Crispy, Spicy and Delicious: Seven Must-Try Indian Snacks
Beyond that bland bag of supermarket bhuja, an exciting new world of snacks awaits.
In 2002 when we moved to Auckland, my mother’s favorite store was Moshim’s lonely old Indian store near Pakuranga Plaza to the east. It was the only place that sold the spices and ingredients she needed to recreate her home in a distant land.
We went there every fortnight. While Mom was busy filling plastic bags of various spices into the large bulk bins, I strolled down the snack aisle. There was everything from Parle-G biscuits that I grew up soaking in my milk, to bhel puri, to my favorite mini samosas (very different from the large Punjabi samosas), all pressed close together .
Money was tight so I didn’t dare ask mom to buy me the $6 Frooti mango drink I coveted. But I knew that if I walked down the aisle long enough and looked longingly at the packets, I could emotionally blackmail her into buying a packet of chakli or suji crackers with chai.
Twenty years later, Indian ingredients are easier to find, but the snack section of my local Indian store is still my favorite place to go when I’m feeling peckish. If you’re a little sick of eating salt and vinegar crisps, here are seven tasty Indian snacks you need to try.
Perfect instead of cookies
I have a friend who just has to have two chakli every night. Chakli is a spiral-shaped snack made from rice flour, chickpea flour, cumin, and sesame seeds that originated in western India. It enjoys maximum popularity during Diwali where it is often prepared fresh by grannies and packed as part of the Diwali Faral (snack) gift box that families exchange with each other. You need special equipment and a patient mindset to make chakli at home, so I suggest you buy these instead.
Bad boy dal
Perfect with drinks
You may have cooked with yellow mung lentils and know they are quite delicious. It’s their naughty cousin who parties too much. Moong dal namkeen flooded the Indian market in the late 1990s and everyone loved this simple salty snack. It’s a family favorite – kids love it because the little dal sticks to their fingers and adults I know eat it by the tablespoon as a savory accompaniment to whiskey or beers. High protein snack, anyone?
Perfect with chai
You get banana chips in supermarkets, but they’re nothing like their pungent Indian relatives which are seasoned with dried mint, black pepper and salt. A popular South Indian snack, banana chips can arguably count towards your 5+ a day if you don’t factor in the oil they’re fried in. Their fine and crunchy texture goes perfectly with a cup of hot chai.
Perfect for kids
Made by Parle, a popular Indian snack company, Monaco Cheeselings are easily identified by their iconic yellow and red box. Made with flour, butter and cheese, these savory little cheese squares are very addictive and a hit with my kids who don’t like spice. Their melting quality makes them a dangerous but tasty choice for your next binge-watching session.
Perfect as a crispy topping
The most basic definition of sev is fried salt strings made from chickpea flour (note that sometimes it is also called bhujia). You will find many types of sev varying in thickness and flavor; I especially like garlic sev or methi (fenugreek) sev. Although you can eat handfuls straight from the packet, I like to use it as a topping on any boring food – like a curry I need to finish eating or even leftover stir-fries. The street food vendors who sell Mumbai’s famous sandwich use the sev as a topping on top and I think it would also taste awesome on some sort of pork taco.
Perfect as a healthier snack
A running joke in India is that the Gujarati community takes their khakra bundles everywhere they go. Made from wheat flour, khakra is basically a very thin rolled roti then roasted until crispy. They are one of the few snacks that are not fried and hence a favorite of Indian dietitians trying to wean their clients from 5pm cravings. Your local Indian store will probably have khakras in all sorts of flavors. Start with the simple ones if you don’t like spices and slowly work your way up to the pani puri khakras. I highly recommend the Induben brand.
Murmura (puffed rice) chivda
Perfect for a rainy day
There are many types of chivda, including the classic poha chivda which includes rolled rice, peanuts, and spices, and the corn chivda which incorporates corn flakes, nuts, and spices. Other types of chivda may contain ingredients like sev, lentils, raisins, or other dried fruits, creating a mixture that is sweet, salty, crunchy, and spicy all at once.
My favorite type of chivda is the one I make at home. To make it yourself, you’ll need plain salted puffed rice that you dry roast in a pan or put in your air fryer for a few minutes. Meanwhile, temper oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, peanuts, finely chopped garlic, turmeric and salt. Mix the hot oil on the puffed rice and you’re done.
There are so many other Indian snacks like gathia, shakarpada, bhakarwadi, dried fruit samosa and kachori that didn’t make the cut here, but I suggest you try them too. The easiest way is to promise yourself that you will never leave an Indian store again without a pack of Haldiram or Kemcho snacks!