Light on pocket, heavenly delicious and highly addictive, street food is like a magnet that attracts every foodie. And when it comes to street food, I bet India offers maximum possible variety. The umpteen Bollywood songs using chaat in the lyrics are testimony to the popularity of these irresistible food choices.
Remember the Coolie No. 1 song featuring Govinda and Karishma Kapoor?
Main toh raste se ja raha tha, main toh bhel puri kha raha tha...
The country's diversity contributes to the immeasurable choices. Take for example the ever popular mouthwatering water filled Pani Puri. Known by different names across India, this chaat delicacy is an absolute delight. While in north India it is called golgappa, in Kolkata it is picchkoo. And yes the taste differs too! Sometimes, the puri is stuffed with boiled chana or healthy sprouts, tamarind chutney and pudina water, while often at high profile parties and functions, it comes with a filling of vodka! At some places it is served with cold tangy water while at other locations the puri is filled with a concoction of water at normal temperature.
Such variations in flavours from place to place is what amounts to the umpteen versions of every chaat item. And then, every part of the country is famous for one signature delicacy. Mumbai has the all-time favourite Vada Pav that is similar to but much better and delicious than burger. More importantly, it is quite affordable and can be a lunch substitute for the needy and even for those who have time only to grab a quick bite.
As people are becoming more health conscious these days, the poor hygiene levels of street foods have become a matter of concern. And hence, while no one can beat the taste of chaat items offered by a local vendor, people are opting for the more hygienic and expensive alternatives at the food courts of the innumerable malls sprouting in India.
There is a piece of good news though for the street food junkies in Delhi. A plan is in place wherein the local street food vendors will be trained in hygiene. If everything falls in place, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India will create safe street food zones at popular locations of the capital. I hope it works out well and the idea gets implemented across India. My only fear though is the chaat might become expensive and after some time the safety norms might be compromised as vendors try to make a quick buck.
But whatever happens, one thing is for sure - we foodies cannot stop indulging in chatpati chaat, hygiene or no hygiene. After all, when your eyes tell your taste buds that there's a chaatwaala at the corner of the street, your nose picks up the aroma in no time, your legs automatically move towards him and then there is no looking back!