Street food is always the entrance to a city’s soul. Being the truest form of any cultural cuisine, street food is always a must-try, with its distinct flavours and authentic recipes. Varanasi is no exception. Situated on banks of River Ganga, Varanasi is one of India’s oldest cities, dating all the way back to the 11th century. Labelled as the ‘spiritual capital’ of the country, many flock to this colourful and magical region to perform sacred rituals of life and death. Abundant in history, the city of Varanasi is also rich in flavours. Home to some of the most beautiful and delicious foods, you’ll be taken on a culinary journey just by walking along the streets of Varanasi. Their food is very much inspired by its culture and people, and a combination of old and new times. With so many to choose from, here are the top street food you must try in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh!
1. Tamatar chaat (mashed spicy tomato with crispies)
Chaat is a set of savoury snacks often found on road-side stalls all across the Indian subcontinent. With a mixture of spices and sauces, you’ll get a wondrous mix of flavours and textures - making it the perfect road trip snack. This dish can be made from various ingredients, from rice and bread fritters to tomatoes and onions topped with a wide array of delicious tangy chutney sauces. Chaat can come in various flavours, depending on the region. Tamatar chaat, in particular, is native to the spiritual city of Varanasi. This type of chaat is made up of mashed onions, tomatoes and potatoes mixed with varied spices and finally topped off with crispy deep-fried crispies. A certified local favourite, this is a delicious snack that will leave you wanting more.
2. Choora matar (peas and flattened rice)
CHOORA MATAR ( A delectable speciality of Banaras!) (MILK SOAKED CHEWDA STIR FRIED IN DESI GHEE WITH GREEN PEAS, DRY FRUITS, GREEN CHILLIES & GINGER. GARNISHED WITH FRESH CORIANDER).Posted by Banarasi Chaat Bhandar on Monday, 28 August 2017
One of the most popular street dishes in the whole of Varanasi, choora matar is a local way of preparing poha or flattened rice. It is usually popular during the winter, where peas are widely available in local markets. Prepared with butter, milk, ground spices and of course, peas, this dish makes for an easy and delicious meal. Choora matar can be found in street stalls and snack shops all across Varanasi, and the entire region of Uttar Pradesh. Served usually for breakfast and alongside a cup of spiced milk tea, you can expect a wide array of flavours you can’t get anywhere else.
3. Laiya chana (salted puffed rice with peanuts)
A light snack for on-the-go, laiya chana is the perfect for those busy days and in between meals. Laaiya chana is made of salted puffed rice mixed with peanuts and roasted chickpeas, as well as various other ingredients such as coriander leaves and cumin powder. Additional ingredients, like dried coconut slices or corn flakes, can also be added, making it an easily customisable snack that can range from sweet to savoury. Similar to trail mix, this is a snack frequented by motorists and travellers looking for a quick bite. So, whether you’re looking for a delicious snack or just waiting in between meals, make sure to grab yourself a bag of laiya chana.
4. Kachori sabji (spicy puff pastry and vegetable curry)
Kachori sabji is a local street food staple in Varanasi. This warm and comforting snack consists of ‘kachori’, a crispy puff pastry, usually stuffed with a type of mashed vegetable, like lentils, mung beans or peas. The kachori is served with a bowl of 'sabji’, vegetable curry, completing this local favourite road-side snack. And much like most dishes in Indian cuisine, kachori sabji packs quite a spicy kick and a whole lot of flavour. Guaranteed to make you feel all warm inside, the iconic kachori sabji is not one to miss out on.
5. Rabri jalebi (deep-fried sweet ringlets with condensed milk)
Home to the best jalebis ever, Varanasi is must-visit for this delicious dessert dish. Best served hot, rabri jalebi is a popular Indian dessert made with deep-fried maida flour and sugar syrup dipped in chilled thickened condensed milk. A perfect yet simple dessert, this delicious snack is prepared by squeezing a mixture of dough batter in spirals into hot oil, then dipped into a sugar syrup. Often paired with varied sides, like milk or pistachios, the juxtaposition of chilled condensed milk and hot jalebis is certainly the best combo out there. So, if you’re looking for a delicious and sweet snack whilst you’re exploring Varanasi, look no further!
6. Dahi chutney wale gol gappe (deep-fried crispy hollows stuffed with yogurt)
Dahi chutney wale gol gappe or dahi puri, in short, is a staple street food that’s loved by all. This delicious dish is made up of a hollow deep-fried crispy ball, cracked on the top to stuff yoghurt and a combination of various ingredients, such as boiled potatoes, spicy chutney, onions, coriander and so much more. With one big bite, you can expect a burst of wondrous flavours. From sweet and tangy to spicy, it’s no wonder this is a popular street food all throughout Northern India. This is easily a must-have for anyone visiting the area.
7. Chena dahi vada (fritters in sweet and savoury yoghurt)
A true Varanasi dish, chena dahi vada is a popular breakfast snack that dances along the lines of sweet and spicy. Consisting of a fritter drenched in sweet yoghurt and sprinkled with ground spices and black salt, chena dahi vada is the perfect way to start any morning. This Indian delicacy is a great blend of spice, sweetness and crunch, as well. One of the most iconic street foods in the whole region of Uttar Pradesh, this is a dish you can’t miss out on.
8. Samosa (savoury stuffed crunchy triangles)
When you think of Indian street food, samosas are usually the go-to. Samosas are so commonplace in India, that you can probably find them at every single street corner. Samosas, which are usually triangular in shape, are a fried pastry stuffed with savoury fillings, like spiced potatoes, peas, chicken and various others. Crispy, golden brown and served hot, Varanasi samosas are abundant with complementary flavours that will have your mouth-watering.
9. Baati chokha (savoury stuffed dough balls with chickpea stew)
Baati chokha or litti chokha is a favourite dish among those in the whole of Uttar Pradesh. This dish is made up of ‘litti’, which are dough balls stuffed with chana dal (chickpea stew) and varied spices, and then served alongside 'chokha’, a spicy relish that can be made from mashed potatoes, tomatoes or eggplant. This is a rustic and traditional dish that’s simple yet full of flavours. If there’s anything you must try whilst in Varanasi, it’s this scrumptious staple.
10. Thandai (spiced milk drink)
What a better way to end a long and hot day exploring Varanasi than with a cold and delicious drink. Thandai is a traditional Indian drink that is made with milk, sugar, cardamom, saffron, almonds, rose petals and so much more. Usually prepared for the festival of colours, Holi, this is a sweet and refreshing drink guaranteed to cool you down from the hot weather of India.
Taste the true essence of Varanasi
Varanasi is a renowned tourist destination. With its colourful monuments and beautiful sceneries, hundreds and thousands of tourists flock to this spiritual city for its history and culture, but also for its delicious food. With so many flavours to choose from, food is a quintessential part of any trip to Varanasi. From sweet desserts to spicy snacks, what a better way to enjoy this vibrant city than with some good local food.
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