Kolkata is called the “City of Joy” for a very good reason. The capital city of West Bengal is widely regarded as India’s cultural center and remains a popular destination for its literature, art, and architectural treasures. However, these aren’t the only things you can enjoy in Kolkata! There are plenty of gastronomic treats that you can find here, as well, and you won’t have to find a fancy restaurant and break the bank for you to try them! In fact, you can find these delicacies right on the streets of the city. Traveling to Kolkata soon? Be sure to check out our picks of the most delicious street food in the city, so you don’t miss out on these great eats on your trip!
1. Kathi rolls
Kathi (sometimes spelled kati) rolls are a staple street food in Kolkata! It is believed that these rolls were first made at the Nizam Restaurant, a popular eatery in Kolkata, which opened in 1932. Originally, kathi rolls were skewered, roasted kebabs, wrapped in paratha, a type of flatbread. Nowadays, the term is used to describe any sort of flatbread wrap with a filling.
Though there are plenty of delectable variations of the kathi roll that you can try, they normally contain a filling made with coriander chutney, egg, and chicken. Kathi rolls remain one of the most popular street foods in Kolkata because they are a delicious and filling meal that anyone can enjoy on the go!
2. Pani puri
Sometimes called “puchka” or “golgappa”, pani puri are hollow bread balls that are deep-fried and filled with a delectable combination of vegetables and other ingredients - typically, these include flavored water (or imli pani), potato, onion, chickpeas, tamarind chutney, chili, and chaat masala (a special powdered spice mix).
Though they are commonly sold by vendors on the streets, restaurants have also taken to serving more modern versions of this popular street food. One particularly popular variation is the cucumber pani puri, which makes use of cucumber juice instead of imli pani, to give it a more refreshing taste.
3. Sev batata puri
If you love potatoes, you’re definitely going to love sev batata puri! This popular street food is the perfect combination of spicy and sweet. It is made with “puri”, a type of bread that is hollowed out and fried to a crisp. The puri is then stuffed with a potato mixture, which typically contains shredded carrot, raisins, coriander leaves, and a mix of spices. It is also usually topped with chutneys, sev, or crunchy chickpea noodles, and onions.
Tasty and easy to eat, sev batata puri is another favorite among busy commuters. You’re sure to want more than just one of this totally addictive snack!
4. Chhanar jilipi
If you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, then you should definitely try some chhanar jilipi! This sweet and savory dessert is typically made with paneer (a type of fresh, non-melting cheese) or chana (chickpeas), full cream, and flour. The ingredients are combined to form a soft dough, which is then rolled into ropes and deep fried in ghee (clarified butter) until it turns golden brown. Then, it is drenched in simple syrup. Chhanar jilipi is best served warm and is especially great on a cold, rainy afternoon - truly an indulgent treat!
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Churmur is another common roadside treat in Kolkata. It is quite similar to pani puri or phuchka, except the puri and potatoes are crumbled into much smaller pieces and mixed together. Churmur is made with the crumbled puri and potatoes, mixed with chickpeas, cilantro, chili, and a mix of other aromatic spices. Lime juice and tamarind are also added, giving this spicy snack a delicious sour twist! But what really makes this treat addictive is its texture - “Churmur” literally translates to that “crunch” sound made when you take a satisfying bite!
6. Ghugni chaat
Ghugni chaat is a favorite among those who are a little more health conscious, but still looking for something yummy to enjoy! It is especially popular in the Northern and Eastern parts of India, including Kolkata. Made primarily with dried white peas, onions, tamarind chutney, coriander leaves, and roasted masala, ghugni chaat is packed with flavor, as well as nutrients, like protein. For a truly delicious and hearty meal, you should definitely try some ghugni chaat served with some bread.
Filling and delicious, jhalmuri is a popular street food that is often enjoyed early in the morning, for breakfast. Jhalmuri is made of puffed rice, chanachur (or Bombay mix, a mix of fried lentils, peanuts, rice, and other savory ingredients), mustard oil, onion, chili, lemon, and a variety of other spices. Vegetables, like onions, tomatoes, chickpeas, and coconut, can be mixed in, as well. The ingredients are placed in a bowl, which is shaken until the ingredients are thoroughly integrated. Jhalmuri can also be enjoyed in a soup, mixed with some tomato, pudina (wild mint), or cucumber.
8. Pav bhaji (paw bhaji)
First served in the 1850s as a quick, but heavy meal for textile mill workers in Mumbai, pav bhaji (also called paw bhaji) has since become one of the most popular dishes in street carts and restaurants across India. This spicy vegetable curry is prepared on a tava (a large, flat griddle) and is often served with a soft bread roll. Sometimes, it is also topped with onions, cheese, or mushrooms. Pav bhaji is very dense, nutritious, and easy to eat, making it a staple among workers and students.
9. Keemar doi bora
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Keemar Doi Bora is a variation of the dahi vada (fried flour balls dipped in yogurt) that originated in Kolkata. This version of the street food favorite is made of minced meat, rolled carefully into balls and deep fried. It is also served with sweetened and spiced yogurt and is sometimes garnished with seeds, like fenugreek and black mustard, or spices, like cumin, cinnamon, and red chili powder. Unfortunately, keemar doi bora can be somewhat hard to find, though it is known to be sold at Burrabazar (or Bara Bazar), in central Kolkata.
Telebhaja is the perfect combination of salty and spicy. It is made with a mix of vegetables, which often includes eggplant and onions, and a protein (either fish, meat, or egg). The mixture is then covered in a batter of corn flour and deep fried in mustard oil. It can also be topped with a garnish of mustard seeds or poppy seeds. There are plenty of shops in North Kolkata that are well-known for their telebhaja. This treat is also quite popular during local fairs and festivals.
Find joy in the different flavors of Kolkata
Home to breathtaking architecture, fascinating art, literature, and mouthwatering food, the City of Joy is sure to fill you with just that. Whether you prefer spicy, salty, or sweet, there are plenty of hearty treats that can satisfy your palette and keep you full, as you explore the colorful streets of Kolkata!
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