Banaras, a place older than history, older than tradition (in the words of Author Mark Twain), is known for its cultural heritage, ghats and its spiritual vibe. What many do not know is that it is also known for a delectable array of street food.
The best food in the oldest city of the world is not found in fancy restaurants, but in the small eateries hidden in the galis or alleys of Banaras. The food is cooked in pure desi ghee (Indian Clarified butter) or mustard oil, made with a lot of love. While a lot of things are famous and can be found anywhere, there are some delicacies which are best eaten at some places.
Even though people often visit Banaras for religious pilgrimage, the awesome street food of the city converts it into food pilgrimage. Atleast for me, it did!
So here is a list of food without which I think no Banaras trip is complete!
Kachauri Sabzi and jalebi at Ram Bhandar
The kachauri sabzi (deep fried Indian bread with flavourful curry made of potato or pumpkin) is famous as the breakfast food of Banaras. You will find a lot of places serving very good and filling Kachauri Sabzi but the one which is the most famous here is the Ram Bhandar at Thathari Bazaar.
You will find the smell of the kachauris being fried in pure ghee too tempting. The chana and aloo sabzi is filled in the Dona (leaf bowls) and served along with the hot kachauris and a tango chutney. To finish the meal on a sweet note, have the hot, sweet and fragrant jalebis.
Absolutely worth a visit.
|Price for two – Rs. 100/-|
|Address : C.K. 15/29, Katra Ratanlal, Thatheri Bazar, Govindpura, Varanasi|
Have Tamatar ki Chaat and Gulab Jamun at Kashi Chaat Bhandar
Chaat is an Indian savoury made typically of fried potato patties, spices, yoghurt, different chutneys, and some other ingredients. A good chaat is like a burst of flavours, spicy, sweet and sour all at once in your mouth.
Chaat, however has many variations and the one which Banaras in general and Kashi Chat Bhandar in particular is famous for this special chat made of tyomatoes, boiled potatoes, hing, ginger and green chillies.
It is served hot and fresh seasoned with spices and savouries. Be ready to wait though since the place is almost always crowded.
And to ensure that the end of this profusion of flavours has a sweet end, try the melt in mouth gulab jamun at Kashi Chat Bhandar.
Hours: About 4 pm – 11 pm daily
|Price for two : Rs. 100-140|
|Address : D.37/49, Godowlia Road, Girja Ghar Chauraha, Godowlia, Varanasi|
Have Aloo Tikki and Spinach Papdi Chat at Deena Chat Bhandar
Go to this place for some amazing hot aloo tikki (potato patties with spices and chutneys). Try the super awesome spinach papdi chat and the golguppas here. Even though I love the tamatar chaat at Kashi, the one served by Deena Chat Bhandar is also very good.
|Price for two : Rs. 100-140|
|Address : Hanuman Mandir, Ramapura Luxa Rd, Luxa, Varanasi|
Have Litti Chokha (Baati Chokha) at Baati Chokha
Litti Chokha is a very popular dish in Eastern UP and Bihar region. Litti is a round roasted wheat ball filled with roasted bengal gram with spices. Chokha is the accompaniment made of roasted eggplant, potato, tomato, green chillies and mustard oil.
Though Litti Chokha is available at many places in Banaras, try Baati Chokha, a reasonably priced restaurant for an authentic experience of nice Litti or baati, sattu paratha, chokha etc. Be prepared to wait for a long time, especially on weekends.
|Price for two : Rs. 500 approximately|
|Address : anand Mandir Cinema Hall, Raja Bazar Rd, Andhrapull, Teliyabag, Varanasi|
Malaiyo is what I would call as gastronomic heaven! This delicacy is a very special one as only a few people know how to make it and put in painstaking effort to prepare it. This frothy delicacy is said to be made with milk and dew drops on a moonlit night :-).
This melt in your mouth beauty is garnished with saffron, pistachios and almonds and is served in earthen pots (kulhads) and is available only from mid November to first week of March. Also, since the froth can stand only in low temperature, this delicacy gets sold out before 11:00 AM in the morning. Anything you have after that, won’t be the same.
Once you finish your Malaiyo, you will also get a complimentary serving of the saffron seasoned milk that settles down in the bottom of the container in which Malaiyo is kept.
Though Malaiyo is available at many places, you will have the best at Chaukhamba which is a place you will reach once you cross the narrow alley of Thatheri Bazaar or Gali. You will find many vendors selling Malaiyo but the best is the shop in front of Gopal Mandir.
|Price for two : Rs. 40-70|
|Address : Chaukhamba Area|
Nothing like a cool glass of lassi in the hot Indian summers (and winters too). You will find this in almost every other street shop in Banaras from morning till wee hours of the night. This yoghurt based drink is best had in earthen pots known as Kulhads and is topped with Rabri and rose essence.
Blue Lassi (also featured in Lonely Planet), tucked in an alley, is a small shop selling many varieties of lassi. You get lassis filled with different fruits like mango, pomegranate etc. Have one you like and you won’t be disappointed.
|Price for two : Rs. 120-140|
|Address : CK 12/1 Kunj Gali, Kachaudi Gali, Near Rajbandhu, Govindpura, Varanasi|
Known as the drink for the Indian festival of Holi, Thandai is something which is enjoyed year long in Banaras. It is milk based drink served chilled and prepared with pistachio, fennel seeds, almonds and cashews and sometimes with cannabis or bhaang.
Though there are many shops selling Thandai, have the Kesar Pista Malai Thandai it at Mishrambu, right on the Gowdalia crossing. This heavenly drink is a subliminal experience in itself.
|Price for two : Rs. 140 approximately|
|Address : Godowlia Crossing, Varanasi|
Lemon tea at Assi Ghat
Nothing like sitting on the ghats of Banaras and having this delicious lemon tea sold by tea vendors who keep on roaming around asking everyone to have lemon tea.
Well, let me assure you, you won’t stop at one!
|Price for two : Rs. 20 approximately|
|Address : Assi Ghat, Varanasi|
Pizza at Pizzeria Vatika Cafe
Having a gorgeous view of the Ganges, this Pizzeria serves authentic crispy pizzas and some Chinese fare. This riverside Cafe makes its own handmade oven baked pizzas and is popular jaunt for those craving Italian fare.Do try their thin crust pizzas and the apple pie with ice cream.
|Price for two : Rs. 700-800 approximately|
|Address : B-1/178, Assi Ghat Rd, Shivala, Varanasi|
Last but not the least, the famous Banarasi Paan! Such is the fame of the Banarasi Paan (Betel Leaf laced with Areca Nut and pickling lime) that it has even figured prominently in a very hit song sung by Bollywoord Superstar Amitabh Bachchan in the Bollywood movie ‘Don’.
You will find shops selling Banarasi Paan in every alley or gali of Banaras. It is said that the paan has a special taste and fragrance.
So what are you waiting for?
Banaras is a foodie’s delight, that too without burning a hole in your pocket. People come looking for answers to their questions on life but then also fall in love with the food. The sheer variety is mind boggling and you find a lot of influence of different cultures on the food of Banaras.
Do make it a point to try the street food in Banaras when you are there. If you want to share your experience of the food in Banaras, do share them in the comments section!
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