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Varanasi, an ancient city believed to be established by the Hindu Lord Shiva, is famous for the street food fare it has to offer. From local specialities that you'll find only in this city to Indian dishes adapted to the city's taste, street food in Varanasi is out of the world. Take a look at some of the popular and famous Varanasi foods and sweets.
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Places to Eat in Varanasi - Best Restaurants:
Apart from its ghats and temples, Varanasi is famous for its street food. In fact, going on a Varanasi food tour is a popular thing to do in the city. Even if you choose not to try the local specialities, you'll find lots of cafes and restaurants serving a variety of Indian as well as international cuisines. The most popular places to eat in Varanasi are located near the Assi ghat. In fact, the picture shown above is of River View Restaurant which is located on the banks of the river Ganga. Pizzeria Vaatika Cafe is another popular place to eat located at Assi ghat.
Varanasi Street Food:
Folks living in the ancient holy city are proud of the Varanasi food scene. Ask a local to name some of the best places to eat in Varanasi and they'll give you a long list of places to try. With that being said, without further ado, take a look at the top Varanasi street foods.
Maliyoo is one of the Varanasi street food items that's unique to the place. Go anywhere else in India and try to find this item. I dare you. Technically maliyoo falls under the category of deserts yet this dish is so light and airy that it eating it doesn't feel like one is eating a sweet item. You can find this special street food item in the Godowlia market area in Varanasi. Just ask any shopkeeper to point you to the nearest stall that sells maliyoo.
2. Chola Samosa
Samosa is a fried snack with a rich filling of potatoes that may be accompanied by various more stuffings like carrots and peas. This street food item comes with one samosa topped with a spicy semi-gravy chola dish. Chola or chole is hindi for chickpeas. The thick chola gravy and the hot samosas are a perfect pairing. While you can find this street food anywhere in Varanasi, the one inside the BHU (Banaras Hindu University) is quite famous. Besides, priced at INR 25, the dish is a steal.
3. Banarasi Paan
Anyone who's watched the Bollywood movie Don is aware of the famous lyrics of the movie that mention the Banarasi paan. It's a street food item that's meant to be chewed and spit out. The composition consists of a betel leaf wrapped around various fillings. Paan in Varanasi comes in two varieties - spicy and sweet. The spicy version of the paan is slightly bitter in taste and needs to be spit out whereas the sweeter paan can be swallowed whole. For people who have never tried paan before, it's best to start off by trying out the sweet paan. You'll easily find loads of little stalls making paan anywhere in Varanasi.
Lassi is a blended yogurt drink that's mixed with water and spices, at times, depending on the type of lassi being made. Lassi can be as thick or thin as desired. You'll find the best lassi you'll ever drink in your life at Ramnagar in Varanasi right outside the Ramnagar fort. According to local legend, the ruler Kashi Naresh loved the lassi he drank one time so much that he asked the maker to set up his lassi making facilities inside the fort itself. Today there are a few stalls right outside the fort which serve the lassi that impressed the ruler ages ago. I've had quite a bit of lassi to drink over the ages but this lassi was truly lip smackingly delicious. Moreover, it comes with a thick layer of delicious rabdi, a dessert, on top. I can see why the ruler was so impressed with this lassi.
5. Masala Chai
You can't visit the Varanasi ghats and not try the masala chai sold by the local tea sellers there. I tried this tea everytime I was at the ghats and I still couldn't figure out its composition. Yet it was so damn delicious and unique compared to any type of chai I've ever tasted. While you're visiting the Varanasi ghats, you're bound to be approached by a local tea seller and asked if you want to try the chai. Definitely try it and see what the fuss is about. While it's technically not a street food item, because of its uniqueness to the region, I had to include it in this list of street food items to try in Varanasi.
Jalebi is a deep fried sweet dish that's commonly found across North India especially as a street food in Varanasi. I highly recommend going to a local stall and watching the preparation of this snack. Seeing the cook skilfully prepare the jalebi is just as satisfying as stuffing your mouth with this rich dish. While jalebi is a light desert, it's commonly eaten in Northern India in the morning as breakfast.
7. Tamatar Chaat
Chaat is a popular Indian street food that comes in a myriad of varieties. One of the variants, which happens to be a personal favourite of mine, is the tamatar chaat. Tamatar is Hindi for tomato. This chaat is made using tomato pulp with added condiments that add flavour and crispiness. Furthermore, because this chaat is tomato based, that makes it tangy and less spicy compared to some of the other chaat items. While you may find chaat easily in North India, tamatar chaat is a Varanasi street food that is local to the area and hence a must-try food in Varanasi.
8. Phulki or Gol Gappe
Phulki, gol gappe or pani puri is a fast food item that's popular all over India. The dish consists of a puri which is a tiny crispy container that's stuffed with potatoes or some other local variants. The puri is then dipped in a tangy mixture and/or a spicy mixture. It's common to eat 5-6 of these tiny puris at a time. This street food in Varanasi comes with lots more condiments to be added additionally that includes whipped yogurt.
9. Tikki Chaat
Tikki chaat is a variant of the chaat items. This dish consists of a flat puri topped with spicy potatoes, various condiments, yogurt and sev. While it's one of the simpler chaat items in preparation, it's just as tasty as the others, if not more. You'll find lots of small food joints selling various chaat items in Godowlia market quite easily. Kashi chaat bhandar and some nearby food joints are a popular pick in Varanasi.
10. Katori Chaat
When it comes to some of the unique street foods in Varanasi, katori chaat can't be kept off the list. The dish is made up of a crispy puri shaped like a katori or deep dish that is filled with potatoes and is overflowing with yogurt and yummy toppings. This street food item isn't as spicy as other chaat items and can be found in some of the bigger chaat shops in Godowlia market in Varanasi.
11. Malai Cup
I'm not a desert person yet this famous sweet in Varanasi completely won me over. This thick and light sweet dish comes with a rich topping of cashews and other nuts. I had it at a sweet mart called Shree while I was visiting Ghazipur which is located approximately 70 km from Varanasi. Nonetheless, this popular Varanasi sweet dish can be found in any big dessert store in the city.
As surprising as it may sound, the popular Tibetan momos are a widely accepted street food in Varanasi. Momos can be found just about anywhere in tiny street food stalls in the city. Some of the variations that can be found are veg momos, paneer (cottage cheese) momos and chicken momos. These come with a fiery red sauce.
13. Cold Coffee With Ice Cream
Now I know you're confused why cold coffee is on the list of popular street food in Varanasi. The truth is that it's not actually a street food. But when I visited the BHU (Banaras Hindu University) campus I found out that cold coffee with ice cream is in-fact, a very popular item being sold at various small stalls. And when a bug jug of cold coffee and ice cream comes at a mere price of INR 25, it's worth including it in this list!