India is a huge country with many different landscapes and cultures. One of the best ways to experience its diversity is through the food! Vegetarian-friendly and filled to the brim with impressive flavor, Indian cuisine is definitely stuff to write home about.
Created in the Indian state of Maharashtra, vada pav is a fast-food dish comprised of deep-fried potato dumplings placed in a bread bun filled with spices. Known to be a quick, inexpensive snack, it is popular amongst all workers in the region and definitely something to pick up while sightseeing!
This fried pastry is a triangle-shaped snack usually filled with potatoes, peas, onions, lentils, and/or meat. Some can be super spicy but most are mild and served with various dipping sauces. The puff pastry is satisfying and the stuffing is filling, so this portable meal will be a staple to all visitors.
Made by brewing black tea and various regional herbs, masala chai is a staple drink for anyone staying in India. The spices and herbs added to this hot or iced drink are what make it unique, and no two masala chais are the same! Take a sip of a tall iced chai after a day of exploring, or wake up to a hot pot in the morning. Either way, you’ll be craving it when you go home.
Craving crepes in India? Well, pani puri is a snack from the Bihar region that combines deep-fried crepes with chutney, chili, potato, and chickpeas! Served with a spiced, watery dipping side, pani puri is a finger food that will easily fill you up if you’re not careful.
When you combine the Indian words Paran and atta, you get ‘layers of cooked dough.’ And when you ask what one of the most popular staples is throughout India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, you get paranthas. A pancake-like flatbread, one will usually eat paranthas with meat or vegetable curries. Expect the flatbread to be covered in creamy butter or roll it and dip it into tea! This culinary item is very diverse, which is why you will find it and other variations in many Asian cuisines.
Dumplings are very popular throughout Southeast Asia, and India happens to have its own version. Momos are traditionally Tibetan, steamed and filled with either meat or veggies. As you can see, dough stuffed with delicious fillings is very popular in this region of the world! Luckily, momos and the other delicious snacks we’ve mentioned are guaranteed to keep you full while you explore everything India has to offer.
Recently, cauliflower has made its debut into the mainstream diet media. From cauliflower rice to cauliflower steaks, the Western world is obsessed with this pale broccoli-like veggie. But Indians have been eating fried cauliflower for generations! Sweet, tangy, and spicy, gobi manchurian can be found in street stalls and restaurants. It looks like a combination of orange chicken and barbeque wings, but really it’s a delicious vegetable dish!
Alright, enough vegetables. If you’re wondering where to get some great Indian meat dishes, look no further than butter chicken. Also known as makhan murg, this is small pieces of chicken meat in a creamy tomato sauce. Marinated overnight, this will give you a burst of flavor and can be combined with any of the food we’ve already seen!
A sweet treat found all over Asia and the Middle East, this unique snack is extremely common in India. It’s constructed by deep-frying maida flour batter in circular shapes and then soaked in sugar syrup. The thin lines of sweetness are actually India’s national sweet dish and cannot be missed if you visit the country.
Speaking of sweet, are you thirsty after consuming all of the vegetables, fried dough, and butter chicken? Opt for sugarcane juice, a refreshing, all natural drink that can be found from one end of the nation to the other. Light green in color and found at almost every market and restaurant, you’ll get a natural kick of energy too!
What to avoid:
Of course, in any country it may be smart for tourists to avoid certain foods or preparation techniques. In India, be mindful of food that uses tap water, such as fruit juice, gol gappe, and fresh salads. The water contains bacteria that many visitors stomachs are not used to, and no one wants to deal with an upset stomach while on a trip. Also, if you don’t consume much spicy food at home, be mindful of Indian dishes with red and green chilis. You’ll be in for a big surprise if your first bite sets your mouth aflame! Finally, raw meat and unpasteurized cheese are two items that may cause you issues anywhere in the world, so make sure you are mindful of these as well.
Are you ready to visit India yet? Check out our India & the Taj expedition. If you’re in the process of planning your trip to India, make sure to read our packing list, what to wear in India, and our guide to Northern India. Happy travels!
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