Enjoying tongue-tingling Indian street food is a good way to get all your nutrients and build your immunity, says Naini Setalvad
Being a Mumbaikar, when I think of street food, Bollywood songs come to mind: “Chowpatty
jayenge, Bhel puri khayenge” or “ Meri beri ke ber mat todo.” Every nook and corner of India has street foods that are salty, sweet, tangy, and everything in between. Be it chats over chai (tea) and chaats (savouries), night drives with friends, or weddings, street food has and will always be part of our lives. The counter with the most rush at a wedding is always the chaat counter.
Street food is FUN where F is for fresh, U is for unprocessed, and N is for natural. Shocked, aren’t you? Often, as a nutritious option, I encourage my clients to enjoy street food. It’s made fresh daily, as vendors have no storage facility. Let’s run through these nutritious immunity-building foods.
• Vitamin C powerhouse:
Remember, the hawker
outside your school selling
precious rubies and emeralds
of the plant kingdom?
The raw mango, tamarind, red ber (Indian palm), star fruit, and amla (Indian gooseberry) sprinkled with salt? All these goodies are abundantly rich in Vitamin C.
• B vitamins: The unmatchable
flavour of the bhel/ muri, aloo/
sweet potato/arbi as a chaat
or roasted just cannot be
replaced. Hot corn on the cob
and stuffed parathas (flat bread) with achar (pickles) are to be cherished. Not only are these delicious but are also packed with energising and vitalising B vitamins. Skip the fried sev to make the most of these foods.
• Protein power: Worried about getting enough protein? Your humble peanut has more of it than an egg. Have it roasted, boiled, or just munch on it. Your moong (green gram)/chana (black gram or chickpeas) chaat or roasted chana are commonly available across the country. Often, one sees moonglets or besan (gram flour) chillas, a fluffy alternative to egg omelettes. Street food is full of proteins.
• A complete meal: Tawa
pulao (spicy rice dish),
ragda pattice (potato patties
with peas curry), dosa (thin
pancake), and chutney sambar
(lentil stew) are balanced in protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Just squeeze lemon, add some onions and tomatoes, and you will be totally satiated.
• Natural sugar: Fruits sold at every corner with a bit of salt, a squeeze of lemon,
and a sprinkling of mint contain natural sugar. Fruits
are packed with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
• Electrolyte replenisher: “Le loNre, le lo babu, pee lo nariyal pani.”
Coconut water. Your greatest gift from the planet. No matter what you have done or how much
you have mistreated your body, it will save you. It is the greatest source of electrolytes. It even comes in a biodegradable container to boot! • Instant energy: If you are low on sugar, don’t reach out for sweets but have sugar cane juice instead. The natural sugars will immediately energise and vitalise the mind.
• Probiotics: Fermented foods like idli (rice cake) with chutney, dhokla (fermented batter dumplings) with chutney, and buttermilk with roasted cumin are rich in probiotics. Our intestines must be inhabited by friendly organisms to help us digest food and produce nutrients like B vitamins and Vitamin K. No wonder we can’t get enough of them.
• Digestive: Burp! My go
to is jaljeera.
This drink quenches your thirst, replenishes electrolytes, and aids in digestion.
The rock salt and roasted cumin powder is an amazing gas-buster.
• Chai: Refresh yourself with a cutting chai (small cup of tea), ‘cheeni kum (less sugar)’ though.
• Paan: Amitabh Bachchan sang “Khayke paan banaraswala, khul jaye band akal ka tala” A natural aphrodisiac, paan (betel leaf) relaxes you. Avoid tobacco and any sweet ingredient like syrups. Paan contains plenty of iron, calcium, folate, and vitamin C. The fennel seeds act as a digestive aid, and the coconut is a refreshing healthy fat.
In the natural progression of life, the human baby is first fed on mother’s milk. Thus, the baby’s intestinal tract is saturated with mother’s probiotic milk. The second stage is when the baby crawls and through his hands that goes into his mouth, the organisms found in the environment go into the system, giving the baby a robust immune system. Similarly, we adults too need to get as many organisms from the environment, and what better way than street food!
Moong Aloo Dahi Chaat
2 potatoes, boiled, peeled, diced
1 katori (bowl) boiled moong
200ml beaten curd
2 green chillies, deseeded, finely chopped
1 tomato, deseeded, medium chopped
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp roasted cumin powder
1 tsp chaat masala
Salt to taste
1. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well.
2. Taste and adjust the salt and spices to taste.
3. Garnish with coriander and crushed peanuts.
4. Serve fresh.
Naini Setalvad is a nutritionist, specialising in lifestyle and immunity disorders. Her foundation, Health For You, throws light on healthy food habits.
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