Food in Dhaka may not be shown in the Travel Channel’s latest shows, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have delicacies of our own. No, I don’t speak of the gourmet dinners with the high price tags, nor do I speak of the chain fast food shops. I speak of the street-food that we all love, which also happen to be easy on the wallet. They may not be the most hygenic food around, but it’s time you risked it all. Trust me, it’s definitely worth it.
These mouth-watering delights are available pretty much everywhere and anywhere around Dhaka. Street vendors are easy to come by in any zone; if you’ve got no clue – look for a bunch of chairs (maybe even a table) surrounding a wooden ‘van-gaari’. Or a more furnished minibus type of ‘van-gaari’. The budget can range from 50-150 tk for a single person, depending on how much he/she eats. It’s the perfect place for hangouts on a budget and also a thrilling change for the taste buds. So to all you food n00bs, RainbowPenguin brings you the Food Guide to Dhaka Streets.
10. Cotton candy, pop-corns and wierd chips
Maybe not the best thing on the streets, but it is the most available. The constant supply and super cheap price makes it a life-saver when you’re starving and left your wallet at home. The change in your pocket is good enough to get any one of these.
Price range: 10 to 25 taka.
It’s Winter time, and pitthas (no, not cakes) are back in the City scene. There’s still time before our moms and grandmothers start making these deshi winter treats but as usual, the street vendors got there first. Vapa pittha is basically coconut and sweet molasses of date-palm or sugarcane (translation: patali gur) between powdered rice. This is then steamed for it to be completely cooked. This sweet delicacy is eaten warm, making it the perfect treat for the shivering nights. Go for warm chitoi pittha with coriander/chilli paste, if you seek savoury. The streets have got it all!
Price range: 10 to 40 taka depending on your location.
8. Fruits and nuts
No, not the Dairy Milk chocolate kind – the real ones! Do I see bulging eyes? Yeah, I know that health food in the street seem a bit wacky. It’s not, really (and by that I mean, not healthy). The ‘badaam-buut’ or nuts vendor serve up in paper packets; the size depends on the amount you pay. As for fruits, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen salted/spiced star fruits in the streets. They are THE most amazing things ever! And the ‘boroi’ or Indian plums are pretty amazing too.
Price range: 2 to 50 taka depending on the quantity.
Don’t scringe your faces – I’m not talking about crappy ice-cream companies (read: Savoy) but the ACTUAL street-made ice-cream. Some are originally deshi like the frozen malai kulfis, which taste superb. The flavours are a bit different than our average ice-cream flavours, though the nutty flavour makes it seem a bit like pistachio. Golas are a new fad coming from India. This is simply syrup on ice and this multicoloured treat is quite satisfying in a scorching Summer noon.
Price range: 20 to 50 taka
6. Jhalmuri and chanachur
They don’t even need an introduction. The vendors exist in front of every school and there is rarely anyone who doesn’t like these spicy, crunchy treats. Most consumed by school children and teens, these are usually detested by moms. The hygene factor may gross some people out (they make everything by hand) but don’t let a few upset stomachs get you down. Your immune system will learn…eventually. Nothing can be worth missing these.
Price range: 20 to 50 taka depending on quantity.
5. Seasonal Fruit Juices and other drinks
Okay, these vary from season to season. From unripe mangoes (translates: kacha aam) to riped mango juice, they come in sweet and sour flavours. A must try is the sugarcane juice which is not only a sweet drink to have but watching the process of making it is quite cool too! There are also ‘lebur shorbot’ – which is a common favourite and simply translates to lemonade. While you won’t find your classy apple and grape juices in the streets but there are enough varieties of fruit juices to keep you interested. Jackfruits, date-plum, pineapples, oranges, coconuts etc.
As for other drinks, there are the lassi’s. These are deshi style milkshakes and consist of yoghourt (doi) instead of ice-cream. Available in both sweet (mishti lassi) and sour (tok lassi) flavours. And lastly, who can forget the tea stalls around town? The neighbourhood tongs. The perfect place to catch a smoke or get the latest gossip and undoubtedly a great hangout spot. But the reason for coming here? It’s the tea. Unhygenic or not, the tea here are almost always amazing.
Price range: 10 to 50 taka
4. Veggies on the street: Don’t say eww
Don’t get grossed out and skip through. I assure you that the fried/barbequed corns on the street are to-die-for. Just make sure you don’t get an over burnt one. These taste super good with salt and a perfect warm treat for winter. However in summer, people tend to like cool cucumber slices with salt. Carrot sticks and raddishes can be seen too.
Eggs don’t fall under the veggie category, but what-the-hey? Boiled eggs with salts and spices in another craved treat during winter mornings.
Price range: 20 to 40 taka
3. Meaty delicacies… yum!
The kabobs, chaaps (another type of fried meat) with naan roti or luchi are not quite as available on the streets. Coming in a few locations such as Mirpur, Mohammadpur, etc. Sort of like Indian dhabas but better. These are for the meat lovers, people with high cholestrol are warned to stay away. They are oily, full of fat and in the end –plain delicious. If you aren’t scared for things to get a bit messy- go grab a bite! You will not regret it!
Price range: 100 taka to … depend on how much you eat, really.
2. The Ramadan treats
Though only a one month deal, Ramadan fills the Dhaka streets with numerous shops selling fried sweet and spicy treats. These lovely treats are perfect for iftaar and are completely worth fasting for. From spicy piyaju, beguni, vegetable/chicken rolls, kabobs to sweet jilapis. And so many other things that it’ll take forever to list. Ramadan is something street food lovers eagerly wait for. Not to mention the amazing halim. Halim is a gravy-ish, curry-thing with meat. Enough said.
Price range: This gets a bit expensive. But you can still fill your tummy under 150 taka, if you want to.
1. Chotpoti and Fuchka
These, my readers are the epitome of ideal street food. They are cheap, available and absolutely mindblowing. It’s the answer to everything! Be it hanging with friends or a date with that special someone. You can never go wrong with chotpoti and fuchka. These tangy, spicy, cruncy, mouthwatering delights are AMAZING. For those of you who don’t want the crunch go for chotpoti – as for those of you who seek that lovely crunch – fuchka will be your soulmate. Tiny, crispy shells are filled with yummy fillings which is then consumed after pouring ‘tok’ a watery, tangy sauce. Sometimes it is substituted with a ‘doi’ in case of ‘doi fuchkas’. I gurantee Fourth of July fireworks in your mouth, during your first try.
True love? Screw it. Just give me fuchka forever.
Price range: 35 to 90 taka. Varies from location to location.
And you’ll never grow hungry on the streets again!
Editor’s note: Does who dunno what “taka” is, US$ 1 = 82 taka