From Nepal to Chennai: Cross-country on the Great Indian Food Train

by Trisha Singh

It was 3:00 AM and after a month in Nepal, I was home. Well, almost. I was at the border crossing between India and Nepal in the sleepy town called Sunauli. Just under 3 hours away is Gorakhpur railway station, tucked at the very edge of North India’s hinterland. At 6:35 AM, I was on my way to Chennai on the Raptisagar Express.

The Great Indian Railway is about the most representative of Indian institutions in existence. It is also about the best way to experience India. It’s no overstatement that the rail lines run alongside the metaphorical lifelines of this massive country, bringing together a diverse congregation of people moving through a dazzling and perpetually morphing cultural landscape.


As I made my way from Northern UP, all the way to the southernmost stretches of the Indian subcontinent, I was transported on a cross-country culinary adventure. Witnessed from a Side-Lower berth on a Second Class Coach, here’s my unofficial review of food aboard the Raptisagar Express.

Lembu-Chaa at Gorakhpur

The familiar melody of chaiwallah’s sale-call defines Indian hospitality. I started my journey with a steaming cup of lembu-cha (lemon tea with garam-masala, Rs. 5). Rich-bodied with a citric burst of fresh lemon. Thoroughly welcoming.

Fresh Cut Guavas at Khalilabad
File:Guava ID.jpg

Fresh-cut guavas seasoned with a generous sprinkling of Himalayan pink salt (Rs. 10). Crisp, tangy and delicious (via)

Chana Garam at Mankapur
Chana garam

One sizzling serving of Chana garam (Spicy garbanzo bean salad, Rs.10). Not for a sensitive palette. (via)

Poori-Subji at Gonda Junction

A steaming plate of Poori-Sabji (Fried bread with Potato Gravy, Rs. 20). Soggy and overcooked? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely  (via)

Aaloo Chop at Badshahnagar

Golden fried Aaloo Chops (Crispy Potato Fritters, Rs. 10), delicious jhaal-moori (spicy puffed rice salad, Rs. 5) (via)

Awadhi Cuisine in Lucknow

As the train pulled into Lucknow, it was time for some Awadhi food. Biryani, Kebabs and Parathe. So much food, so little time (via)

Read ‘Traveling Across India by Rail’ by Charu

Laddoo and Jalebi in Kanpur

Boondi Laddoos (Balls of deep-fried sugary batter, Rs. 2 each) and Jalebis (Deep fried swirls of sugary batter, Rs. 10). Best served warm and shared with your coach mates (via)

Kachori in Jhansi
Fuel up with some Kachori (Deep fried stuffed bread, served with spiced chickpeas, Rs. 20) (via)

Fuel up with some Kachori (Deep fried stuffed bread, served with mint chutney, Rs. 20) (via)

Bhopali Kabab Pao

9 PM. I was ravenous. Time for some Bhopali Kabab Pao (Veg Patty Sandwich, Rs. 15 each) (via)

Chai, everywhere

Railway station Masala chai. 24 hrs, window-sill delivery at over 5000 locations around the country. Rs. 5 only (via)

Vada Pao in Chandrapur, Maharashtra

Morning fresh, flawless vada pao (Potato patty on white baps, Rs. 10) (via)

Idli at Sirpur Kaghaznagar

Officially in South India. Idli with allam-pachadi (savory rice cake with ginger chutney, Rs. 10) (via)

Vada Sambhar in Ramagundam

Vada- Sambhar (crispy fried doughnut with spicy lentil soup, Rs. 10). Can’t go wrong with Vada Sambhar (via)

Also, now that you’re finally on the south side, Munch on some Chakkali (Rice fritters, Rs. 10 for more than enough) whenever you can get your hands on them. Absolutely delicious.

Rava Upma at Warrangal
Ravva Upma

Savory fried porridge, served sometimes on a banana leaf, Rs. 40). Oh the flavors! (via)

Samosas at Vijayawada

Yummy Onion Samosas with Allam pachadi. (Rs. 10). Fried food overdose, but totally worth it (via)

Mirapkaya Bajji at Nellore

mirchi bajji

Nellore at 7:30 PM. Steamning Hot, Mirapkaya Bajji (Chilli Tempura , Rs. 10) served with a delicious mystery chutney. Nom Nom (via)

At midnight when I finally reached Chennai, it felt like an end of an adventure. Over 2000 kms and 42 hours. A spectacle of food and everything that’s great about travel. An unparalleled opportunity for cultural exploration. Highly recommended.


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5 thoughts on “From Nepal to Chennai: Cross-country on the Great Indian Food Train

  1. The images of yummy dishes, you have share with us here through this post makes me feel hungry. They looks really so delicious and tasty. I’m too planning to make trip to south India. Anyways, thanks for sharing such an informative and delicious post.

  2. This is amazing! I recently went on a 2500km trip from Delhi to Bangalore, and I fell in love with the variety of food options as we move from one state to another too.

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