Unless one savours the culinary treats of Banaras, a trip is incomplete. Food is a quintessential part of the Varanasi's culture. Being frequented by hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists throughout the year, the city's cuisine is a spin-off between the new and the old, the modern and the old-fashioned. A few handpicked locations and special treats will tickle your taste buds while you're in Varanasi.
Here are some popular places for Varanasi street food that you must try if you ever visit the city:
1. Kachori SabziKachori Sabzi is the most popular breakfast dish in Varanasi. There are two different types of Kachoris- Badi and Choti Kachori. While Badi Kachori is stuffed with a spicy mixture made of lentils called Dal Ki Pithi, Choti Kachori is stuffed with a spicy mashed potato mix. The flavorful Kachoris are served with a tangy and aromatic Aloo curry, which is made using a generous amount of cloves and black pepper. Green chillies and dry red chillies have added the curry to make it hot and spicy.
Where: Ram Bhandar, Thatheri Bazaar and Kachori Gali
2. Choora MatarThis street food is a Varanasi version of Maharashtrian Poha and Poha Chiwda of Bihar. Made of flattened rice soaked in desi ghee and cooked with spices along with green peas, raisins and saffron, Choora Matar is a famous breakfast and evening time snack in Varanasi. Spices like black pepper, garam masala and hing are added to this dish to enhance its flavour. No onions are added to the mixture which sets it apart from its Marathi and Bihari counterparts. Milk or cream is also added to the mix here to enhance its texture and flavour.
Where: Gopal Mandir Gali
3. Dahi Chutney Gol GappeAlso popularly known as Meethe Golgappe, Dahi Chutney Gol Gappe is a sweet and spicy delight which are loved by children and adults alike. Wafer-thin, crisp Gol Gappas are filled with a spicy mixture of boiled potatoes and then topped with tangy chutneys, curd flavoured with Imli, Pudina and other spices along with sev. Pomegranate is also sprinkled as a final garnishment at some joints. Crispy and wholesome, these little packets burst different flavours as soon as you put them in your mouth.
Where: Deena Chaat Bhandar, Gol Ganj
4. Baati ChokhaBaati Chokha, a favourite delicacy in Bihar makes for a tasty street snack in Varanasi too. Stuffed whole wheat dough balls are stuffed with roasted chana dal and spices inside. These stuffed balls are known as Litties and are roasted over charcoal. Litties are dipped generously in desi ghee and served with Chokha, which is made of a spicy mixture of boiled potatoes, tomato and eggplant.
Where: Puran Das Road.
5. Tamatar ChaatTamatar Chaat is a local version of aloo chaat and is made from a mashed mixture of boiled potatoes, tomatoes, onions, green chillies and fresh coriander leaves. This mouthwatering spicy chaat is too hot to handle and is not for the faint-hearted. Spices like pounded ginger, red chilli powder and garam masala are splashed into the dish making it deliciously fiery. It is served in a dona, a bowl made with palash leaves.
Where: Deena Chaat Bhandar, Dashaswamedh Road
6. Chena Dahi Vada
Chena Dahi Vada is a sumptuous variation to the regular bhallas prepared using lentil. Similar to Rasmalai in appearance, Chena Dahi Vada is usually served with sweet yoghurt sprinkled with a dash of Masala made of jeera and black salt. These dahi vadas are served with a steaming cup of tea and are quite popular as a breakfast item in Varanasi. The snack offers a perfect mix of sweet and sour flavours.
Where: Deena Chat Bhandar, Dashashwamedha ghat
7. Malaiyyo - Famous Sweet of BanarasMakhan Malaiyyo or Nimish is a popular winter season street dessert in Varanasi. Influenced by Persian cuisine, Malaiyyo is prepared by churning the milk slowly to create a creamy texture. The milk foam is then flavoured with saffron and cardamoms and garnished with pistachios and almonds on the top. Extraordinarily light and perfectly sweet, it is served in Purva or kulhads. Malayiyyo is a well-kept secret of Varanasi, which one can only experience while visiting this eternal city.
Where: Neelkanth and Kachori Gali
8. ThandaiVaranasi fairs high on the production of milk and curd and thus a profound use of these items can be found in most of the city's preparations. Banarasi Thandai is famous across India for its refreshing taste and celebratory spirit. Made from seasonal fruit puree, Thandai is served in a kulhad topped with Rabri and flavoured with rose essence, ice- cream, dry fruits and nuts. Condiments like fennel seeds, magaztari seeds, pepper, vetiver seeds, cardamom and saffron make the flavours truly rich and refreshing. People add some quantity of Bhang in Thandai on festive occasions like Holi. Thandai in Banaras is available with the kick of bhang if you're up to try it. Bhang is a mix of dried leaves and buds of the female cannabis plant that is consumed lovingly in 'Bhole Baba ki Nagri'! Baba Thandai and Thandai Ghar are two places to root for, at Godowlia Chowk. These are the places to visit in Varanasi if you're craving for some fantastic thandai.
Where: Blue Lassi Shop, Kachori Gali Chowk
9. PaanBanarasiya Paan is something that you must try when in Varanasi. Paan is made from beetle nut leaves with beetle nuts or Supari, lime and a mixture of condiments and eaten with tobacco or lime. There is also the Meetha Paan, a version of Paan, devoid of tobacco or lime but filled with sweetened rose petals, fennel seeds and soft and chewy Supari.
Where: Rajendra Chaurasia Paan, Chowk Thana and Deepak Tambul Bhandar, Dashashwamedh Ghat
10. Rabri JalebiBanaras is the king of Jalebis. The jalebis or imartis (a bigger cousin of the Jalebi) are a sweet treat too excellent to miss. Try them with rabri and you'll want to come back to Banaras for this one!
Best Places to Eat in Varanasi-
11. Kashi Tea Stall, Assi GhatBanarasi chai is a force to reckon with. But wait until you've sipped these drops of heaven at Kashi Tea Stall, Assi Ghat. With the regular ginger chai, there exist many other varieties that will blow your mind. Try the Lemon tea, and you'll be a fan for life!
12. Kashi Chat Bhandar, Godowlia ChowkKashi Chat Bhandar is the one-stop shop for chaat in Banaras. Try one plate of each of their offerings, and you'll part with your money lovingly. Dahi Chat, Tamatar Chat and Alu Chaat are treated to savour here. If you pay a visit to Sankat Mochan Temple, visit the chat stall that lies before the temple. The sheer spread of different varieties of chat at this stall is extraordinarily luscious and attractive. Again, try each array that the stall has on offer!
13. Keshav Tambul, Ravidas GateWant to try the famous Banarasi paan? Look no further. Keshav Taambul near Ravidas Gate offers one of the best paans in Banaras. One-stop here, and you'll be packing paans from Keshav for your folks back home!
14. Chachi ki Kachori, LankaFamously known as Chachi Ki Dhukhan, this place serves delicious kachoris-sabzi and jalebis. It is situated on the mall road in front of Banaras Hindu University gate. As per the locals, the shop was run by an old aunty chachi, who passed away handing over her legacy to her sons, who now run the shop. The small cramped shop serves hot, crisp kachoris and syrup dripping mouth watering subzis.
15. Blue Lassi, Bangali TolaA yoghurt shop that's the right place to gulp down the freshest, creamiest and flavoured lassies you could ever have. Serving lassies for about three generations, the Blue Lassi shop gives away delicious lassies of 83 variety flavours. The lassies are made with malai cream and garnished with fruits and trimmed pistachios. The Blue Lassi Shop will never cease to amaze you.
Location: Bangali Tola
You can also try lassi at Pahalwan Lassi Bhandar at Lanka and Chowk
16. Lakshmi Chai Toast, ChowkThe Lakshmi Chai Wala has been in business for several generations now at Chowk, Varanasi. The speciality of this place is that it gives Tea in real porcelain cups and dishes. The other snacks that the shop offers are pav bhaji where the bread is either lathered with butter or topped with sugar and yoghurt. So if you're at Chowk in Varanasi, try some Chai today!
17. Pizzeria Vaatika, Assi GhatPizzeria Vaatika is that beautiful riverside cafe that serves up a storm and delights customers every single time! Sit amidst the cool breeze and sip their coolers and order their lovely pizza with the bustle of the lively ghat at your heels. This, I promise, is an experience to remember.
Varanasi is one of the very cities of India that has been maintaining its traditional food and dining practices even today. Street foods of Banaras are served in utensils made from natural materials. While drinks are served in Kulhads which are earthen pots made of mud, other food items are often served on leaf-plates and leaf-bowls which are discarded after use. Not only is this practice eco-friendly, as the discarded utensils get and mixed with soil after decay, it also makes the street food dining experience warmer, because of the element of tradition attached to it.
We recommend you to take a Varanasi food tour!