It was the middle of October and we were well and truly in the midst of an old fashioned October heatwave. I was here on an official invite from the Uttar Pradesh Tourism Board and had decided to stay back and wander around Varanasi in my own inimitable style to really explore it.
While I was earlier staying at a plush business class hotel, the lack of fresh air was making me palpably uneasy. I was lucky to be in contact with the very adventurous and amazing guy, DK aka LonelyIndia. Varanasi is all about the ghats and the chaos and history and culture and I was now ready to immerse myself into the soul of Benaras.
Also check : Street Photography from Varanasi
They had called Kāshi the city of Gods, and I was also keen on sampling what the gods ate! (Ok, thats me being cheeky..) I was staying right at Assi Ghat in a cheap hostel and was in sight of the old city, the part which has been continually inhabited for more than 2500 years. When friends on social media channels knew I was in Varanasi, it was recommendation after recommendation of places to go and food to eat.
After much deliberation and quite a lot of aimlessness, these are some of the top picks among the places where I sampled Street Food in Varanasi.
1. Assi Ghat – Pappu Chai near Marwari Sewa Sangh.
When I’d first heard of liquor tea, ignorant me thought crazy Benarasis! Turns out they were right; black tea is indeed called liquor tea. So Mr. Pappu has it all sorted, he makes a mean lemon tea and is the place for the low-down in Benaras. It is best to begin your day at Pappu’s, if you are staying at Assi.
Also, just ten shops before that, there’s a famous Kachori seller on a cart near Gas Chula shop. If you walk on the opposite side, toward Open Hand Café – a lady on the cart sells fried idlis. They are a worthy steal at Rs. 15 per plate.
2. Pahalwan Lassi Bhandar – 3 shops side by side & one opposite Guru Ravidas Gate
There is a lassi shop every 2 minutes walk anywhere in Varanasi and it can get overwhelming sometimes. On our way to the Brijrama Palace, we had sneaked out on our own and were in a roaring auto and he took us to the best lassi in town! Ok… and there’s Bana Lassi & Blue Lassi near the ghats too.
3. Jhalmuri under the tree – Lanka near SBI ATM
It was quite inexplicable, one thing led to another and I had locals suggesting me their favourite places. The jhalmuri guy was difficult to find, he’s on the opposite side of Khadim’s shop on the very crowded Lanka road. He’s a particular favourite with students of BHU (Benaras Hindu University).
4. Kashi Chaat Bhandar
It had been a crazy sort of day when I had walked everywhere and had decided to not eat anything substantial because I wanted to try out the street food. By evening, I was very very hungry and here comes Kashi Chaat Bhandar. Locals expressions while eating said it all and I asked for their best offerings.
I was first served mind-blowing Palak chaat, then Tamatar ki chaat and finally kulfi falooda. Highly recommended it, for the chaat and the feel of being a Benarasi when you are here. To cap a fine snack-dinner, I was suggested the paan at Keshav and that turned out to be quite good (until I tasted the real deal).
5. Best Paan – Rajendra Chaurasia Paan
This one is close to Chowk Thana near Godowlia and my search for the best paan in Varanasi ended here. I love meetha paan and kept sampling paan throughout the day (Ok, i didn’t stain any walls!). Rajendra Chaurasia Paan has had its fair share of visitors with even Indira Gandhi eating a paan here once!
6. Kachori & Samosa Lane – Near Dashashwamedh Ghat
One of my favourite things-to-do in Varanasi was observing the frantic activity inside the small lanes near the ghats. On one such walk I stumbled upon the sinful delights of an entire lane of sizzling hot kachori and samosa sellers. 5 Rupees for a samosa, it doesn’t get better than this.
Speak to locals and friendly shopkeepers while in the small lanes and they will show you to the top ones in town. Psst. Best had early morning and evening.
7. Lanka – Chachi ki Dukaan
Unabashedly, the local favourite for breakfast in Lanka. There is no place to stand, let alone sit… but it doesn’t matter. Fried pooris (called Kachoris) with piping hot mix sabzi for 20 rupees. Super duper if you are staying near Lanka or Assi (a short walk from Lanka).
This small shop is right behind the 3 pahalwan lassi bhandars!
8. Baba Thandai – Godowlia
Varanasi is also famous for its thandai and locals will keep thrusting Baba Thandai’s name when you ask for their recommendations. Forty or fifty rupees for a glass, very tasty with the right amount of sweet and totally worth it. Located in a small by-lane near Godowlia chowk.
Bhaang is available on the side for minuscule prices (beginning from 2 rupees!) and they can mix it for you. Disclaimer : Try that at your own risk.
9. Deena Chaat Bhandar – Gol Ganj
One day had begun with me walking the entire length of the ghats, meeting a fellow backpacker (who was staying in the same hostel as me) and coming back after visiting Rajghat. We were very hungry, after hardly having had anything to eat all day and literally gorged when we found our way to Deena Chaat Bhandar.
Everything was good here, gol gappe, aloo tikki, palak chaat and tamatar chaat. The UK guy couldn’t stop thanking me after this fantastic experience.
10. Shri Ram Bhandar – Thateri Bazaar, Chowk Thana
Undoubtedly, Varanasi’s finest place for breakfast. We were taken here on the UP Tourism local walk and absolutely loved the kachori and sabzi breakfast. Plus, there are also desi ghee jalebis and some gorgeous doors when you walk in through the lanes.
11. Kulhad Coffee – near Lanka
After having been absolutely in love with the super tasty Kulhad chai (not to mention pretty!), a random passerby told me about some coffee that was famous in Lanka. Turns out he was right, must have coffee in a Kulhad!!!
12. Chana Dall Hing Kachori – Near Gopal Mandir Gali
Locals tried to guide us (the foreigner and me), to a place but that turned out to be closed. We went back to the person who had told us about the best Kachori in Varanasi and were told to find Bharat on a small thela. For 12 rupees per plate, 2 kachoris each with a fine mixture.
13. Varanasi Sweets – Gopal Mandir Gali
After tasting a number of savouries, my search for Malaiyyo continued and I was directed to the Gopal Mandir Gali for that and more. Although the season for Malaiyyo wasn’t right, I got to try many other fantastic sweet delights of Varanasi. Varanasi Sweets & Shreeji Sweets are my pick among the many good options in this region.
14. Rajaram Lassi – Thateri Bazaar
One of the finest lassi in all of Varanasi. Tip : Best to enjoy breakfast at Ram Bhandar and then head here for the creamy lassi! Don’t blame me if you want to doze the rest of the morning away.
In various conversations these are the names that popped up; I couldn’t go there either because of the season/unavailability/logistical issues or because the shop hadn’t opened yet for the day.
Nan Khatai at Ghugrani Galli. Baati Chokha near Sirohi. Kesar Lassi, Malaiyyo – Chowk Thana Best and Gopal Mandir Wali Gali. Ramnagar Fort – Old Shop Lassi. Bhaang Pakoda – Lohrabi Chowraha (Yup, like really!). Pizzeria Vaatika Cafe – Apple pie and wood fired pizzas. Nandan Sahu Lane – Palangtod Malai (Only for newlyweds!). Caciotta & Ricotta cheese at Assi International Meditation Center. Makkhan Malai at many places near Godowlia, it is available only in the morning.
Last but not the least, Varanasi is also famous for Benarasi Silk Sarees and this is the place you must head to to buy authentic stuff at the right prices : Madhuban Wholesale Market – Banarasi Silk Sarees.
For more travel stories, anecdotes and experiences connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.