What comes to your mind when you think of Varanasi? You must be thinking about the Varanasi Ghats, Kashi Vishwanath Temple or the narrow alleys of the city. For us, Varanasi or Kashi is also about food. Starting from lip-smacking chats to the sweet seduction of desserts and thandai, Varanasi is a place for food lovers. As food-loving Bong, we are simply in love with the street food of Varanasi. So we decided to write down about our recommendations for the best things to eat in Varanasi along with the best places to eat in Varanasi. After our article on the best places to eat in Darjeeling, we are told to write more about guides like these. So here is our Varanasi Food Guide for you.
There is no sincere love than the love of food. – Bernard Shaw
When the Gods came down to Kashi, I am sure they were happy with the food offered. Maybe the food was one of the reasons that they decided to pour their blessings on Kashi. Well, these are just my thoughts which I will keep to myself. Let us now dive deep into the delectable flavours and aroma of Varanasi Street Food. Along with the recommendation of the best street food in Varanasi, I will also write about the best places to eat and restaurants in Varanasi.
Best Street Food in Varanasi that you should not miss
To be honest, as a foodie I did not find anything such as famous lunch or dinner in Varanasi. It is the street food in Varanasi, chats, sweets and desserts that are famous. You can eat snacks and sweets all day long. Infact, when we visit Varanasi, we inadvertently head towards Kachori Gali for Blue Lassi Shop. Then, of course, there are multiple stops at Kashi Chat Bhandar or Deena Chat Bhandar. And in winters, we simply hunt for shops serving Malaiyo trying to find out where the Malaiyo tastes better! So being in Varanasi is a great feeling. After all the sensory experiences around the lanes and alleys of Varanasi, the culinary experiences are just perfect. So, here goes our recommendation for the best street food in Varanasi.
Kachori Sabzi is the most popular breakfast food all around Varanasi. For breakfast, ditch the usual bread and omelette and dive into the culinary pleasure of having the rounded, fluffy Kachoris served with hot sabzi. Kachoris are basically puris stuffed lentils served with a flavourful gravy made of potatoes. The kachoris are fried right before your eyes and served hot.
Kachori Sabzi is our favourite breakfast food while in Varanasi. The area around Kachori Gali has a lot of street-side stalls serving this crispy and savoury delight.
Best Place to eat in Varanasi: Ram Bhandar in Chowk and Madhur Milan near Dashaswamedh Ghat (6.30 am to 11.00 am) are the best places.
I will start with my favourite street food in Varanasi. Tamatar Chat in Varanasi is pure delight. Made from tomatoes, potatoes mixed with the right amount of spices, hing (asafetida) and garnished with the right amount of sweet chutney, dhaniya leaves and dollop of desi ghee and you have a perfect dish. The Tamatar Chat of Kashi Chat Bhandar is said to be the best one. We had Tamatar Chat from Kashi Chat Bhandar and other places as well and we can vouch that the taste of Tamatar Chat in Kashi Chat Bhandar is the best. There are other street-side stalls at Lahurabir Road where you will get this delightful snack.
Best Place to eat in Varanasi: Kashi Chat Bhandar is definitely the best place to have Tamatar Chat. There are other roadside vendors as well.
Chooda Matar is another of our favourite street foods in Varanasi. This is actually Poha with a Varanasi twist. Flattened rice is soaked in Desi Ghee and then stir-fried with fresh green peas and various spices. The dish is quite filling and it serves as a great evening snack.
Best Place to eat in Varanasi: Kashi Chat Bhandar, Deena Chat Bhandar
There are only a few people who say no to Golgappe. The tangy taste of golgappe makes them so special and one of the favourite street foods in Varanasi. You can have the traditional golgappe with tamarind water and can also try the Dahi Chutney Golgappe, that has both sweet and spicy flavours. This famous Banarasi Chat is sold across all the chat shops in Varanasi.
Best Place to eat in Varanasi: Kashi Chat Bhandar, Deena Chat Bhandar and the street-side stalls
Malai toast is also unique to Varanasi. If you do not want to have Kachori sabzi for breakfast, then try the Malai Toast or Safed Makkhan toast. Here, thick local bread is toasted over a coal oven and then a generous amount of white butter or the regular yellow butter is applied on it, depending on your preference. You can also add sugar or a little salt and pepper to the toast. This street food in Varanasi is best had with a steaming Kullad wali Chai.
Best Place to eat in Varanasi: You will get Malai toast in the morning in almost all the tea stalls. Laxmi Chai Wale near Godowlia Road is one of the best.
This is another widely loved street food in Varanasi. There are a number of street-side stalls selling this dish. Baati is a type of Indian bread and choka is a mixture of mashed potatoes, tomatoes, baked brinjals with various spices. Baati Choka can be found in the street side stalls as well as the plush restaurants in Varanasi.
Best Place to eat in Varanasi: Baati Chokha Restaurant at Teliyabagh
Sweets and Desserts in Varanasi
Now let us dig deeper into the sweet delights of Varanasi. The old city is also a great place to have sweets and desserts. Being a Bengali, I am totally fond of sweets and Varanasi always entices me with its long list of various sweet dishes and desserts.
These are the must-try sweets while you are in Varanasi. If you are a sweet lover like me, you must head into one of the sweet shops in Varanasi and try out Rasgullas, Chumchum and Ras malai. Ksheer Sagar outlets are good places to have sweets and so is Bengal Sweets on BHU-DLW Road.
Another sweet dish that I absolutely love is Rabri and Varanasi has some of the best-made Rabris. Previously I had the best Rabri at Pushkar. The one in Varanasi comes to a close second. You will get Rabri at any of the renowned sweet shops in Varanasi. Rabri tastes even better with jalebis made from Desi Ghee.
Well, well! Jalebis are another loved sweet dish in Varanasi. Though Jalebis are not my personal favourites, sweet, juicy and crispy jalebis are sold in Varanasi like hotcakes. Have them along with Kachori-sabzi or with Rabri, jalebis can make you happy anytime.
Best Place to eat in Varanasi: Madhur Jalpan serves some great jalebis.
This is a sweet dish usually prepared during the Holi, but you get Launglata all throughout the year at the sweet shops as well as on the streets of Varanasi. Launglata is a sweet made of crispy dough having a filling of milk solids (mawa), nuts and sugar. You will also find cloves (laung) stuffed in the sweet.
Launglata is very sweet in taste. While both Agni and I do not prefer Launglata, but there are many sweet lovers who absolutely love this sweet.
Malaiyo is a unique winter dessert from Varanasi and is found only during the winter season. Malaiyo is basically flavoured milk foam or froth served in a small earthen bowl, garnished with pistachios, saffron and almonds. Just imagine the frothy Malaiyo simply melting in your mouth. It is truly a treat meant for the gods.
Best Place for Malaiyo Varanasi: You can find shops selling Maliyo anywhere in the lanes of Varanasi during the season (between November to February). For the best and authentic Malaiyo head towards the Chaukhamba Gali. The shop is Markandey Sardar, Chaukhamba Gali, opposite Gopal Ji Mandir in Chaukhamba gully.
Malaiyo is usually available in the morning till 11 AM.
I think that the lassi in Varanasi is a bit different from other parts of the country. I have always heard of Punjabi lassis, but the thick and creamy lassi in Varanasi also tastes like heaven. There is a lassi shop every two minutes in Varanasi and most of them are simply great. Creamy and thick, flavoured if you want, the lassis are usually served in earthen pots and topped with a generous amount of Rabri and malai along with pistachios.
For flavoured Lassi, I think Blue Lassi is the one-stop place in Varanasi. The shop is recommended by Lonely Planet and is always seen full of people. The shop is located in a narrow lane in Kachori Gali. The road in front leads to the Manikarnika Ghat. And while you are enjoying a glass full of lassi, you will see a procession carrying a dead body towards the Manikarnika Ghat for cremation. This is one of the few places in Varanasi (perhaps the only) where you can see the dead while enjoying your drink!
The lassi is Blue Lassi shop is undoubtedly one of the best. My personal favourites are the chocolate and blueberry lassi. You will get a lot of choices in flavour like mango, banana, strawberry, coconut etc.
Pahalwan Lassi shop is another good place to have lassi in Varanasi.
Best Place to drink Lassi in Varanasi:
- Blue Lassi Shop, Kachori Gali near Manikarnika Ghat
- Pahalwan Lassi, Ramnagar and Ravidas Gate, Lanka. Near the Ravidas Gate, there are 3 temporary structures and one concrete shop. The concrete one is the Pahalwan Lassi shop.
Coming to Varanasi and not having a glass of Thandai is a sin. Thandai is a heavenly drink made from milk available in many street shops. At Kashi (Varanasi), you will also get Bhaang Thandai, in fact, the shops there would ask for your choice. For the uninitiated, Bhaang Thandai has a mild mix of wild marijuana and will probably make you a bit light-headed. Thandai is another of our favourite drinks in Varanasi. Topped with a dollop of malai (cream), we love the cool and refreshing thandai after a lazy walk in the ghats of Varanasi.
Best Place for Thandai: There are many shops selling Thandai on the streets, especially near the crossing at Dashaswamedh Ghat. Mishrambu Thandai is the best one. Try Bhaang Thandai only if you are sure of yourself.
Tea or Kulhad-wali Chai and Lemon Tea
Nothing can beat the pleasure of starting the day with a steaming Kulhad wali chai. Varanasi is a great place for chai (tea) lovers. Thick and milky tea seasoned with cardamom or ginger and boiled for long makes the perfect recipe for chai.
For those who are not fond of milk tea, can have the lemon tea as well. The ghats have a number of stals selling great lemon tea.
Best place for tea in Varanasi: You will get tea very easily in and around Varanasi, but there are a few shops that I would suggest. Pappu Chai at Assi near Marwari Sewa Sangh and Lakshmi Tea Stall near Chowk Police Station are the 2 places to have the perfect Kulhad wali chai.
The name itself says it. Paan or betel leaf in Varanasi is famous and special. Your visit to Banaras will not be completed without having a Banarasi Paan. Like in most places, the Paan is made of stuffing betel leaves with cardamom, fennel seeds, menthol, betel nuts, clove and various other ingredients. A meal is only completed after you enjoy a Banarasi Paan.
You will get many shops selling paan in Varanasi. The best ones are:
- Keshav Paan Bhandaar near Ravidas Gate, Lanka road
- Chaurasia Tambul Bhandar at Chowk
Well, that is quite a list. Apart from the street food, there are a number of pizza joints near Assi Ghat and a number of cafes serving continental breakfast in Varanasi.
So that was all about our favourite street food in Varanasi. Do try them on your visit to Varanasi. Just a few words of caution, if you are new to Indian food, do not overeat. It might not suit your stomach. Start with Lassi and sweets and then gradually head over to the chats and kachoris.
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