have to say, if there is any group of people that knows how to cook chicken, it’s South Asians. Once I got over the initial comparison I was drawing between chicken shawarma and a döner kebab sandwich, I realized that the Indian chicken shawarma is entirely in a league of its own. The meat is tender and juicy and spiced perfectly for the Indian palate. The toppings are missing (I would expect them on shawarma), but you hardly feel their absence. I can’t recommend this dish enough now!

7. Chinese Chaat

We all know there is hardly anything Chinese about Indo-Chinese food, but Lord, is it good. Chinese chaat is a make-your-own adventure typically consisting of fried rice and noodles with various entrée options that are both vegetarian and not. The flexibility of this dish is my favourite aspect of it—you get to create your own plate with a combination of saucy, delicious entrées and the carb of your choice. If that doesn’t elevate street food, I don’t know what does.

8. Kachori

I read somewhere once that every culture has its own version of a dumpling. Out of all the dumplings in the world, I would say that kachoris definitely make the top three. These crispy, flaky, fried dumplings are made with all sorts of fillings (my favourite is onion) and served a variety of different ways. It’s worth trying all the variations you can get your hands on.

9. Falooda

Falooda is another dish that hits home for me because there is a faloodawala close to my childhood home. This delicacy includes cold rice noodles, homemade rich ice cream, and some sort of sugary syrup. Variations of falooda can include shaved ice, fruit compotes, and even basil seeds. The final product is a heaven for those who like textural differences in food, and kids will love the rice noodles if nothing else.

What are your favourite street foods? Is there another country’s street foods that you’ve tried and like? Let me know in the comments below!

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