Isn’t the best part about travel food? As much as a new place and culture entices you, so does its cuisine. When you travel to a new place and explore its culture, destination, history, its cuisine plays an integral role. On World Food Day on October 16, we give a tribute to food that’s made up of nostalgia – food that you discover on the train journeys. But before we explore the food around the world, let’s give you a brief information about the day:
World Food Day was first launched in 1945. The reason World Food Day was created was to celebrate the launch of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.
The main principle which World Food Day celebrates is the furtherance of food security all over the world, especially in times of crisis. The launch of the Food and Agriculture Organisation by the UN has played a huge role in taking this worthy goal forward. The annual celebration of the World Food Day event serves as a marker of the importance of this organisation and helps to raise awareness of the crucial need for successful agriculture policies to be implemented by governments across the world to ensure there is ample food available for everyone.
A peek into life’s memory books, and we are bound to remember train journeys. They are an experience — the people, the journey, and oh yes, THE food at stations. These eats make the long, tiring travel super special — we bet the airport lounge grub cannot beat the aroma of freshly fried mouth-watering fare at a railway station. With a halt of just minutes, the way passengers scramble to get hold of a plate of vada pav at Mumbai station or pazham pori at Kerala, is unparalleled. Taking inspiration, we list down the stations that serve authentic khaana you may not find even at the choicest of restaurants. Food as diverse as this happens only in India!
Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are food havens with dishes like lassi, paronthe (paratha), aloo tikki and other chats on offer. Don’t drool yet, read on…
SNACKS: Punjabi kadhi and gobi de paronthe
Punjabi kadhi and gobi de paronthe — the deadly combination makhan maar ke is enough for two people!
SWEET: Roh di kheer
Roh di kheer is nothing like the traditional lassi. It is prepared using sugarcane juice, which means there is a natural sweetness to it.
SNACKS: Lassi, aloo ke paronthe and dal makhni
A big glass of malai lassi served with an extra-large paratha and dal makhni. The accompaniments include green chillies, pickle and green chutney.
NORTH EAST ZONE
There is more to The Seven Sisters than tea. For a foodie and traveller, northeast is a treat. There is also a certain Chinese influence in the cuisine. Momos and noodles are quite common, but there are also remarkable vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
SNACKS: Masor tenga, jhaalmuri, pitha
This station in Assam serves dishes like masor tenga (tangy fish curry) – a dish you will come across many times on various stations. Jhaalmuri can be had on the train itself as soon as you enter Assam. Pitha, a sweet dish, is something really worth trying – add it to your list of must-eats. It is available in boiled, fried and baked versions.
You will find little Indian bitter melons called karel, at this station in Nagaland. They are boiled and served with a chilli sauce which was the star of the fare. The melons were shrivelled, but with the sauce, these made for a delightful treat.
SNACKS: Kang-layen paaknam
In Manipur, there is a famous dish called kang-layen paaknam, it looks like a cutlet or pancake, is made of veggies, mushrooms and herbs, and served on a banana leaf. A not-to-be- missed dish if you happen to visit Manipur.
SNACKS: Sanpiau, koat pitha
One of the stations in Mizoram has sanpiau — a local street food. It is basically a rice porridge with local veggies thrown in. Also try koat pitha – deep fried fritters made of rice flour and banana, resembling the unni appams from Kerala. It has a crispy outer covering with a soft interior. It’s best paired with Zu, the Mizo chai.
In the east, when you travel to Orissa and West Bengal, you realise the food diversity that our country has on offer. It is staggering. In Orissa, you get pakhala, kanika rice, chungdi molai and pitha, while WB offers dishes jhalmuri, roti with soya chunks and maach bhaath
SNACKS: Kanika rice
This station serves up the best kanika rice (sweet rice) in the world. It has unique taste of turmeric with lots of desi ghee thrown in with dry fruits like cashew nuts and raisins. It is rice, but it is neither pulao nor biryani.
SNACKS: Dosha, medu vada
It is a paradise for non-vegetarians, but there are options like dosha and medu vada for the vegetarians. And it is not a typical dosa either, it is bigger in size, papery in texture and is priced around Rs 40 a plate.
SNACKS: Maach-bhaat, poori-channa, jhaalmuri
Here, you will be treated to maach-bhaat (fi sh and rice), poori-channa and jhaalmuri (a Bengali version of our bhel). Jhaalmuri is a drier, is high on lemon and tamarind, which makes it all the more delicious.
The heart of India – Madhya Pradesh is a vegetarian’s paradise and two of the most popular snacks are samosa and kachori. The taste, texture and cooking style are quite different.
UJJAIN AND INDORE
SNACKS: Kachori, samosa
Most stations in MP serve the same food. The taste of Kachori and samosa majorly depends on the chutneys you add to your plate. There are three types of chutneys with varying levels of spiciness: green (fresh and spicy), brown (sweet and sour) and red (extra spicy). And we must warn, MP food is spicy. Another thing to try in Indore are patties, which we are commonly called puff in Gujarat. There are two types of patties — one stuffed with aloo and the other with paneer. The dishes are priced at Rs 10-20, super yummy and tummy-filling.
SNACKS: Ratlami sev
Remember this was where Kareena Kapoor’s Geet was stranded in the blockbuster Jab We Met. And the one thing you HAVE to buy at Ratlam is the famous Ratlami sev.
One has to travel down south to experience the authentic south Indian taste. It is actually a misconception that sambaar is too sour in south, that is not true. Here’s what you can relish…
HOT BEVERAGE: Filter coffee aka kaapi
While you can enjoy rice dishes like biryani across the region, one must stop at Chennai Central for the fresh filter coffee, kaapi as they call it in south India. It is a refreshing drink to start your mornings with.
SNACK: Ulundu vadai
When you reach this station, look for a deep-fried snack called ulundu vadai. These are variations of the ever-popular medu vadai or parappu vadai. Accompaniments include the yummy coconut chutney, a staple in the southern part of the country.
PALAKKAD/ ERNAKULAM/ COCHIN
SNACK: Pazham pori or etthekka appam
These stations serve up a fantastic fare of south Indian snacks including dosa, idli and medu vadai. But there is this amazing snack, made of ripe banana (slit length-wise into two). The banana pieces are dipped in sweet flour batter and deep fried to get a crispy coating with soft, cooked banana inside. It is called pazham pori or etthekka appam.
The western part of our country has so much to offer to a foodie. From Surat, Mt Abu, and Vadodara to Pune, Goa, Mumbai, Ratnagiri and Lonavala, and few places in Rajasthan, the food is similar yet different in tastes.
Sip on tea as you saw passengers crowd a stall for locho. It is made of chana dal and looks like a yellow lump (something like khaman). It is served with onions, green chutney, topped with masala and sev. Try butter, garlic and cheese locho.
SNACK: Misal pav
Although, it is technically a Maharashtrian dish, it is quite a popular one at the Vadodara station. As far as I remember, it was priced at a nominal Rs 40, and tasted like heaven! Now, you can also find it at select locations in Amdavad.
On your trip to Abu, you will be introduced to the ‘world best’ rabdi. Sugar, spices and nuts mixed with milk and condensed milk – you might have never ever tasted a rabdi as yum as this one.
SNACK: Dahi kachori
Here, try out this interesting and masaaledaar dahi kachori. This king-size kachori fl oating in a sea of yogurt along with sweet-sour chutneys is an explosion of flavours in the mouth. We do get in Ahmedabad, but there is something oh-so-diff erent and oh-so-yummy about the typical Rajasthani masalas.
The state is known for its rustic preparations and if you happen to visit Jaipur, do not miss out on trying the keema-baati at the station. Known as a “heritage dish”, a rich mutton gravy is often served as accompaniment that softens the baati.
SNACK: Vada pav
When you reach Mumbai Central, you are lured by the vada pav. It is starkly different from other parts of India — not dipped in oil or butter. This one’s typical Bombaiyya style: plain bun stuffed with a huge potato vada in the centre and loads of dry red masala to go with it. An absolute must-try.
SNACK: Samosa pav
Travelling from Mumbai to Pune, you’ll frequently hear of a snack called samosa pav. It is one of the most popular eats available at the Pune railway station. It is nothing but a mind-blowing combo of samosa and vada pav. You got to taste it to relish it.
We hope we took your taste buds on a food trip of India this World Food Day! So what are you going to try next time when you are on a railway station?
Written by: Aashima Kadakia
Creative ninja and a true follower of ‘Work, Save, Travel, Repeat’, I love to travel, experience places and bring back stories for a lifetime. Born and brought up in Ahmedabad, I like to visit the same old places, the same cliched tourist spots and destinations, but choose to see the unexplored in the old places. Always inclined towards the mighty mountains in their debate with the beaches!