Situated in India’s capital state of West Bengal, Kolkata is widely regarded as being the cultural capital of the country, with a celebrated history of art and literature. The city also has a strong community spirit thanks to the paras – or local neighbourhoods –that are designed to bring the locals together, featuring communal areas and playing fields.
In most cities that have a thriving cultural hub, you can find an array of exciting foods– and Kolkata’s diverse culinary scene is no exception. It is perhaps most famous, however, for its booming street food culture.
As inner citypopulation numbers increasedover recent years and space became more of an issue, the people of Kolkata and West Bengal had no choice but to change their tastes and attitudes towards food. Restaurants and eateries soon gave way to street vendors, who previously only sold raw commodities, but saw a gap in the market for convenient, inexpensive food that people could consume quickly or on their commute to and from the suburbs.
These stands can be moved around easily and serve up fresh, delicious food to the people of Kolkata, but also to visitors and travellers seeking an authentic taste of Indian street food.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the delicacies you can find on the streets of Kolkata.
One of the Kolkata’s most famous snacks, usually eaten in the afternoons or between meals, is Jhalmuri. This mostly consists of puffed rice, mixed chanachur (an Indian snack mix), chopped onions, spices and nuts, all tossed in mustard oil and served, traditionally, in newspaper cones.
Puchkas (or panipuri) is another popular street snack in the city, and one of the most iconic. This bite-sized morsel consists of a round, hollow puri (or bread), fried until crisp and filled with a mixture of chaat masala, tamarind chutney, chilli, onion, chickpeas and potato. Diners simply pop them into their mouth whole for a quick, satisfying snack.
Ghugniis a typical Bengali dish, consisting of yellow dried peas that are boiled and mixed with chopped coriander, coconut, onion, chilli, tomatoes and tamarind water, and seasoned with a mixture of spices.
Another famous Bengali dish is Radha Ballavi, a flatbread stuffed with a spiced lentil mixture and deep fried. These moreish delicacies never hang around long!
Similar to a Mexican taco or burrito, Kathi rolls are a handheld chapatti orparantha, filled with kebab meat, pieces of fried chicken ormutton keema; while vegetarians can choose from paneer or fried egg.
PapriChaat is a variation of the popular fried snacks found throughout India. Papri are deep-fried chips, which are topped with chopped onion, coriander, chilli and boiled yellow peas, and dressed with a deep red tamarind chutney.
There are so many other foods and beverages available in India’s capital city. If you can’t hop on a plane to Kolkata, some of London’s top Indian restaurants now serve up authentic variations of Indian street food – so from lunch through to appetisers and even the main event, you’re sure to find something to excite your tastebuds.