What to Eat and How to Eat It at India’s Khau Gallis

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It’s not for the weak of the heart. When I say that Indian street cuisine requires courage, I mean that quite literally. But those willing to branch out and try something new will be well rewarded.

India is a vast and incredibly varied place to visit. There are more than 22 states, and their cuisines range from similar to distinctive. Different regions often have distinctly unique takes on the same food. The street foods of all 50 states reflect this variety. While Lucknow may be known for its delectable kebabs, Delhi’s alleys provide their take on the dish. Akin to the Pani Puri seen on the streets of Bombay, the ‘purchase’ of Kolkata is a popular street food found in the city’s narrower alleyways. Indian cuisine is no longer the only type of street food available in India. To appeal to local tastes, you can find “Indianized” versions of Chinese, European, and even Thai cuisine. Every major city in India has at least one “Khau Galli” or “Food Street,” and some have several.

The truths you need to know before starting this “road trip” are fundamental. Knowing the names of everyday dishes can also be beneficial. Please continue reading.

The Jargon of Food Trucks

Chaat

Chaat (pronounced to sound like “Part”) is a staple of Indian street food. It’s a group of related foods that are more or less thrown together in different quantities than meticulously prepared. Puffed rice, roasted lentils, flattened crisps made from wheat flour, deep-fried, spicy noodles made from gram flour, potato patties, and round, thin, hollow, crisp balls filled with salads and dipped in a sour liquid are just some of the components that go into making chaat. Theehka (pungent) chutney, green, and Meetha (a tangy, sweet, sour chutney), brown, are the two most essential chutneys in chaat. Fresh cilantro, cumin seeds, green chilies, and lemon juice make Theekha chutney, whereas jaggery (refined sugarcane extract), dates, tamarind extract, and rock salt go into making Meetha chutney.

You can always ask the chaat vendor, or “chaat walla,” to reduce the heat and acidity in your chaat. Those of us with less tolerance for heat can also reduce it by drizzling it with a lot of yogurts. In contrast, chaat is a catch-all term for many foods. Use this cheat sheet as a guide as you peruse the chaat menu.

A popular street food in India, Bhel Puri consists of puffed rice, roasted lentils, and deep-fried gram flour noodles (Sev), all of which are mixed in a mixture of spicy green chutney, tangy sweet, sour sauce, minced onions, raw mango (when in season), and fresh cilantro.

Pani puri is spherical, hollow, thin, loaded with mashed potatoes or cooked lentils, then dipped in a tangy, sweet, acidic, and spicy sauce. This dish is known as Puchka in Kolkata and Gol Gappa on the streets of Delhi. The balls are pierced with the chaiwallah’s thumb before being filled with stuffing and dipped in a bottomless earthen pot, making this delicacy a test of one’s mettle. Since every Pani puri is created by hand, be sure to bring all of your sanitation items.

Dahi Puri, a yogurt-based spread, and Sev Batata Puri, a snack food consisting of mashed potato spread on a flat wheat-based, deep-fried cracker and topped with spicy green chutney, sweet and sour chutney, freshly minced onions, cilantro, and crisp, deep-fried gram flour noodles, are both popular street foods in India. Dahi Puri is what you get when you sprinkle some yogurt over the whole platter. The hollow, round puris hold mashed potatoes and minced onions in some versions of Dahi Puri.

Ragda Patties is a dish topping potato patties with a tangy, spicy chickpea-based sauce and seasoning it with the same two chutneys. Khau Gallis in Mumbai, the booths lining the Marine Drive beach in Mumbai, the alleys of Law Garden in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and Khan Market in Delhi all serve up delicious Ragda Patties.

Pau Bhaji, whose name comes from the Hindi words for “bread” and “vegetables,” was created as a street food in Mumbai. As word of it spread, it eventually reached Khau Gallis all over the country, where it was interpreted in as many ways as there are Gallis. Pau Bhaji is a whole dinner in and of itself, consisting of special bread fried on a massive iron griddle and topped with a spicy sauce made from various vegetables. A wedge of fresh lemon and a salad of chopped onion are included. You can ask the vendor to reduce the amount of butter used if you’re watching your weight or trying to be healthy, but if you’re not, give in and indulge; it’s worth it.

You may find the Khau Gallis of Maharashtra’s most famous street food, vada pav, on the streets of Mumbai and Pune. The bread used to make vada pav sandwiches is also used to make pau bhaji, another popular Indian food. Batata vada is a deep-fried doughnut-like ball filled with potato and spices; it is sandwiched between two pieces of pau that have been spread with a fiery red chutney made from garlic. It’s not for individuals with a low tolerance for heat or mild flavors.

Paranthas

The staple of North Indian street food is paranthas. Paranthewalla Galli is a street in Delhi where you can get delicious paranthas. Indians and non-Indians alike have flocked to this street for generations because of the incredible variety of paranthas it serves. A Parantha is a flatbread that may be loaded with meat or vegetables and is prepared from wheat flour. Chicken, beef, and even dried fruit can be stuffed within a parantha in addition to onions, spicy veggies, and seasoned lentils. In Kolkata, this kebab-filled parantha is known as a Kati Roll. The egg parantha, also known as Baida Roti, is the most popular type of paratha sold on the streets of Mumbai. While paranthas are not commonly found on the streets of South India, the vegetable gravy (kurma) served with them in Chennai gives them a new lease on life.

Samosas, a calorie-laden snack seen on every corner of India, is a national institution. Samosas have a spicy filling of either vegetables or meat and are then encased in a triangular case of refined flour and oil or butter before being deep fried to a beautiful golden brown. ‘Channa,’ a spicy gravy produced from chickpeas, is a common accompaniment to samosas in specific locations.

One of the most famous street foods in Central India, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh is the kachori or kachauri. Kachauri is a doughnut-like treat made with wheat and filled with black lentils and spices. Kachauri is commonly sold with the two chutneys on the streets of Mathura, Brindavan, Bhopal, and the rest of Central India. However, Kachauri is a spherical, flour-based, deep-fried ball on the streets of Ahmedabad and other towns in the state of Gujarat, packed with a sweet-sour mixture of dried fruit, cooked lentils, aniseed, and chilies.

Indian street snacks like dosa and idli Dosas, which are pancakes prepared from a batter of rice and lentils, come in an incredible diversity in South India, notably in Tamil Nadu. They can be stuffed with a variety of meats and vegetables. Steamed cakes called idlis are produced from a similar fermented batter to make the final product soft and spongy.

Street food in Hyderabad and Lucknow includes biryanis and kebabs that go without saying. Both Kakori kebabs and Galouti kebabs can be traced back to the royal cooks, although today exist in various forms.

A Street Party with Drinks

Street food vendors offer popular bottled brands and local beverages to quench your thirst after devouring such delectables. Tender coconut water is sold on the streets of every Indian city. These sellers set up shops along roads and highways. Some ride around while carrying a bunch of young coconuts on a string. It’s entertaining to see the vendor select a coconut based on your preference for more water or cream, knock it down, set it on his knee, shear a cone out of one end, remove it, and bring you a straw to drink from the coconut.

The recipe for kala khatta, a popular drink street vendors sell, is guarded closely. Thanks to its contrasting sour, spicy, and sweet flavors, it has a mysterious air.

The ice gola is a type of lollipop produced by dipping crushed ice in a mixture of liquids and kala khatta. Once more, Ice Gola is an absolute requirement.

Sugar cane juice is another tasty treat. The sugarcane is put into an indigenous thresher, the foamy juice is collected on the other side, a little salt and a splash of lemon juice are added, and the hawker hands it out as fresh as possible! Buttermilk in the summer and hot chai in the winter are just two examples of delicious seasonal drinks. Do not expect nuance from street chai; it is rich, sugary, and milky.

Since all Khau gallis in India share certain commonalities, we can generalize about them.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Most Khau Gallis begin operating at 11 a.m., but they don’t truly come to life until after dusk and remain active until late at night. When the sun goes down, the Khau Galli comes to life with the appearance of gourmet booths, while during the day, services are bare bones and aimed at office workers in a rush or shoppers in dire need of replenishment. Make it a point to visit Khau Galli in the evening if you are a severe eater.

Do not assume tidiness.

Most Khau Gallis use homemade tables and carts to sell their wares. The leftovers are scraped into a container, and the dishes are quickly washed with soap and water before being put away. It’s not uncommon for two toilets to share a single bucket, so if you’re easily grossed out, avert your gaze. It is widely believed that the dirt in Khau Galli is responsible for most of the delicious flavor.

However, modern stalls emphasize cleanliness and respect for the environment. Disposable husk plates or banana leaves are used for service, and plastic spoons are discarded after each meal. Therefore, there is no doubt that dishes and cutlery can be used more than once. You can request paper plates and plastic cutlery from the dealer. Napkins are often provided free of charge.

Do not even try to negotiate.

Prices for identical or almost identical dishes at different stands tend to fluctuate only within a narrow range. There is little room for haggling because racks and carts selling comparable meals tend to cartelize and charge the same price, although those who offer extras like more excellent cleanliness and more pleasant surroundings do assign more.

Bring your water bottle.

Although many carts have a water dispenser and paper cups, bringing your water supply is always preferable. Mineral water is sold at a steep markup from the beverage carts of some khau gallis. It’s cheaper and safer to bring your water.

The streets of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi are home to the city’s oldest khau galli. The ‘Paranthas’ and ‘Chaat’ are the restaurants’ namesake dishes. A whole side street is dedicated to parantha sellers, known as Paranthewalla Galli (Parantha Sellers’ Street). One other famous New Delhi Khau Galli is Khan Market. Manek Chowk and Law Gardens are two of Ahmedabad’s most well-known Khau Gallis. Every neighborhood in Mumbai seems to have at least one khau galli. Crisp jhal muri, the Bengali equivalent of Bhel puri, can be found in the Esplanade, while puri bhaji can be had at the Mullick Ghat Flower Market. Near the Charminar in Hyderabad’s historic district, you’ll find various delicious street food, from Nawabi-inspired delicacies to Tibetan momos. You can inquire about the local khau galli at your hotel’s front desk. Please verify this with the locals before setting out. To your health!

Please contact me at bhagyalakshmi.krishnamurthy@gmail.com for India-focused travel writing.

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