Aamsotto/aam papad at Burrabazaar, Kolkata
Mango leather is a form of dried mango jelly, which is sold all over India in various shapes and forms, ranging from rolls, cubes, blocks to flat slices. In Kolkata, where I am from, it is called ‘aamsotto’ or ‘aam papad’.
On a sultry afternoon, while roaming the streets of Burrabazar, in north Kolkata, I stumbled upon the location where this sinful delicacy is prepared, during the hot summer months. The mango pulp is placed in hundreds of plates on rooftops to dry under the scorching sun. After the pulp dries off and reaches a certain thickness, it is wrapped in plastic, ready to be sold.
It was indeed surreal to taste my favourite summer street food while watching it getting prepared and processed in front of my eyes. The tangy mouthfuls of heavens lined up on a rooftop with the view of the iconic Howrah Bridge made the whole scene even more beautiful.
—Rana Pandey, Kolkata
Tekeli pitha (steamed rice cakes) in Assam
Mornings in the streets of Assam are abuzz with people milling around the steaming earthen pots, awaiting their breakfast staple of tekeli pitha or steamed rice cakes. What comes out from the earthen pot is a cake made out of rice powder layered with grated coconut, jaggery and a paste of black sesame seeds. It is steamed in an earthen pot, or the mouth of a kettle, which is why it’s also called ‘ketli pitha’. The best way to eat it is by dipping it in a piping hot cup of tea and gulping it down, feeling the flavours mesmerising your senses.
—Farmida Aman, Kasavanahalli, Bangalore
Litti Chokha at Patna, Bihar
My favourite street food is litti chokha, a popular dish from Bihar. I am a resident of Patna and here one can find Litti Chokha on every road but my favourite is from a stall (RK Litti) near the Maurya Lok Complex on Dak Bunglow Road. Litti is a kind of bread stuffed with Sattu (roasted Bengal gram flour), which is served with chokha (made with mashed brinjals or potatoes and tomatoes). For every Bihari, Litti Chokha has a special place in their hearts, as no other food gives as much satisfaction as it does.
—Kaushiki Rajan, Patna, Bihar
Coconut ice cream at Koh Samui, Thailand
Having a sweet tooth, I always try the local desserts during my travels. One such food experience I can never forget is the coconut ice creams on the streets of Koh Samui, Thailand.
On a sunny day, after spending an hour at Grandpa Grandma Rocks, I saw a few women selling the hand-churned coconut ice creams. Creamy, with bits of coconut, it was a sheer delight. It’s also a steal at just 50 Thai Baht (approx. Rs 110) for 3 delicious scoops.
The women selling the ice cream were very courteous and made the tourists feel at home. Even though, there was a language barrier, their actions and gestures were welcoming. I always prefer buying from local vendors and support people making a living through tourism. I highly recommend trying these ice creams for those visiting Koh Samui.
—Ramana Shah, Mumbai
Faley and steamed momo at Pelling, Sikkim
While travelling from West Bengal to Sikkim, we stopped at Singshore Bridge, five km away from Pelling. We were starving as we could not find any restaurant during the long journey and had missed lunch.
Our local driver turned out to be our saviour as he pointed us to the cutest food joint just across the bridge, which looked as if it was dangling off one corner of the hill. Momo and thukpa is a mandatory order for me when I’m travelling in hills but the shop owner suggested a local fried food called ‘Faley’ or ‘Shapale’. It’s a deep-fried meat pie, a cousin of the popular fried momo.
The faley along with the piping hot steamed momo, with home-made soup and chutney was among the best I’ve ever had. It’ll always be a meal to remember for my foodie soul, when I had one of the best meals ever, at the turn of a hill.
—Madhushree Bhattacharya, Kolkata
Okonomiyaki and takoyaki at Osaka, Japan
Nestled between the many shopping streets in Dotonbori in Osaka, Japan, is Soemoncho. We stumbled upon Soemoncho hungry after our river cruise and saw works of art on display in every food stall.
The street food with which I had a great love affair is Okonomiyaki. Okonomi means ‘What you like’ and Yaki means ‘Cooked’. This soft, flavorful, piping hot, pancake-like dish is all about your preferences. The base of this dish is cooked with wheat flour batter mixed with cabbage. The toppings can be anything you want – meat, seafood or just lots of cheese.
Takoyaki or Octopus ball, is another famous version of this dish, that can be pricked with tooth picks and dipped in sauces. The batter consists of egg, flour, minced octopus pieces and tempura bits which gives it a taste that distinguishes it from Okonomiyaki. The signature shape and size makes it easy to consume and it is rightfully the ubiquitous street food in Japan.
As you explore delicacies, do not miss spotting your favourite Anime characters. They will be hidden in plain sight and only a true fan finds them!
—Laxmy Surendran, Bangalore
Parotta at Madurai, Tamil Nadu
For me, the best street food I have ever tasted is parotta at the Simmakkal area in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. They serve a thin spicy gravy called salna with it, which makes it a deadly combo. Even as I think of it, my mouth waters. I would also recommend to get some chicken or mutton chukka with parotta. After that trip, whenever I visit any district of Tamil Nadu, I always order parotta.
Khadu at Brahmapur, Odisha
I have grown up tasting many street foods readily available in my hometown Berhampur, now known as Brahmapur, in Odisha. This place shares a unique amalgamation of two cultures, Odia and Telugu. One such food item is Khadu (in Odia) or Segdalu/Segudu (in Telugu). This guest from the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh has crossed the border and made a mark for itself in south Odisha. This is a ring-shaped delicacy, made from humble ingredients like rice flour, moong dal and spices like curry leaves, sesame seeds, ajwain and chilli. It is fried till it has a crisp outer texture and is soft in the middle. One can find this snack in every other street food joint in the region, with people flocking around to grab a few before it flies off the counter.
—Shivasish Sahu, Brahmapur, Odisha
Kathi rolls at Pune
While returning to Mumbai from a weekend getaway to Alibaug, we took a detour to Pune, just so we could have Kapila’s kathi rolls at Dhole Patil Road. The trip turned out to be quite adventurous as we mistakenly took a long-winding route to our destination. Driving on totally deserted roads along the jungles, we finally reached Pune City. Our lunch stop had turned into an evening snack stopover. The wait for our order of kathi rolls was flavoured with anticipation and hunger pangs. Watching the rolls being made in front of us with the aromas filling the air made the atmosphere almost heady. Can’t ever forget the crispy first bite.
—Etta Talwar Dutta, Mumbai
Thattu Vadai Set at Salem, Tamil Nadu
I found my favourite street food back in my childhood when my dad bought me a thattu vadai set for the first time. It’s a salad of fresh veggies like beetroot, carrot and onions sandwiched between a set of thattu vadai (rice flour crackers). Compared to North Indian chaats, it’s totally different. It’s fresh and healthy too as it isn’t a cooked dish, except for the rice cracker. The crispiness of the crackers, with the tang of sauce and freshness of veggies makes this a winner. It’s affordable and not that bad for health, considering all the fresh veggies that go into it. I never ever leave Salem without having my thattu vadai set.
—Yeswanth Kumar, Mecheri, Tamil Nadu
Hyacinth bean fair at VV Puram Food Street, Bangalore
If you are in Bangalore and do not visit VV Puram Food Street, then in my book, you’re not a foodie. From piping hot idlis straight out of the steamers, delicious butter dosas from the tawa, paddu from the round tawa to masala puri, bhel puri and all kinds of chaats. For dessert, there’s kulfi, lassi, falooda, ice creams and the Bangalore-famous butter gulkand and fruit salad served with lots of dry fruits and love. During the winter, the whole street converts into a fair where all dishes are made from hyacinth beans, locally known as avarekai. Foodies from all over India come here for the Avarekai Mela. The food you eat here speaks about how diverse cultures and tradition coincide in Bangalore. It defines the very fabric that this city runs on and the street is an embodiment of that.
—Shashank Kashyap, Bangalore
Tacos with mango chutney at Cologne, Germany
The food scene in Germany is pretty bland in my opinion. Cologne is a pretty big city with loads of food options, but there aren’t many which satisfy my Indian taste buds. One day, after work, I was walking back home when I came across a colorful Mexican food truck on Richard Wagner Strasse.
On first look, I wasn’t really excited as it served only vegetarian tacos and quesadillas. But I ordered anyway and asked them to put their spicy hot mango chutney. With my first bite, I was blown away by the flavors and spice levels. I couldn’t believe that soya could be so delicious. I keep going back to the food truck for the amazing tacos and it’s like a whiff of fresh air in the landscape of German food.
—Arindam Halder, Cologne, Germany
Sarva Pindi, at Siddipet, Telangana
I was travelling from Karimnagar to Hyderabad with my family when we stopped at a food joint near Siddipet. They were serving a local specialty, Sarva Pindi, that’s essentially a pancake made from rice flour, chana dal, peanuts and sesame. The dish was served with chutney and was so delicious. I still crave for the dish whenever I visit the place.
Bubble Tea and Sweet Potato Fries at Taichung, Taiwan
My tastiest street food experience yet is Bubble Tea and Sweet Potato fries in the night markets in Taichung, Central Taiwan. During a two-month stay in 2017, I had my first taste of Bubble Tea, which is essentially a combination of tea, milk and ‘bubbles’, which are little balls made of anything from tapioca to fruit jelly. After that, every single day I tasted varieties like chocolate, green tea, matcha, and fruity flavours like strawberry, orange or blueberry. When I returned to Taiwan again in 2018 and 2019, I went back every night for my bubble tea fix. Another favourite street food is sweet potato fries: the sweet potatoes are boiled, skewered with sticks and fried. Brown sugar is sprinkled in the end along with some chocolate shreds. It’s out of this world.
—Madhumita Bishnu, Kolkata
All veg food street at Sarafa Bazaar, Indore
When I was planning to visit Indore with my parents to explore Madhya Pradesh, many locals had suggested that we visit Sarafa Bazaar. By day, it’s a street full of jewellery stores and by night, it transforms into a food street. By 8.30 pm, the street was bustling with food vendors and patrons. From the mundane to the outrageous, from starters to desserts, Chinese to South Indian, kebabs to sizzlers, it has it all. The delicacies made here are completely vegetarian as well. My favourite here was the aloo tikki chaat.
—Shashank Kashyap, Bangalore