Among the greatest benefits of India being a melting pot of multiple cultures and ethnicities is that the country has a mindboggling assortment of fast foods to tickle your palate. Whichever corner of India you happen to visit, you can be sure of getting food that is redolent of its culture and completely unique when compared to just about anything else any other place might have on offer.
Another aspect that travelers in India will quickly come to terms with is that while the haute cuisine served in the top class restaurants is at best a mirror of what the locals relish, the real taste of local specialties is only available on the street through countless kiosks and hole-in-the-wall shops, some of which, pack in more than a century of culinary heritage. Take a peek at what you should taste in different parts of India:
A favorite street food relished both in north and east India, it can be found in its many avatars virtually all over the country and is usually extremely spicy. Matar is a dish made out of dried peas, which are soaked and boiled and then roughly mashed and mixed with finely diced onion, green chilies, coriander leaves to which a selection of hot and sour chutneys are added along with a dash of lime juice and even crushed fritters. There are some variants where the boiled and mashed pea patties are fried and again served along with a number of tangy chutneys and whisked curd on which red chili powder and various other spices have been liberally sprinkled.
Consumed voraciously across the entire subcontinent, jalebi, and its cousin, the imarti is perhaps the quintessential Indian sweet dish. A flour batter, made to the right consistency, is piped in a spiral form directly onto hot oil and fried and then lifted out and dipped in sugar syrup that is fragrant with the addition of saffron. The number of ways you can eat jalebis is uncountable; you can have it just like that or with a variety of main dishes as a snack or for breakfast. Imarti looks very similar to the jalebi however the flour is of lentils and is usually a little drier. Both jalebis are literally hot favorites at Indian weddings when served with rabri, a dish that is a form of a sweetened evaporated milk.
Most people would be inclined to dismiss it as just burgers gone native but one bite into it will have you converted to a fan immediately. The vada is essentially a potato patty that has been mashed with spices such as chili, garlic, and ginger to name just a few and deep fried before being stuffed into a bun that goes by the name of pav. What adds to the zing are the chutneys that accompany it; common being green chilies and mint and a really tangy sweet and sour one made out of tamarind. A vastly popular street food in the State of Maharashtra, it is savored by both the young and the old, irrespective of their social status. Mostly sold as a street food, its huge popularity has prompted a number of restaurants to include it in their menus. A few vada pav restaurant chains have come up too.
Another very spicy fast food, this time, the pav is toasted along with liberal lashings of butter and served with a mixed vegetable dish. The veggie dish comprises almost anything you can think of but usually, the prime ingredients are cauliflower, green peas, eggplant, carrots, beans, and potatoes that are cooked into a spicy curry and then mashed coarsely. The vegetable dish is accompanied by the buttered pavs and eaten piping hot along with a host of spicy and tangy chutneys. Originally a stable of the Mumbai textile mill workers, pav bhaji can now be found in all street corners of India.
There is nothing that can really compete with gol gappe, Pani Puris or phuchkas as they are called in eastern India. These are basically small circular and hollow puris made of flour in which, a mix of boiled potatoes, chickpeas, dried peas, coriander leaves and green chilies are inserted. The filled puris are then dipped into a pot of tangy tamarind water and put into the mouth whole. Even though eating the gol gappes that are just a trifle too wide for the open mouth can be a daunting exercise, most people end up having a stomach full from the vendor. Gol gappes differ in the mix and the taste depending upon regional preferences with each part of India swearing that their version is the best.