It is true that many of our favourite street foods, such as chaat and vada pav contain deep fried elements that are not exactly doing your body any favours. However, given the sheer variety of street food in India, you can certainly find some healthy options. Here are our favorites.
Idli – this fluffy rice and lentil cake is a staple breakfast in southern India. It is also popular all over the country thanks to the ubiquitous Udipi restaurants and cycle-walas that peddle fresh wares every morning. The idli batter consists of rice and black lentils and is fermented overnight. The cakes are then steamed and served piping hot with sambhar and coconut chutney. Not only are the idlis healthy, so are its accompaniments. Sambhar is packed with lentils and vegetables and the coconut chutney contains good fats, as long as you have it in limited quantities.
Dosa – Along with idlis, dosas have also successfully made the transition from a South Indian breakfast to a popular snack in other parts of the country. This crepe or pancake-like preparation is also made from a fermented rice and black lentil batter (the proportions vary from the idli batter) and roasted on a hot tawa, often with some oil or ghee. You can opt for an oil-less or ghee-less dosa if you’re worried about how much of it goes onto the dosa. Like idlis, dosas are also served with sambhar and chutney. Many a time, they come with an accompanying preparation of potatoes. Ordering a plain dosa is the healthiest option, or if you want something filling, an uttapam. You could even try the Mysore variant, which comes smeared with mulgapudi – a delicious chutney made from sesame seeds.
Corn on the cob – Another widely available street food is corn on the cob, also known as bhutta. The corncobs are roasted on a hot coal stove and then rubbed with some lemon juice, salt and spices. This snack is especially popular during the monsoons. A variant of this is the boiled American corn that is sold in small plastic cups. Beware of the amount of butter that goes into it, though!
Sandwich – The toasted sandwich is a particularly popular snack, especially with college students. Stuffed with tomato, potato, cucumber and onion and slathered with some chutney, this sandwich can be eaten plain or toasted. The fillings vary and may also include other vegetables such as capsicum and beetroot. Most sandwich vendors now offer the option of brown bread as well, although mass-produced brown bread is hardly the healthy variety.
Chaat -Of course, not all chaat is the healthiest of snacks, but we'd say paani puriis a decent option for a quick bite (Okay, so we're a little bit partial) Lay off the boondi and sweet chutney and you have a spicy snack that can keep you going. If you find someone that uses pulses in their paani puri, you've hit the jackpot. Another good chaat option is sukha bhel. Have the guy to heap it up with tomatoes and peanuts and you've got a healthy snack right there.
Momos – very popular in North and North-east India, these dumplings are a healthy and filling snack on the go. Vegetables or meats are stuffed inside parcels made of rice flour (sometimes refined flour is used, so be careful). These are usually steamed and served with some spicy sauces.
Which other street snacks would you recommend for the health-conscious eater? Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
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