One of the pleasures of visiting India is the street food. We quickly put aside our fears regarding hygiene and indulged in many of these ubiquitous snacks. Among our favorite were jalebi, bhel puri, and golgappa.
Jalebi can best be described as a sweeter, smaller, crunchier, and more syrupy version of American funnel cake. We saw it available alongside samosas and other savory fried treats at breakfast time, but we also saw it holding its own at sweet stands. It's also a pleasure to watch an experienced hand making these treats. They're made by pouring the liquid dough through a small hole in a sort of pastry bag, directly into hot oil. The best artists of this trade make beautiful concentric and intersecting circular patterns with the batter. After frying, it's into a sugar-syrup soak for a few minutes, and then they should be eaten as fresh as possible.
Bhel Puri is a snack made from pieces of puffed rice, not unlike Rice Crispies, mixed with your choice of freshly-chopped jalapenos, tomatoes, onions, coriander leaves (cilantro), chili powder, oil, lemon juice, and a few other secret ingredients, then mixed vigorously and served in a cone made of newspaper. We even got a version (in Nepal, however) with a quarter of a playing card to be used as a spoon.
Golgappa (aka Panipuri) are another puffed rice snack, these ones hollow, round and a few inches in diameter, sort of shaped like a squashed ping-pong ball. The vendor takes one at a time, pops a hole in one side with his thumb, spoons a thick chick pea sauce into the cavity, then pours a teaspoon or so of a salty cilantro sauce over the whole thing. They're bite-sized, so you just stand there holding your bowl and the vendor will continue to prepare them, one after another, until you tell him you've had enough. It's sort of like a drunk at a bar receiving shots from an overly-attentive bartender.
The best part of Indian street food? It never made us sick! There's something to be said for a kitchen that is completely out in the open...