India has the best snacks, assuming that your tastes run more towards fat-bombs and spice and less towards freshness and health. One of our important goals for this trip was to leave knowing that we had eaten an adequate amount of Indian snacks. I think we can safely say that we fulfilled our mandate.
The best/worst part of snacks is that they generally are sold/consumed either outside or in trains. When you are outside or on a train, you generally have filthy hands, and are in the public eye. Both excellent pre-conditions for consuming messy foods.
Let’s start with the familiar. Samosas are one of my favourite Indian snacks. They are comprised of a gram flour (chickpea flour) shell filled with a potato/chickpea/pea/spice/etc mixture. The resulting concoction is thrown in a vat of oil, and fried until it begs for mercy.
A variation on the samoso theme is the kachori. Strangely enough, I had never tried one of these delights. It also has a potato-based filling, but the outer shell is made out of wheat flour rather than gram flour. Based on my limited experience, it seems to be fried even longer than samosas, and when it is removed from the oil, the kachori-walla gouges a hole in its center and fills it with spicy sauce.
(The crater in the middle of the flavour volcano).
Todd made it his mission to eat chaats (savoury snacks) before we left India. We found a promising chaat-wallah outside the Amber Fort in Jaipur, and ordered a round. He tossed together a mixture of rice crisps, lemon, chilli, onion, tomato, deep fried gram flour crisps, deep fried lentils, peanuts, and salt. This really is the genius of Indian food – taking a set of unlikely ingredients and creating beautiful harmony.
Enough with the savouries! On to the sweets. We consumed an embarrassing number of Indian sweets on the trip. Indian sweets are all generally based on the same few ingredients – milk, sugar, and spice (sounds a bit like chai…). These ingredients are then shaped into a variety of forms. My personal favourite is milk cake – a fudge-like dessert that tastes like buttery sunshine.
And last and probably least, a good ol’ packet of Hide & Seek biscuits (“India’s finest molded chocolate chip cookie”) and chai. For times when you’ve ingested enough bacteria and want some processed/packaged fat and sugar.