Food

7 Indian Street Snacks You Should Try Now

Dosa, uttapam, paratha, and pav bhaji at Balaji Cafe. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

This comes from our 2017 Cheap Eats list, our guide to inexpensive ethnic dining in the region.

The world of Indian breads and chaats (crispy snacks) is much larger than the ubiquitous naan and samosa. The best place to explore is Balaji Cafe (298 Sunset Park Dr., Herndon; 703-437-1267). Chef/owner Naresh Advani makes more than ten doughs and batters that ferment overnight in the kitchen’s warmest nook, whose temperature mirrors balmy Southern India. Some of our favorites:

Bhatura

Yogurt is the fermenting agent in this balloon-like bread, which causes it to puff up in the fryer and deliver a texture that’s crunchy on the outside, airy inside.

Dosa

Dosas—rice-flour crepes stuffed with potatoes and vegetables—are common these days. Try Advani’s rava dosa, a semolina version with a crackling texture.

Idli

These pillowy pancakes are fashioned from cream of rice that’s soaked overnight, fermented, and steamed.

Paratha

A whole-wheat flatbread that looks similar to naan but is thinner and cooked on a griddle, not in an oven. It can be plain or stuffed with fillings such as cauliflower or lentils.

Pav bhaji

This Mumbai snack features veggie curry served with dinner-roll-like buns, split and griddled with butter.

Uttapam

The batter for this pancake is similar to a dosa’s, but the result is thicker—like an American hoe cake studded with onion, ginger, and green chilies.

Vada

Ground black lentils, green chili, ginger, and mustard leaves are the base for this doughnut-shaped fritter.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.