From omelettes to cutlets, snacks offered on Indian trains have stayed in the hearts of passengers.
The Indian Railway network is the country’s nervous system, connecting towns and cities to each other. Indians often tell nostalgic stories of having eaten tasty food when travelling by train. Besides vendors at train stations selling chai, pakoras and other regional snacks, the food served on trains forms an important part of the memories that people form during journeys.
When the pandemic hit, it affected the menu on Indian trains. Initially, only tea and coffee, and ready-to-eat packaged food like noodles, rajma-chawal and soup were available. However, in November 2021, it was announced that IRCTC (Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation) resumed its catering service but only in the Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express, Tejas Express, Vande Bharat, Duronto and Gatiman trains. People were thrilled to receive the news that cooked meals would be served on these trains again.
Breakfasts on Indian trains have included tea or coffee, slices of bread with butter, and typical ‘railway omelettes’. People usually eat the omelette sandwiched between the slices of bread and this gave birth to the popular snack ‘the railway omelette sandwich’ or ‘bread omelette’, recipes for which can be found all over the internet. The railway omelette has travelled far and wide, and also gone on to feature at restaurants in New York. It uses vegetables and spices, which end up having a more prominent taste than the egg, but that’s also its specialty.
Another snack that’s common on Indian trains is the railway cutlet. Made mainly with potatoes and sometimes other vegetables like carrots and peas, these cutlets have become favourites with anyone who has ever travelled by train in India. On trains, they are usually served with dodgy ketchup and boiled peas.
Other meals on Indian trains include paneer in gravy with rice, and rajma chawal. Servers usually bring the food over to seated passengers and it needs to be paid for.
Many chefs and food writers have gone on to recreate food they’ve eaten on Indian trains. The popularity of the railway omelette and the railway cutlet has especially soared.