What Does India Eat For Breakfast?  Famous Breakfasts Of India
Image Credit: Mysore Masala Dosa

Many foreigners visiting India are often left overwhelmed by the complex flavours of the cuisines offered across the length and breadth of the country. The variety of cuisines, textures, and flavours one can experience in India is unparalleled. I am often told that India's sheer variety of hot and fresh breakfast items makes it one of the most exciting countries to visit. Breakfast being the most important meal of the day, a hearty and delicious meal is an inevitable feature of any diet.   

Chai - Coffee 

No matter where you are in India, a good hot cup of tea or a coffee is not far away. Chai is the lifeline and a refreshing fuel for people across India. From fancy restaurants where tea is served in a kettle to the roadside chaiwala stall, chai can be found in every nook and corner of India. Masala chai, cooked on ‘Chulhas’, is a typical ritual. Be it on the ghats of Varanasi, in the bazaars of Kolkatta, or in busy cities like Delhi, Jaipur, Lucknow etc.; chai served in Kulhad is the energy drink of the masses. Assam, Darjeeling, Nilgiris, and Kangra are India's key tea-growing regions that supply tea globally.  In Kashmir, hot tea with saffron and dry fruits (Kahwa) is a refreshing beverage that keeps one warm in the freezing winters. 

In South India, a similar craze can be seen for indigenous filter coffee, the finest quality of which is grown across the south Indian states. The day starts with a strong coffee decoction mixed with frothy milk poured from a meter above, giving it a colloquial name, the ‘Meter coffee’.   

Indians Like It Fried 

Breakfast in India is often a heavy affair, and fried items are consumed with a great penchant. ‘Kachoris; are a go-to breakfast option celebrated across north India. In Jaipur, ‘Pyaaz ki kachori’ or a ‘Mawa Kachori’ (Sweet) is a preferred breakfast dish. Kota’s lentil-stuffed ‘Kachoris’ are enjoyed with a spicy ‘Rajasthani Kadhi’. In Jodhpur, ‘Mogar ki Kachori’, fried in desi ghee, is unmissable for any culinary explorer. Outside the ‘Sonardurg’ of Jaisalmer, one can indulge in a spicy, crisp and delicious kachori prepared at Fateh Chand Ji’s small but popular cart. 

In Varanasi, ‘hing’ ki kachori served with spiced chana is drool-worthy and can be enjoyed in the namesake street called the ‘Kachori Gali’. ‘Poori- is another popular fried breakfast enjoyed with a spicy potato curry; gorge over the popular combination of ‘Poori Aloo’ with crisp and hot Jalebis, at Ram Bhandar, in Varanasi’s ‘Thatheri Bazaar’. Kachori in different cities goes by different names. ‘Nagori’ is enjoyed with Halwa in Old Delhi, ‘Radhabhallabi’ and ‘Koraishutir Kachuri’ in Bengal, ‘Khastas’ of Lucknow and Kanpur, or the popular, famous and irresistibly tasty ‘Bedai-aloo’ of Agra, stands testimony to the love of Indians for the fried breakfast. 

‘Chole Bhature’ is a soporific and heavenly-tasting preparation of deep-fried bread made of ‘maida’ (white flour) and the spiced-tempered chickpea preparation called the Chole. Accompanied by pickles, chutney, and raw sliced onions, eating ‘Chola bhatura’ for breakfast is a guilty pleasure for food lovers in Delhi, Punjab and the rest of North India. In Bengal, poori, made of maida called the ‘Lucchi’, is paired with ‘Cholar dal’ and receives a similar love from the food-loving Bengalis. 

Parathas are the staple breakfast in north Indian states and are loved across India for the variety of stuffings which can go inside the shallow-fried crispy flatbreads. Parathas are paired with yoghurt and pickle and are arguably the most common breakfast for north Indians; whether it is enjoyed at a dhaba, or prepared at home, Parathas with stuffings like ‘Aloo’, ‘Paneer’, ‘Mooli’, or ‘Gobhi’, rule the roost on the breakfast table in North India. 

South Indian Breakfast 

Who would not have heard of a Dosa, Idli, vada or Uttapam? Breakfast dishes of South India are popular in the southern states and the rest of the country. Breakfast preparations are usually prepared with a batter made of rice and lentils. There are hundreds of varieties of dosas one can try in South India, namely Masala dosa (Mix of rice and lentils with spiced potatoes), Rava dosa (Semolina), ‘Adai Dosa’ (Rice and mixed lentils), ‘Benne Dosa’ (Buttery), Ghee laden and fluffy ‘Tuppa Dosas’ or the crispy ghee ‘Pudi dosas’, Flavourful Mysore Masala dosas, Andhra Pradesh’s ‘Pessaruttu’ (Moong dal dosas), ‘Neer dosas’ (thin rice batter dosas) etc. are the popular dosa options eaten for breakfast in South India. 

Rice Idlis, Rava Idlis, ‘Thatte Idli’, ‘Ghee ‘Pudi Idli’, ‘Masala Idlis’, ‘Ragi Idlis’, ‘Jowar Idlis’, ‘Kanchipuram idlis’, ‘Chiblu idli’, ‘Mallige Idli’ etc. are some of the common varieties. When it comes to preparing idlis and dosas, innovations in the method of cooking and the usage of healthy indigenous ingredients stand out as the culinary prowess of south India. 

‘Appams’ with coconut milk-based stew. ‘Idiyappam’ (String hoppers) and ‘Putu’ (cylindrical rice cakes) eaten long with ‘Kadala curry’ (Black chickpeas) are popular breakfast dishes in Kerala. Semolina preparation called ‘Upma’ or ‘Khara Bath’, Mysore’s famous rice and lentil preparation called the ‘Bisi Bele Bhath’, variety of ‘Dal Vadas’, ‘Bondas’, and ‘Bhajjis; makes the south Indian breakfast reckoned for its taste and variety across India. 

Poha And Pavs 

Poha is another fantastic breakfast preparation common across India’s central and western states like Madhya Pradesh; ‘Indori Poha’ is a famed delicacy; Poha, or flattened rice, is steamed and tempered with spices, and onions, often garnished with fried peanuts, potatoes, a unique masala called ‘Jeeravan’, and ‘Bhujia’, making poha a delicious, light, and healthy breakfast. Poha is popular across Maharastra; however, one must try Nagpur’s ‘Tari poha’, served with a spicy runny gravy prepared using a unique ‘Kaala garam masala’. In Eastern states, ‘Chuda Matar; and ‘Chuda Kadali’ are typical breakfasts using flattened rice. In South India, too, Poha or ‘Avallaki; is a delicious preparation. 

'Pavs’, a kind of leavened bread, is an ideal accompaniment to many quick and satisfying breakfast grubs like ‘Misal Pav’, ‘Pav Bhaji’, ‘Vada Pav’, and ‘Samosa Pav’ etc. In Goa, ‘Pavs’ and ‘Poi bread’ are common accompaniments to eggs and curries. ‘Ros omelette’ is a classical Goan breakfast one must try, alongside some Goan Chorizo sausages, for a delicious experience of the coastal cuisine. 

Non-Vegetarian Breakfast 

What makes Indian breakfast options stand out is the sheer diversity in the cuisines it represents. While for most, breakfast is a vegetarian affair, no discussion on breakfast is complete without mentioning the legendary Mughlai cuisine and the grand epic of the dishes like ‘Nahari’, ‘Paya’, ‘Keema’, and ‘Magaz’, which are best enjoyed with authentic bread like ‘Kulcha’, ‘Sheermal’, ‘Khameeri roti’, ‘Girda’, ‘Bakharkhani’ etc. 

Be it Lucknow’s Chowk, where Raheem ki Nahari starts its service early in the morning, the ‘Paya soup’ in Hyderabad’s ‘Begum Bazaar’, or even the ‘’Kaal soup’ of Mysore, enjoying and enriching one’s self with a flavourful meaty affair in the morning, is an experience reserved for the true gastronomes.   

While Parsis enjoy their ‘Anda Bhurjee’ preparation, also known as ‘Akoori’, love for offal can be seen in ‘Aleti Paleti’, a classical Parsi breakfast. In Kashmir, a pasty mutton preparation called ‘Harissa’ gives a delicious start to the day. 

Indian cuisine is vast. And even a discussion on one single meal, like breakfast, can result in a book with many volumes. Each of the Indian states has its own breakfast dishes, which change as per season and availability. Not to forget the many different communities which thrive in these states, each having its own culinary traditions and breakfast options. However, one thing is certain, as you travel across India, you can never feel bored and low on energy; being someone who travels most of the year, I owe the continued excitement and energy to explore the country to the delicious and unique breakfast options I find at every junction of my journey. Such a wonderful country to be in and fall in love with. 

Sidharth Bhan Gupta, is a food writer travelling across India on a Cultural and Culinary Exploration.