Most people who’ve travelled much in India agree that train is the way to go…it’s cheap, relatively functional and a great way to interact with this amazing country even as you zip from one end to the other (ok…’zip’ was a gross exaggeration, but you get my point…). What they don’t mention is how much the grand spectacle that is Indian train life will heighten your expectations relative to train travel elsewhere… So many countries I have settled in for the ride, equipped only with a bottle of water and a packet of biscuits, waiting happily for the parade of food and drink vendors to pass through, providing welcome distraction and new food discoveries in equal measure, only to be bitterly disappointed… What do you mean, no-one’s going to hop on then off the train just to sell me a delicious fried snack?!?
Anyway, point being, Indian trains can be a great source of snacks. Many hover around the fried food category (bhajis, samosas, pakoras galore), there is chaat in abundance, and little cups of extremely processed vanilla ice cream sold out of an ice-box are surprisingly welcome when you’re halfway through Madhya Pradesh and were too cheap to fork out for the a/c carriage… But all of these pale into insignificance beside Indian railways’ greatest contribution to the snack-food genre – the mighty cucumber. Vendor walks past carrying a big basket of cucumbers. This is your cue to squeal, shriek, gesture, stop them any way you can. Pick a cucumber, which will be peeled (at a speed that fills me with fear on behalf of fingers everywhere) and sliced lengthwise. Said cucumber slices are then wrapped up in a piece of newspaper (fish and chips style, if an analogy is needed) and sprinkled liberally with salt, chili powder and various other spices. That’s it. Simplest snack food ever. But until you have tried you would not believe how good this can be. It was practically designed for long train journeys in the heat, and unlike much of the other food on offer even sits firmly in the ‘healthy food’ category.
I should note that this snack is not only available on trains; the last time I had it was from a street vendor outside a popular tourist site in Maharashtra. But trains are where I have encountered it the most times, and trains are without a doubt where it tastes the best.
The (not so) humble cucumber
Maddikera West Andhra Pradesh 518385