India's next big street-food craze? (2023)

Asia Fast Food |

India's next big street-food craze?

India's next big street-food craze? (1)

By Sugato Mukherjee27th June 2022

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For years, sattu flour, the main ingredient in a variety of unpretentious street snacks, has remained at the fringes of India's urban foodscape – but now it's going mainstream.

K

Kishan Yadav poured sattu powder into a steel pot half-filled with water and vigorously stirred the contents with a wooden ladle. He sprinkled the thickening mixture with salt, cumin powder, black pepper and a dash of lemon juice and whisked the beverage to ensure there were no lumps. Then he filled a tumbler with the pale-yellow shake, garnished it with a few onion slices and bright-green coriander leaves and handed it to me.

"Your sattu sherbet is ready," he said with a smile.

A band of his regular patrons – cart pullers and taxi drivers ­– waited patiently at his roadside kiosk in Kolkata for their own glasses, priced at a modest Rs 10 (£0.11). The cooling drink is an energy powerhouse for these workers. Many of them have come to this city from the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which are not only the source of a large migrant worker population but also the source of sattu in the first place.

Sattu sherbet has long been a ubiquitous health drink in India, especially popular among the working class in the Northern and Eastern zones, but it – and its main ingredient of sattu powder, made from Bengal gram (chickpeas, or other pulses and legumes) – has remained at the fringes of the urban foodscape. However, over the past couple of years, this flour has risen in popularity, tagged as an epicurean delicacy with a taste of home in upscale restaurants in Indian metropolises, where it is joining the ranks of vegan, gluten-free, so-called "superfoods" such as moringa and millet.

Still, foods made from the beloved flour have historically been consumed for their affordability versus trendiness. Yadav has been selling the sherbet at his stand for more than two decades, and as I sipped my drink, he explained the process of making sattu. Bengal grams are soaked in water, sun-dried and then roasted in a cast-iron pot filled with sand. The grams are then grinded along with the husk to form a fine, yellowish powder. Yadav said that the earthy notes of sattu are formed through this dry-roasting method, which has to be done on a wood-fired stove.

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India's next big street-food craze? (2)

Yadav has been selling the sherbet at his stand for more than two decades (Credit: Sugato Mukherjee)

According to food historian Colleen Taylor Sen, author of Feasts and Fasts: A History of Food in India, this process goes back a long way. In her book, she recounts that during the Vedic period (circa 1500-500 BCE) barley seeds were pulverised into a powder called saktu, the predecessor of sattu –and that in medieval northern India, while meat and milk products were reserved for the elite, sattu was a staple for commoners.

Labourers and farmers would mix it with water, salt and green chillies to have a nutritious and inexpensive lunch. "Sattu has been typically associated with the food of working-class migrants from the eastern Gangetic valley [the floodplains along the lower-middle course of the Ganga River, encompassing eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar]. Hence it carried low prestige and ranked lower in the urban hierarchy of taste among city dwellers, from middle-class Bengalis of Kolkata to Delhiite professionals," said Krishnendu Ray, associate professor of food studies at New York University and author of several books on food culture.

And this is precisely why sattu has become a political instrument in recent times, used as a symbol of unity within the working class in the eastern Gangetic plains, which constitute a major chunk of the electorate. In 2018, Bihari politician Tej Pratap Yadav organised a sattu party in his constituency, where he talked with the voters and listened to their problems over sattu meals. And in February 2020, a photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi savouring litti chokha (the signature, sattu-stuffed dough balls emblematic of Bihari cuisine) sparked a heated political debate. While Modi's followers lauded his gesture of giving the dish its overdue acknowledgement, his detractors called his actions a cleverly timed political stunt just before the state elections in Bihar.

India's next big street-food craze? (3)

Litti chokha are sattu-stuffed dough balls emblematic of Bihari cuisine (Credit: Sugato Mukherjee)

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Litti chokha have been my own favourite street snack for a long time, and I have always found the best versions at Nimtala Ghat Street in North Kolkata, a chaotic 1km stretch near the banks of River Hooghly. Here, street shacks rustle up endless tiny littis, flipping them on a tawaa (a flat, metal cooking pan) over a coal or wood fire. At Rs 40 (£0.43), every portion consists of five or six litti balls and a side of chokha (roasted vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes). A tangy chutney of green chillies, tamarind, mint leaves and wispy shreds of garlic completes the flavour profile.

"But things have changed a lot over the last few years," said Pankaj Mishra, co-owner of The Litti King, a small restaurant specialising in Bihari cuisine in an upscale neighbourhood of South Kolkata. "When we opened our joint in 2016, we did not imagine that litti chokha and sattu sherbet would be so popular among the well-heeled." Both items now feature on menus for upmarket wedding and plush poolside parties. "Some of the city's top industrialists are our regular patrons," Mishra said.

Food studies professor Ray had an idea as to why. "The new panic about health among elites – associated with over-consumption of junk food and sedentary lifestyles – is now accentuated by Covid and has set them on the pursuit of 'superfoods'," he said. "This is where sattu has come in with its putative protein and micro-nutrient content."

The health-conscious across Indian metros such as Delhi and Bangalore are also discovering the delights of sattu in high-end restaurants, where chefs are adding contemporary spins to the rustic recipes by incorporating grated cheese to the dough or lending a tangy twist with pickles. The trend has caught on in gourmet stores too, where sattu is offered in fancy packaging starting from Rs 190 (about £2) per kg, which is about 2.5 times costlier than the time-tested varieties used in the street stalls.

India's next big street-food craze? (4)

Foods made from the beloved flour have historically been consumed for their affordability versus trendiness (Credit: Sugato Mukherjee)

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"There has been an unprecedented rise in sale of sattu packets in recent months," said Sayoni Samanta, a saleswoman at a South Kolkata outlet of Spencer's, a pan-Indian retail chain. "I think the customers are preferring those products that come with organic and gluten-free labels," she added.

Dr Tulasi Srinivas, a professor of anthropology at Emerson College in Boston, said, "Transformation of dishes likesattuare a kindof elite cultural appropriation and gentrification. For the elite, it's a voyage of discovery whereby they can demonstrate their culinary knowledge of something healthy and 'exotic'. It also works well for the marketers of these 'superfoods'. But what I am glad about is that it is a healthy local food that is getting rediscovered and mainstreamed."

I saw that for myself at Baati Chokha, a fine-dining establishment specialising in Purvanchali (Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh) and North Indian cuisine, located in Salt Lake, Kolkata's preeminent IT hub. On that weekday night at around 22:00, most of the tables were occupied by young office workers. At a table near me, Deepika – an employee at an infotainment firm in the neighbourhood – was fiddling with her phone and taking small, occasional helpings of litti chokha, artfully plated in front of her.

"I come here often for a late-night snack during my breaks," she said, pointing to her half-finished plate. "This was not something I grew up with, so bit of an acquired taste for me. But now I love the earthy flavour of these sattu-filled discs. Easy on my stomach but filling enough to see me through my night shifts. And importantly, its low glycaemic index means no guilt pangs, as was often the case with the junk bites I used to gorge on," she added with a smile.

A few days later, I went back to Yadav's sattu stall to see how felt about his unpretentious street staple going upscale. On that sweltering June afternoon, it was business as usual for him, and he did not seem too interested in sattu's emerging trendiness. “As long as I can provide my customers their glass of sherbet at Rs. 10 [£0.11], I am happy. I only hope all this hullabaloo does not shoot up the prices,” he said. Lallu, a middle-aged cart puller, stood nearby listening attentively. He finished his drink, murmured in agreement and went back to pull his loaded cart from the side of the kiosk on to the busy streets of Kolkata.

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FAQs

Which street food is most popular in India? ›

Chaat is the most popular type of Indian street food. The term refers to a family of savory Indian snacks, some of the most popular being samosas, kachori, dahi vadas, vada pav, and pav bhaji.

Which country has the best street food in India? ›

Delhi. The capital of the country is also known to be the food capital of India for food lovers. They have some of the best street food city in India, widely famous for its range of street food like Chaat, Chhole Bhature, to the amazing Butter Chicken.

Who is the king of street food? ›

After 13 weeks of battling with other finalists for the season 2 of Street Foodz Naija, a reality television show showcasing the best of African delicacies from local chefs, Fajana Oluwafemi Adegboyega of La Krim Foods has emerged King Of Street Foodz 2021.

Which city is famous for street food in India? ›

Delhi. The capital city is rich with delightful dishes hawked in the bustling streets of Old Delhi. Immensely popular for its crispy paranthas, flavoursome golgappas, juicy jalebis, and melt-in-mouth kebabs, Delhi is the food lover's paradise.

Who is the No 1 food in India? ›

1) Masala dosa

Arguably South India's most renowned culinary export, masala dosas are famous the world over. A sort of Indian pancake, dosas are made from a thin batter consisting of rice, flour and lentils.

What is the most demanded food in India? ›

Masala dosa

The dish is often garnished with grated coconut and chopped coriander. With its huge popularity, there are also some variations of the dish, such as mysore masala dosa, rava masala dosa, onion masala dosa, and paper masala dosa.

Which city has cheapest street food in India? ›

KOLKATA. The City of Joy is known for tasty and surprisingly cheaper street food. From ubiquitous kathi rolls and jhalmuri to Bengali sweets like mouthwatering rasgullas and sandesh, Kolkata offers a list of never-ending culinary delights.

Which city has tastiest food in India? ›

  1. Delhi. Let us start with the capital city of India, Delhi. ...
  2. Mumbai. Again, one of the cities famous for food in India is Mumbai. ...
  3. Kolkata. If you have to name the city which is well-known as the street food capital of India, it has to be Kolkata. ...
  4. Lucknow. ...
  5. Hyderabad. ...
  6. Jaipur. ...
  7. Amritsar. ...
  8. Gangtok.

Which country food is tastiest? ›

  • Italy. #1 in Has great food. #14 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Mexico. #2 in Has great food. #33 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Spain. #3 in Has great food. #16 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Greece. #4 in Has great food. ...
  • Thailand. #5 in Has great food. ...
  • France. #6 in Has great food. ...
  • Turkey. #7 in Has great food. ...
  • India. #8 in Has great food.

What is trending in street food? ›

Street food trend 1: Increased Vegan Options and Meat-Plant Blends. Beyond Meat, products have taken off and have been added to menus of large fast-food chains. The street food industry can expect this trend to be extended to street food stalls as the demand for meatless protein options grows.

Which country is famous for street food? ›

Thailand. Thailand is the mecca of street food. For one, the food is safe, so tourists have been visiting Thai street stalls for years to get cheap and delicious grub.

Which country has famous street food? ›

Mexico is known for its world-famous cuisine, but did you know that the Yucatan region has its own distinct culinary history and some of the worlds best street food options.

Which street food business is most profitable in India? ›

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Which is the king of food in India? ›

Biryani: The King of Indian Cuisine: A Step By Step Guide to Lip Smacking Biryani & Pulao Recipes, you can make at Home Paperback – Import, 14 September 2020. Brief content visible, double tap to read full content.

What is the popular food in India 2022? ›

10 Indian Delicacies You Must Try in 2022
  1. Vada Pav. Having achieved a cult status among its fans, Vada Pav is now an inseparable part of Indian cuisine. ...
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  3. Poha Jalebi. ...
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Which state is famous for food? ›

Cuisine Map of India
State / UT'sCuisine
DelhiChaat, Tandoori Chicken Paranthe, Chole Bhature,
HaryanaRabadi, Bajre ki Khichdi, Cholia, Chaach-Lassi, Kachri ki Sabzi,
ChandigarhButter Chicken, Tandoori , Chicken, Mutton Pulao,
PunjabDal Makhni, Makke di Roti-, Sarson da Saag, Chana Bhature,
30 more rows
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Mobile Phones

As of July 2022, 600 million smartphones were sold across India, making it one of the most desired consumer products. Rising disposable income, cheaper internet, and the need to always stay connected with each other have driven the smartphone market in India.

What is trending in Indian food? ›

Sustainability and plant-based ingredients are some of the most popular food trends chefs and experts are predicting will go HUGE in 2022. Local products, plant-based diets and zero-waste dishes are some trends that most restaurants across India will be adopting.

Which country is so cheaper than India? ›

Turkey. Turkey is one the Cheapest countries to visit from India and enjoy its beauty. It is a famous tourist destination due to its beautiful coastline, historical heritage, diverse culture, exciting events and cultural festivals.

Which country is cheapest for Indians? ›

10 Cheapest Countries You Must Travel To From India In 2022
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Which city has best fast food in India? ›

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  5. Hyderabad. ...
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Which is the sweet city of India? ›

Muzaffarpur (Bihar) is known as the sweet city of India, It is famous for the production of Lychees.

Which city is food capital of India? ›

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Which state food is spicy in India? ›

Telugu/Andhra Cuisine

Popularly believed to be one of the hottest cuisines in the country, this style comes from the state that is the largest producer of red chilies in India. Andhra food revolves around spices in all their glory – in pickles, relishes and chutneys of every kind that you can imagine.

Which country eat spicy food? ›

While India is the land of spicy curries, Mexico is known for its hot peppers. Similarly, there are so many exquisite spicy foods and spicy cuisines that you probably didn't know about.

Which country has spiciest food? ›

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  • 03/8Mexico. ...
  • 04/8Malaysia. ...
  • 05/8Korea. ...
  • 06/8Jamaica. ...
  • 07/8India. ...
  • 08/8China.
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Which country has healthiest food? ›

1. Japan. You might have noticed that Japan frequently tops wellbeing lists online and in the press – and its population is indeed the oldest in the world. Diet plays an important role in this: as an island, there's a natural abundance of fresh fish on the menu, balanced by carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit and meat.

What is the food trend for 2022? ›

Immunity-boosting snacks and ingredients, plant-based sandwiches, and alternative sweeteners all made the list for the top 10 2022 trends.

What are three food trends? ›

Some 2022 food trends include:

Plant-based foods. Dairy-free milk. Vegetables. Spicy foods.

Why is Indian street food so popular? ›

You walk across the street and you will see many vendors selling the food items. These are the delicious, traditional food items. They have a unique aroma and flavor attached with them that makes every passer-by to stand, and taste it. Moreover, they are readily made within a short duration of few minutes.

Which city has the most street food? ›

New York City is the place where street food rivals the finest restaurants — many of them with Michelin stars — making it a true paradise for those who love appetizing grab-and-go eats.

Which city in world has the best street food? ›

Though Tokyo often is ranked in the highest spot for the best street food in Japan, Kyoto certainly gives the capital city a run for its money. Some of the best cuisine in the city can be found at Nishiki Market, commonly known as “Kyoto's kitchen,” a 400-year old bustling market with over 100 shops and vendors.

Which city is famous for its food? ›

Well, Mumbai is a hub of foodies. The famous street foods of Mumbai are something that nobody wants to miss out. The world-famous vada pav of Mumbai is loved by one and all. It is a spicy potato cutlet put in a bun (Pav).

What is street food in India called? ›

Chaat. The toppings on papri chaat vary be region. Chaat is not only the Indian name for "street food" but is also its own entire dish.

Which Indian state has healthiest? ›

Why Kerala is India's healthiest state.

What is the number 1 healthiest food in India? ›

1. Pulses & Legumes. Pulses, beans, and legumes are the most healthy Indian food that you can find! They are not only loaded with nutrients but also packed with protein.

Which state is famous for chaat in India? ›

Most chaats originated in some parts of Uttar Pradesh in India, but they are now eaten all across South Asia and neighboring countries.

Which food startup is best in India? ›

Here are the few best food startups in India:
  • FreshMenu: Rashmi Daga (CEO) founded FreshMenu in 2014 with its headquarters in Bangalore. ...
  • 2. Box 8: ...
  • Faasos: ...
  • Dine out: ...
  • Biriyani By Kilo: ...
  • Zomato: ...
  • Swiggy: ...
  • Swadhika foods:

Which is the No 1 business in India? ›

With a market cap of ₹1,763,263.62 crores Reliance Industries leads the Indian Industries with the highest market cap. The multinational conglomerate company is headquartered in Mumbai and engages in a range of businesses in the textiles, telecommunications, retail, natural resources, and petrochemical sectors.

Which business is most demanded in India? ›

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What is Asia's main food? ›

Wheat and rice are the major and preferred sources of staple foods. Barley is also widely used in the region and maize has become common in some areas as well. Bread is a universal staple, eaten in one form or another by all classes and groups practically at every meal.

What is Japan's food capital? ›

Tokyo. Tokyo is officially the world's culinary capital. It's home to more Michelin stars than any other city and offers a staggering 160,000 restaurants. Compare that to Paris's 15,000 and you know you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to where you dine.

Which country has the most delicious food in Asia? ›

JAPAN. Japanese food is my favorite Asian cuisine so it's only fitting that I start this list with unforgettable food experiences in Japan. Not only is Japan home to some of the best food in Asia, it's one of the world's best countries to visit for food.

What is the most popular type of street food? ›

  1. 10 Most Popular Types of Street Food in the World. muaz. ...
  2. Pulled pork. There's something about pulled pork that just makes it perfect for street food. ...
  3. Shawarma. Shawarma is made by cooking meat on a spit and then slicing it thinly. ...
  4. Falafel. ...
  5. Dumplings. ...
  6. Takoyaki. ...
  7. Gimbap. ...
  8. Banh mi.
30 May 2022

Which junk food is most popular in India? ›

List of Unhealthy Food that you must avoid
  • White bread. White bread is one of the most commonly consumed food by Indians. ...
  • Ready-to-eat Breakfast Cereals. ...
  • Fried Food. ...
  • Bakery Products. ...
  • Pizzas. ...
  • French Fries and Potato Chips. ...
  • Processed Meat. ...
  • Low Fat Yoghurts.
25 Mar 2022

Which fast food is most popular India? ›

Pav Bhaji – All the way from Mumbai Maharashtra, pav bhaji is one of the famous Indian snacks. Bhaji is a spicy curry-based dish including various vegetables in a thick gravy style.

Which country has best street food? ›

Here are 5 of the best countries to visit for street food:
  • Thailand. Thailand is the mecca of street food. ...
  • Hong Kong. To better understand Hong Kong culture, get familiar with their food. ...
  • Singapore. Singapore does street food a bit differently than the other countries on this list. ...
  • Vietnam. ...
  • Mexico.

Which country is most famous for street food? ›

Here's 16 Best Street Foods Of The World:
  • Gimbap - Korea. ...
  • Churros - Spain. ...
  • Tom Yum Goong and Mango Sticky Rice - Thailand. ...
  • Pretzels - U.S.A. ...
  • Simit - Turkey. ...
  • Pho - Vietnam. ...
  • Kottu - Sri Lanka. ...
  • Pani Puri – India. Go to any place in the country and you'll find a vendor selling pani puri (gol gappa) accompanied by spiced water.
15 Jul 2022

What American fast food is in India? ›

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut is an American food chain which has launched in the Indian market in 1996 with its first outlet in Bangalore (Bengaluru), Karnataka.

Which city serves best food in India? ›

  1. Delhi. Let us start with the capital city of India, Delhi. ...
  2. Mumbai. Again, one of the cities famous for food in India is Mumbai. ...
  3. Kolkata. If you have to name the city which is well-known as the street food capital of India, it has to be Kolkata. ...
  4. Lucknow. ...
  5. Hyderabad. ...
  6. Jaipur. ...
  7. Amritsar. ...
  8. Gangtok.

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