Food is what adds flavour to life. And specially in a diverse country like India, the panoply of gastronomic delights occurs as a plateful of the most interesting tastes. Food also is not only about subsistence, it is indeed as much about indulgence as well. Which is why beyond the necessity of wholesome meals and carefully curated recipes, there exists another world of delight altogether that our Indian people gorge upon as snacks. This snacking routine also is no less limitless an arena for us to explore with options that present as the most authentic and traditional of preparations. At the same time though this rootedness in culture does not always load them with goodness- sometimes they are as healthy as they are delicious, at other times nutrition bids goodbye in favour of taste.
Healthy or unhealthy though, we all love them. Here’s our top 5 picks of both to help you make the best choices for your cravings-
All India stars even in their regional origins are many snacks that smack of an essence of guilt free indulgence. Go all out with these 5 picks that are all kinds of scrumptious-
This is a puffed rice snack from the southern state of Karnataka. But it is also widely relished everywhere. A no cook preparation that makes it instant and easy while being healthy and tasty, churumuri involves tossing together readymade puffed rice with tomatoes and onions most essentially and spicing it up with some chillies. Sprinkle some salt to taste, add a dash of lemon juice and even some oil if you fancy and you are good to go.
The gluten free and low fat character of the snack makes it particularly unique. It also is vegan and even healthier in its easy homemade preparation while bearing the most lip smacking taste of what appeals to the Indian palate.
Pitha is part of the culinary identity of certain states of eastern India including Assam where it is prepared from a special type of rice. The local sticky rice variant called bora saul is ground into flour for different pitha recipes to cook up. Generally steamed or griddled with absolutely no oil even when deep fried preparations too exist within the traditional realm, pithas can be made sweet or savoury as per one’s preference. But even in their sweetness, the health quotient is accounted for by making use of jaggery. They go particularly well with a cup of tea but you can just munch on them anyway and anytime of the day- that’s just how good they are!
The healthiness of pithas are more than obvious in their oil free manner of cooking. But what makes them particularly ‘good’ is that they also are filling enough. They also make for quick fixes for the sweet cravings that you sometimes experience even with something snackish.
From the state of Gujarat that is famous for its range of snacks called farsan emerges the healthy snack of Khakra. Of course the most popular pick of dhokla is more than healthy itself. But the crispness of the khakra cracker is what makes it the perfect snack. Wheat flour based with other equally wholesome ingredients in the list, these are made much like rotis, only crisper and tastier. They also are available in a range of flavours and can be easily made at home and also make for some of the most ‘durable’ and convenient snacks.
Khakras being low in oil and fats and calories are beneficial for weight loss. They are also rich in fibre, suitable for diabetics and heart friendly and very addictive.
A winter favourite from north India but consumed throughout India as a year round snack is the most simple and humble recipe of gur chana. To be honest it isn’t even a real recipe. You can just pop in some dry roasted chana and a chunk of jaggery and have them together as a nutritious sweet. But of course you can also take the pains in coating the roasted chana with some jaggery and enjoy it as a more ‘proper’ snack. Either way the traditionality of maintaining health in good taste will definitely follow as its characteristic flavour.
Heart healthy, immunity boosting, aiding in weight loss and numerous other benefits characterise this snack that is rich in vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc and calcium as well as in fibre and protein. This is definitely one of the healthiest among traditional Indian snacks.
Bafauri might not be among the most popular Indian snacks but it is healthy and delicious enough to try out. A lentil based preparation from central India that is made out of a batter almost similar to pakodas, it is the steaming process which ensures that bafauri retains the goodness of its ingredients. It might be a little time consuming recipe but the taste of bafauri is what makes it all worth the effort.
Protein rich due to the dal element which also makes it filling and nutritious, oil free, low calorie and such assertions make it healthy. Add to it the many possibilities of the accompanying chutneys and bafauri might even make you ditch the deep fried fritters altogether.
Not very healthy choices
The most popular traditional Indian snacks are also some of its worst offenders. They might have earned a legion of fans all over the country and even beyond but they fail us all when it comes to health. Whether that is enough information for us to ‘disown’ them is not quite clear with chances being greater of pursuing the kind of romance that has us eternally dying for love.
The vada pav from Mumbai is one of India’s most iconic snacks. But it is also among the unhealthiest. The main ingredient of white bread is the obvious culprit in all its nutrientless maida make. No less helpful is the deep fried essence which is what makes it taste so good that has us craving for it every now and then.
A pan India favourite without any one place of definite origin pakodas are deep fried delicacies which is what makes them tasty and unhealthy at the same time. Irrespective of the ingredients that go into it which usually are some really nutritious veggies or lentils, the copious amounts of oil that every pakora holds means they are an entire health threat in even their every small and single piece.
High amounts of oil and maida are characteristic of some of the most scrumptious Indian snacks including the regionless identities of samosas and kachoris. Kachoris might be more versatile in their greater choice of traditional filling including a certain sweet indulgence of the Rajasthani mawa kachori. But they sadly are as much of a health disaster as well. The bads of refined flour and deep frying work in conjunction to create recipes that wreak havoc in the human body.
One of the oldest desserts of the country that however adheres more to the description of a snack rather than a sweet, malpuas are the epitome of indulgence. That does not however mean the same thing for the human health. Even when it is made of whole wheat flour, each malpua attains its irresistible taste out of the deep frying process. That already cooks up some disappointment even as the sugary syrup in which they are immersed to be plated as juicy, syrupy offerings even to the Gods themselves makes malpuas a sad serving to steer clear of.
Papad accounts for more of a side dish than a snack but it is often snacked upon as well due to its savoury, crunchy character. Paired up with tea and papads can be proper snacks indeed as the whole of India would testify. But papads need to be deep fried which makes them unhealthy. Other than that the high sodium content of this national specialty makes it an even unhealthier option to bite into. Roasted papads might give off the impression of being partly healthy but chemical reactions occurring during the roasting process can make papads even toxic to some extent.
That’s quite some discovery in surprise- for papad to be unhealthy for instance or something like bafauri to exist as wholesome bites but that is only something very integral to the Indian identity- so unique that you would be taken aback at every step- and with every recipe!