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Accidentally Plant-Based Indian Street Foods

Today we celebrate international World Food Day to commemorate the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945 and reflect on the ways we can transform our agri-food system. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India under its Eat Right India campaign recommends moderate use of edible oils and animal foods; limited use of ghee or butter; and avoidance of Vanaspati, margarine, and shortening. 

In the spirit of limiting animal foods, here are some popular Indian street foods that are accidentally plant-based.

Pani Puri. This ubiquitous Indian street food goes by other names, like ‘gol gappa’ and ‘puchka’ in certain states. The flavour of the water varies among states, but thankfully, pani puri is vegan by default everywhere in India.

 

Bhel Puri. Often sold near the beach as chaat, bhel puri is made of puffed rice, vegetables, and tangy tamarind sauce. Regional variants are available too, such as the Bengali ‘jhal muri’ and Mangalorean ‘churmuri’.

 

Sev Puri. Sev puri is another easily accessible vegan delicacy. Some stalls offer the option of adding dahi (curd) at an extra cost to make dahi puri—which, of course, is not vegan.

 

Vada/Vada Pav. The Indian version of a burger? The vada is made of mashed potato, coated with chickpea flour, and placed in a bun called ‘pav’. Most street-side stalls add green chutney, dry garlic chutney, and some chilies. These are all extras, and you can choose or refuse to your liking.

 

Samosa/ Samosa Pav. Samosas are triangular fried pastries made from maida with spiced potato filling. In many cities, like Mumbai, it comes with bread (pav), making it samosa pav.

 

Chole Bhature. Chole is basically cooked chana masala served with ‘bhatura’, a fried bread made from maida. Quite popular in the northern regions of India, it’s also available down South. Some shops may add butter (although rarely), but it is safer to decline butter when placing the order.

 

Misal Pav. Native to the Indian state of Maharashtra, misal is a spicy curry made from moth beans (matki). It is often topped with farsan or sev, onions, lemon, and coriander (cilantro) and served with pav.

 

Juices. All juices at street stalls are vegan. Juice vendors tend to add milk or milk powder, even if you ask for juice, not a smoothie. So be aware, and ask whether any milk or dairy-based ingredients are added before placing the order.

 

When ordering street food in India, it is always wise to be alert and clearly state that you don’t want any butter, ghee, milk, curd, or cream added to your dishes. Always ask your vendor to skip any ingredient that may not be plant-based.