Street food is pretty much the heartbeat of a town or city. It finds its presence amid throbbing crowds and the hustle of street life. There is a very rustic and rooted feeling that forms the basis of street food as hawkers sell their tasty dishes in an ambiance that is far from the lush luxury of a restaurant. Usually squatted on a box or standing, the sellers operate with alarming dexterity as they almost single-handedly serve the ongoing crowd that gathers together awaiting their turn patiently. There is a subtle mix of the aroma of the food mixed with the whiff of sweat and the noise of the traffic.
Several cities and towns of India are famous for their street food, but Kolkata somehow takes away the crowned glory of housing several delectable and delightful street foods that are lip-smacking, innovative, and very light on the pocket as well.
Street food Kolkata stands out for its variety and discernable distinct taste. Its street food touches upon all kinds of food, whether it is dry, roasted or fried, crunchy, soggy, or spoonful.
Whether it is Tibetan momos or south Indian dosas, north India’s Dahi vada or eastern India’s Aaloo luchi, Kolkata streets have it all lined up. Here is taking a look at the top 15 street foods of Kolkata and the best places to try them out. Let’s hope we can wander once again and binge at these favorite street food stalls soon.
Undoubtedly, the most prized street food of Kolkata, the puchkas are what people call Pani puri in Maharashtra and Golgappas in north India. However, there is a twist. The stuffing is made from potatoes and along with the tangy water the puchka just slurps in the mouth as once crunches their way through them. you will find Puchka sellers in almost every locality at a distance of not more than 3-4 streets away. They are the most ubiquitous street food with a loyal customer base of the surrounding neighbourhood. Some popular stalls to try out the puchka are Gariahat Road, Vivekananda Park, Bhawanipore, Vardan Market, etc.
A street food closely related to the puchka, the churmur is made from crushed dry puchka puris. Potatoes, onions, tamarind, etc. are added to it to give a spicy and tangy taste. A unique Kolkata street food the churmur is served at all puchkas stalls. You can try it out especially at Bhawanipore, Southern Avenue, and Park Street.
3. Kathi Rolls
With juicy, roasted kebab fillings delicately enveloped in tender and layered parathas, the Kathi roll is among the heartiest and most satisfying of street foods in the city. A roll should be always be served hot. So the assembly process, once the paratha has been fried, needs to be quick and efficient. The filling should be evenly distributed so you get a little of everything with each bite. Finally, the mark of an excellently wrapped roll is that you can eat it using just one hand. In Kolkata, shops serving rolls are widely called ‘Roll-er-dokaan’ and people use ‘roll’ to refer to a Kathi roll. Chicken roll and egg roll are the two most common variants of Kathi roll. Best places to try out the same are:
- Nizam’s Restaurant: 21&22 Hogg Street, New Market, Dharmatala, Kolkata
- Kusum Roll: 21, Karnani Mansion, Park Street Area, Kolkata, Taltala, Kolkata
4. Jhaal Muri
Puffed rice has never been so appetizing as when made into the jhaal muri. Mixed with onion, tomatoes, sev, etc., and a dash of the special masala, the jhaal muri is a light breezy snack that is one of Kolkata’s best street foods. And of course, besides the muri itself, the small paper ‘thongas’ or bags in which it is served also adds to the experience of devouring it. Some great places to try out the jhaal muri are Triangular Park, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Lord Sinha Road, etc.
5. Mughlai Paratha
The very beloved street food of Kolkata, Mughlai Paratha is basically a deep-fried rectangular paratha that is folded like an envelope with a rich filling of eggs, keema (minced meat) and lots of spices. The name itself generates interest in its origin. Bored with simple paranthas with kheema, Emperor Jahangir gave his cook Adil Hafiz Usman to make something unique, which came to be known as Mughlai parantha. Later it had been brought to Kolkata by Usman’s offspring and became widely popular in Kolkata at Mughlai restaurants and among the Bengalis. If you want to try this lip-smacking stuffed deep-fried bread, then you must visit the following eateries that serve the best Mughlai paratha in Kolkata.
- Anadi Cabin – 9A, Jawaharlal Nehru Rd, Esplanade, Dharmatala, Taltala, Kolkata, West Bengal 700013
- Basanta Cabin – 53, College Street, near Medical College, Kolkata
6. Shingara or samosa and kachoris
What is known as samosa in most parts of the country are fondly called shingaras in Kolkata? These triangular fried snacks are just perfect with the evening tea. The stuffing which is usually made of potatoes also ranges from chicken, mutton, moong dal, and more. Similarly, kachoris are fried stuffed round snacks that are usually found alongside the samosa. Shingaras are also readily available at most tea stalls across the city. Some places that you can try out this delicacy are Balaram Mullick, Nabakrishna Guin (Bowbazar),Haldar Mohashay (Shovabazar Bazaar) etc.
7. Aloo Kabli
Aloo kabli is one of the most popular street dishes and is found outside almost all schools in Kolkata.During tiffin breaks, or after school, children gather around the tiny makeshift stand that the aloo kabli seller sets up with rapt attention, mouths watering. Within minutes freshly made aloo kabli is filled in tiny thongas (small pockets) and handed out, to be hungrily devoured and shared with friends. Made with potatoes mixed with spices, tamarind, chickpeas, onions, etc. this is a flavorful dish that will keep you licking your lips for long. Try this at Surya Sen Street, Vardaan Market, C.R Park etc.
8. Ghugni Chaat
Made with yellow peas, Ghugni is a healthy street food option. It is one of the most loved of Bengali snacks. It is a dish made of curried whole-yellow peas or motor (matar) dal. A proper ghugni is one in which the motor dal is well-cooked, but remains a whole. The key is to never overboil the dal. The consistency also needs be just right, slurpy but not watery. Mixed with tomato, onion, and spices it conjures up a delightful plateful. One can try out the ghugni at New Market, Dacres Lane, Gariahat Market, Ramji Ghugniwala (Park Street) etc.
9. Chops and Cutlets
There is nothing warm and fuzzy like munching on a fried soft vegetable cutlet or meat and fish chops. Fish Fry, Alur Chop, Vegetable and Tele bhaja are just some of the fan favourites. Served with various sauces and salad including the iconic Kasundi these are often served as accompaniment with the evening tea or chai. Best places to try them out are Badshah (Jadavpur), Mitra Cafe (Sobhabazar) and Apanjan in Kalighat.
10. Chow Mein
Now what most people would know as noodles, is called chow mein in Kolkata. The long noodles are tossed with vegetables or chicken along with various sauces. Common street food is also packed to carry home. Yes, it’s a different feeling standing on the roadside with friends slurping on the chow mein as the stall owner deftly tosses and turns the ingredients on a large pan or tawa and expertly pours it out on plates. Try the chow mein at Dacre Street, Vardan Market, Park Street, China Town and more.
A Tibetan delicacy the momos are also a wonderful and filling street food of Kolkata. Served usually with pepper soup and the chili garlic sauce, the momos are hot and spicy tantalizing the taste buds to the tee. Both the steamed and fried momos are easily available. China Town, Tiretti Bazaar, Rabindra Sadan, and Camac Street are some places where you can try eating the momos.
12. Kochuri Alur Dom
A meal that can be eaten for any meal of the day, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner the luchi or puri served with potato curry is a mouthwatering dish. Sometimes the luchi is also stuffed with dal making it even more yum. One can try it at Dacre Street, BBD Bag, Phears Lane, etc.
When in Kolkata how can you ignore the ‘mishti’? Yes, sweet dishes are the soul of the city and their range is huge. One can avail the roshogollas, mishti doi, chomchoms, sandesh, chhanar jilipi, and all of the other opulent sweet items at the many roadside shops. Some sweet shops are renowned; however, many other small corner shops also serve the purpose. Some of the best-known sweet shops include KC Das, Ganguram, Gupta Brothers, Balaram Mullick & Radharam Mullick, and more.
15. Drinks and Paan
No street food meal is quite complete without topping it off with a drink and finally chewing on a mitha paan. Several different types of drinks, such as juices, lassi, shikanji, sodas are available in street food hubs including New Market, Vardaan Market, Gariahat, etc. Some of the popular shops to try beverages are Azad Hind Dhabba, Coffee House, Balwant Singh Eating House, Paramount etc.
The biggest USP of Kolkata street food is its easy accessibility and reasonable rates. At very nominal prices, one can fill their stomach, feel nourished, and walk away with the squishy feeling of good tasty food. Add to it the unique taste and distinct flavors that are so Kolkata that it’s hard to replicate them in any other place.
Kolkata is a city that has an aura around it. With a strong history, the city often enjoys if not a slow, but not a fast-paced lifestyle. The Bengali culture is well-rooted in even the most modern generations and hence, food forms a large part of the city landscape. Street food in Kolkata’s charm and its fun lies in not only the food itself but the relationships that thrive between the seller and consumer, the cramped and crowded yet generous outlook of its people. When in Kolkata try out its street food. You will enjoy the platter as much as the conversations, serving mediums, and mannerisms.