Food in Banaras is pretty much like the city itself – rustic and flavorful. I was browsing through the photographs of my trip. After every few photographs, there were food pictures and that gave me an idea for this post. Here is a glimpse of types of food you must try at Varanasi. You do not really have to go hunting for it. Most of it, you will find in and around the popular ghats of Banaras.
Mouth Watering Must Try Food at Varanasi
Indian Street Food
Quintessential Indian street food that includes Samosa, Kachori, Tikki, Jalebi and various other types of chat items is something you will find everywhere. Eat straight out of the huge kadais where all these items are being fried. Try tomato chat at Dina Chat center that is something I have not had in any other city. If you wander around in the narrow lanes behind the ghats, you will find these Halwais and Chat Walas in almost every street. Top it up with Chai in Kulhad or clay cup that gives its own flavor to the tea. Kulhad Chai is as ubiquitous in Varanasi as its temples.
One thing you cannot miss in Varanasi is the lassi joint everywhere. Go to them in the morning and ask for Malaiya. It is a froth of milk made by allowing the milk to play with the dewdrops overnight. It looks very heavy but is extremely light. What fills a cup can be a spoon full of milk only. Remember you get it only in the morning. If you miss it try the lassi that is also served in Kulhads – with extra toppings of Malai, pistachios, Kesar and many other flavors.
Ladoos and Pedas can be found outside every temple – sold as prasad to be offered to deities but you can always buy some to taste.
Banarasi Paan is something that we all have heard about, in Banaras you see it more than you hear it. You can see it all over the walls and in almost every male mouth as they speak to you balancing the Paan inside their mouth. If you ever thought Bollywood songs have made the Banarasi Paan famous, you need to see the Paan culture here to believe it and figure out that songwriters were understating the Paan effect.
My biggest recommendation for food in Varanasi is Daana – a mixture of freshly roasted grains – to be eaten while they are still warm – just like that or with some hot spicy chutney. You get them on pushcarts in the evenings. This is probably the healthiest snack you can ever have that tastes good too. Roasted peanuts in Banaras are sold with a small paper packet or Pudiyas of rock salt. Chana jor garam is beaten black gram spiced up with onions and chilies is usually by moving hawkers. Munch these as you walk the ghats.
Visit a Mithai shop in the lanes and see how they make mithai. I visited Raswanti Mithai Bhandar in Thatheri Gali. It was fun to see the Mithai being made still in the old style without using any mechanical devices. Mithai is a good option to take back home from here.
Varanasi gets travelers from across the globe. So there is no dearth of international food. In the same lanes that serve all the above, you can find a German bakery or many other continental food joints. I had one of my best Veggie Pizzas at Asi Ghat. It had so many vegetables on top of it that the base could not even hold it. At Sarnath, we had Chinese food that was not bad. I assume there are many more options available if you set out to explore.
There are thalis that you can eat at many Dharamshala’s that serve you in the traditional way. You sit on the floor and the food is served to a row of travelers. Food is very tasty in these places but they serve strictly between certain times.
I loved the food at Varanasi. For vegetarians like me, it gives so many options to choose from.
Recommend you read following travel blog posts on places to visit in Varanasi.
Evening Aarti at the ghats of Ganga at Varanasi.
Rhythm of chaos on the ghats of Ganga in Varanasi.