Many people have heard of the variety of sweet dishes that feature in Bengali cuisine – they are renowned for being delicious, unique and incredibly moreish – but the large range of savoury snack foods on offer are certainly worth knowing about, too. The streets of Bengal are filled with vendors cooking up a range of tempting treats throughout the day that keep passers-by satisfied and stave off that between-meal hunger.
One of the most popular of these morsels is Jhal-Muri, or ‘spicy rice’. Muri is a puffed rice that is combined with spices, vegetables and raw mustard oil to create a quick and delicious snack. The people of Bengal love this dish, which takes a matter of minutes to prepare, and eat it from lunchtime through to dusk. Jhal-Muri comes in a variety of guises, but the most widely-eaten version is flavoured with chopped onion, mustard oil, black salt and roast cumin, and finished with coriander leaves and chillies, which can be fresh or dried.
Another common street food you’re likely to find in Bengal is Puchka, a small snack that can be enjoyed in one quick mouthful of flavour. Round puri – a deep-fried Indian flatbread – is filled with pani – a flavoured water – as well as chickpeas, onion, chilli and chaat masala. Pani can come in a host of flavours but the favourite among most Bengali customers is tamarind juice. This is a simple snack that packs a big flavour punch.
The people of India love their vegetables, and this is also evident in their snacks. Begun Chaja is another simple recipe that is quick, hearty and satisfying; thick slices of aubergine are coated in salt, sugar and turmeric powder, before being left to dry out in the sun and then deep-fried in mustard oil until crisp and brown.
On a typical evening in many Bengali households, you will find families enjoying Ghugni as a meal or snack. Traditionally served following the Durga Puja festival, when family and loved ones gather to share wishes of good fortune and happiness, it can also be eaten throughout the year. Ghugni is made using black lentils or dried peas, which are simmered in a delicious gravy and served with kurmura (puffed rice) and, occasionally a Pakora.
Bengali main dishes areknown for subtlety of flavour, but many street food snacks deliver big on taste sensations. Kachori is a flattened ball made using fine flour, but don’t be fooled by its innocent exterior – it is filled with a fieryconcoction of mung bean, gram flour, red chilli powder, black pepper and spices. It should be crispy on the outside, with a flaky and hollow centre.
Of course, you don’t have to travel all the way to Bengal for a taste of these delicious street snacks. London is home to many restaurants whose chefs replicate the authenticity of India’s regional dishes, and are renowned for creating stunning dishes that are packed with flavour and guaranteed to excite. These restaurants serve some of the best street foods within a relaxed setting.