Tasty Snacks (Foods of India)

Indians love to snack. Street stalls and roving food vendors can be found in every city and village. "Whatever the time of day, people are boiling, frying, roasting, peeling, juicing, simmering, mixing, or baking some class of food and drink to lure passers-by," explain Hughes, Mookherjee, and Delacy. "Snacking is second nature to Indians. . . . They don’t snack to tide them over between meals, they snack because they love the food."9 Among the most popular snacks are savory fried treats and deliciously spiced tea.

Made-to-Order Treats

Indians enjoy a wide variety of fragrant, deep-fried snacks called chaats (chahts). These are flavored with chaat masala, a blend of sea salt, cumin, dried mango powder, chili powder, and ginger, and served with chutney. Among the most popular are samosas (sah-mo-saahs), panipuris (pahn-nee poo-rees), pakoras (pah-kaw-raahs), and pakodas (pah-koo-dahs).

Samosas are small, triangular pastries. They are filled with vegetables seasoned with chaat masala. Mashed potatoes and peas are one of the most popular fillings.

A Mumbai street vendor prepares pao-bhaji, Indian fast food, for hungry on-the-go customers.

A Mumbai street vendor prepares pao-bhaji, Indian fast food, for hungry on-the-go customers.




Piping hot samosas have been a favorite Indian snack for centuries.

Piping hot samosas have been a favorite Indian snack for centuries.

Indians have been snacking on samosas since ancient Persian spice traders brought them to India. The traders made the crispy, portable treats on their campfires at night, then packed them for the next day’s journey. Samosas quickly became popular in India and by the 14th century were a favorite snack of almost everyone, including Indian royalty.

Panipuris are also filled pastries. These bite-size treats are made of puffed fried bread that is lightly crushed open on one side. This forms a small, shell-like container that holds the filling. Popular fillings include chickpeas or mashed potatoes topped with onions and chutney.


Vegetable Pakodas

This recipe uses an onion, eggplant, and bell pepper, but almost any vegetable can be used. Indians use chickpea flour, but any flour will work.


2 cups flour 1 cup water

12 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

52 cup vegetable oil for frying

1 small bell pepper, cut into thin rounds

1 small onion, cut into thin rounds

1 small eggplant, cut into thin rounds


1. Combine all the ingredients except the vegetables and oil to make a thin batter.

2. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan.

3. Dip the vegetable slices in the batter and fry a few at a time. Be sure to fry both sides. Remove the vegetables from the pan when they are golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Serve hot with chutney.

Snackers typically pop the whole thing into their mouths. Just one bite releases an explosion of different flavors. It is no wonder that it is almost impossible to eat just one. But since a half dozen generally costs less than 50 cents, thrifty snackers can easily indulge their appetites.

Pakoras and pakodas are two other fried treats. Pakoras are vegetable fritters or patties. They are made with ground vegetables, chaat masala, and chickpea flour.

Pakoras, fritters made from ground vegetables, are often served with a variety of chutneys.

Pakoras, fritters made from ground vegetables, are often served with a variety of chutneys.

They are fried in hot oil or ghee until they are crisp and golden. Potato, eggplant, zucchini, and cauliflower are all popular ingredients for pakoras.

Pakodas are similar to pakoras. But instead of ground vegetables formed into little fritters, pakodas are more like fried onion rings. They are made by deep-frying vegetable rings breaded with spiced flour. Almost any vegetable is used. Cauliflower, eggplant, spinach, and mushrooms all make delicious pakodas.

All chaats are made-to-order. Snackers choose their favorite fillings, or breaded vegetable, and hot or sweet chutney. Before the chaat is served, chaat masala is sprinkled over it. How much depends on the individual. With so many choices, it is not surprising that every chaat is slightly different. But one thing is the same: They never taste greasy. That is because the cook closely monitors the cooking temperature. If it is too hot, the oil will smoke. The chaat will burn on the outside but be soggy and undercooked within. If it is too cool, the chaat will absorb the cooking oil and taste greasy. But when the temperature is just right, chaats are so light and flaky that they melt in the mouth. "I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy these wonderfully crisp finger foods,"10 says Baljekar.

Healthy Fast Food

Pav bhaji (pahv bhah-jee), a juicy bread-and-vegetable mixture, is as popular in India as hamburgers are in America. It originated as a cheap late-night snack for hungry mill workers in the city of Bombay (now Mumbai) but quickly became popular with other Indians.

Pav is a square bread, similar to a dinner roll. Bhaji is a mix of vegetables and spices. The vegetables and spices almost always feature potatoes and may also include peas, onions, cauliflower, and tomatoes. These ingredients are mashed together on a hot griddle and cooked until hot and tender. At the same time, the bread is cut open, slathered with butter, sprinkled with masala, and roasted on the griddle until the butter melts and the bread is golden. The vegetables and bread are served beside each other on a flat dish with chopped onions and various chutneys.

A cook stirs a large pot of mashed vegetables to be used to make pav bhaji, a popular Indian fast-food dish.

A cook stirs a large pot of mashed vegetables to be used to make pav bhaji, a popular Indian fast-food dish.

Pav bhaji is one of the most popular snacks in India. Although it is considered a fast food, the vegetables make it quite nutritious. Explains Gel, an Indian mother, "This Mumbai street food is my family’s all time favorite food. It is similar to the Sloppy Joe, of the West. What’s so great about this wonderful dish is that it is packed with the goodness of many vegetables. How many junk food recipes can boast that?"11

Fragrant Tea

When thirsty Indians want a beverage to go with a savory snack, they often choose chai (cha-ee). Chai is a sweet,milky, spiced tea.



Lassi (lah-see) is a yogurt-based drink similar to a smoothie or milkshake. It is popular throughout India. Lassis can be sweet or salty. Sweet lassis are usually made with fresh fruit such as mangoes. The fruit is mixed with yogurt, ice, cold water, and sugar. Spices such as cardamom and black pepper may also be added. Salty lassis include mint, salt, and cumin with the yogurt mix. Some lassis substitute ground nuts, such as pistachios, instead of fruit or mint. Lassis are served cold and are quite refreshing.

Frothy lassi is a refreshing yogurt-based drink.

Frothy lassi is a refreshing yogurt-based drink.


India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tea. Most Indians drink the hot liquid at least twice a day. They enjoy it in the morning with biscuits for dunking and once again with a spicy snack at teatime in the afternoon. For this reason chai is sold just about everywhere. An expert at Chai.com, a Web site all about the beverage, explains: "Chai stalls are a favorite meeting place to savor a hot, fresh cup of chai and discuss the day’s happenings. They are found all over India; from train stations in Bombay, to tiny villages around the country."12

Although it is made with black tea, chai tastes quite different from a simple cup of tea. To make chai, Indians boil water with a mix of spices known as chai masala. The spices include whole cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and cloves.


Indian Ice Cream

Kulfi (kul-fee), which came from ancient Persia, is the Indian name for ice cream. Made with thickened and sweetened milk, kulfi is thicker and harder than Western ice cream but equally delicious. It is sold mainly in the summer, when vendors carry it door-to-door.

Kulfi comes in many flavors. Fruit and nut flavors are the most popular. Traditionally, kulfi was made by mixing milk, nuts, sugar, and sweet spices in a cone-shaped container. The container was sealed with dough, then placed in a clay tub filled with ice to freeze and harden. Cone-shaped kulfi containers are still used today. Modern Indians fill the containers with their favorite ingredients and then put them in their freezer to set.



Chai is easy to make. You can add more or less sugar or spices depending on your taste. A pinch of ginger can be substituted for cardamom or added to the mixture. A clove can also be added. Whole, low-fat, or nonfat milk can be used.


52 cup water

52 cinnamon stick

2 cardamom pods, crushed

1 cup milk

4 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons black tea or 2 tea bags


1. Combine the water and spices in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil.

2. Add the milk and sugar to the pan. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil.

3. Turn off the heat. Add the tea and cover the pot. Let the tea steep. The longer it steeps, the stronger and darker the tea will be. 4. Strain the mixture. Pour into a teapot and serve.


Once the mixture boils, tea, milk, and sugar are added. The sugar brings out the flavor of the spices. The mixture is boiled again, which causes the milk to get foamy, then left to simmer and steep. It is strained before it is served.

Chai is slightly thicker than plain tea, with a delightful milk froth. It tastes sweet and soothing and smells incredibly aromatic. Some people compare the scent to that of a hot pumpkin pie. In warm weather, ginger is often added. Indians say ginger cools the body. Extra cardamom, which is said to be warming, is added in winter.

Chai is usually served in a glass, and it is always piping hot. To cool it, drinkers pour the liquid back and forth from one glass to another. This also makes the drink foamy.

Indians love to get together with friends and drink chai, and they always offer a glass to guests. "Tea, as a beverage," notes Nupur, an Indian woman, "has been a way of life forever." In India, she explains, "tea is the beverage of choice."13

Street vendors tempt busy Indians with frothy spiced chai; crispy samosas, pakodas, pakoras, and pa-nipuris; and juicy pav bhajis. Is it any wonder Indians love to snack? These tasty treats are hard to resist.

Next post:

Previous post: