Snacks are never a bad idea. And Indian snacks? Well, they’re one of the best ideas. It’s definitely Indian snacks, then electricity. In that order. Who needs modern conveniences when you have Khatta Meetha? More on that later.
In every Indian household there’s one time of day that’s held as a sacred hour: tea time. Which is really just snack time. This is when we dish, drink, and nosh on tasty bites which almost always ruin dinner. Here’s the run-down of my favorite nibbles - from popped lotus seeds to buttery canned cheese - that make me feel like I’m home, minus the disapproving Indian mother.
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We’re starting this list off with a bang. Bhel Puri is the queen of the chaat world. Typically identified as a “beach snack,” this tasty combination of puffed rice, nuts, crisp noodles, dried veggies, and potato chips smothered in chutney is Delicious with a capital D. I like to enhance mine with chopped up boiled potato, onions, cilantro, and fresh mint chutney. Ask some friends over, make a big bowl of this, hook them up with some chai, and you have yourself the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
Not only is high-protein Phool Makhana good for you, boasting anti-aging and blood-sugar-controlling properties, it’s also oh so tasty. But buyers beware, you can’t eat these popped lotus seeds right out of the bag. Toast them in a pan with ghee first. Then transfer to a bowl and mix in whatever spices you desire. I like adding salt, pepper, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, and more melted ghee. Chef’s kiss.
Give your instant noodles an upgrade with Maggi Masala. A childhood favorite, Maggi Masala is like instant ramen but with curry flavor. To take your noodles to new heights, boil em’, drain em’, then add the sauce packet with a little water to make a curry noodle stir fry. If you really want to go wild, throw in some Amul cheese. What’s Amul cheese you ask? Keep scrolling.
If you think cheese should never be in a can, you’re wrong. Cheese is always good. Even in a can. Strike that. Especially in a can. Sure, this Amul cheese is loaded with preservatives - which usually makes the California girl in me quake with fear - but it’s also buttery, creamy, and melts like a dream. A cheese dream. For the best grilled cheese you’ve ever had, use this on two pieces of white bread with tomato, onion, chilies, and cilantro. Pan fry with ghee, then cut and serve.
In Hindi, Khatta Meetha means “sour and sweet,” which is exactly what this snack is. An addicting mixture of chickpea flour noodles, puffed rice, green peas, and peanuts, my non-Indian friends have nicknamed this Indian Chex Mix, to which I say that is a hell of a compliment to Chex Mix. Have this in your snack drawer and thank me later.
Gulab Jamuns really can do no wrong. These sweet cottage cheese dumplings swimming in cardamom-flavored syrup are like juicy, rose donuts which will make you want to sing out loud. Keep some on hand for when you have guests over for a quick, easy tea-time sweet.
I eat papad after breakfast. I eat it after lunch. I eat it after dinner. I eat it all the time. Made with lentils and cumin seeds, pop one of these bad boys in the microwave for a quick protein-packed lentil chip you can enjoy on the go or with your favorite chutney.
Magic Masala Chips
If there’s one thing all Indians love it’s masala. We add it to everything - including our chips. Loaded with Indian spices, these spuds are best paired with a dip. Preferably a creamy one with greek yogurt to balance out all that flavorful goodness.
Rani Indian Mustard
Can a sauce be a snack? The jury is still out. But one thing is for sure: most snacks taste infinitely better with sauce. Rani Indian Mustard is a major IYKYK item. If you’re from Kolkata, you know. If you’re from anywhere else in India... you probably don’t. Luckily, I know. And now you do too. This spicy mustard is so good I filled my backpack with many bottles during my last trip. Thank the high heavens, it’s now available on Amazon. Use it in sandwiches, on top of fish, or dip fried snacks in it. Whatever you want to saucify, this is the sauce to do it with.
It all boils down to this: chai. My mother would shudder at the thought of using an instant version, but I simply do not have the time to freshly grind spices every time I want a cup. Packed with ginger, cardamom, pepper, clove, and allspice, I find this brand makes a version that isn’t cloyingly sweet like many of the other instant versions I have tried. Pour yourself a cup, and enjoy it with any of the tasty snacks listed above.