Getting proper food is one of the biggest concerns during long journeys in India, especially if you’re travelling by train. Unlike road travel, you can’t stop at dhabas and restaurants for your meals. In case you are travelling on a flight, you have plenty of options at the airport.
During train travel, IRCTC provides food and catering for certain travel classes, but everyone is not a fan of railway food. I myself prefer to carry homemade food while travelling or buy food before boarding the train.
Fresh food cooked in the pantry cars is available only to first-class travellers, while passengers in 2A and 3A coaches receive food loaded from kitchen setups at different stations.
Being an avid traveller myself, I’ve learned the pain of not getting proper food during train travels. While I’m not very picky about food, there are obvious health concerns to worry about. With that said, the purpose of this article is to guide you on different ideas for Indian food to carry while travelling. I’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible to accommodate different food preferences.
Breakfast Ideas During Travel
Let’s start with breakfast since nobody loves to start the day in a ruined mood. You may either buy your breakfast from vendors or at stations or carry homemade breakfast items. Here are the best breakfast ideas, some of which I personally carry during my train travels.
1. Sandwiches – The Best Option
When it comes to readymade food for travel, sandwiches are one of your easiest options. Not only are they mess-free, but there are plenty of sandwich ingredients that won’t go bad quickly.
Besides, one can make sandwiches with anything from fresh vegetables and dairy products to cooked fillings. This makes it a suitable breakfast item for travellers with dietary or religious restrictions.
The only issue with carrying sandwiches for long periods is that the bread can turn soggy. You may have to carry the bread and the other ingredients in separate containers to prevent this. Sandwiches made with some ingredients like cheese, jam, or cream can stay for a few more hours without getting soggy. You can check and prepare various Indian sandwich recipes for your next trip.
2. Fruits – Essentials To Stay Healthy
Fruits are always a good choice if you’re trying to stay on a healthy diet. You may either carry them from home or buy them from vendors during your travels. Apart from the fruit sellers at almost every major railway station, vendors boarding the trains sell bananas, apples, oranges, and other fruits too. Just grab a good mix of different fruits and start your day with a healthy breakfast.
3. Egg or Butter Toast – Your Personal Choice
These are one of the most common items available on Indian trains during breakfast hours. A hot and fresh egg toast or simply bread toast with an omelette can make a delicious breakfast too. In case you’re a vegetarian and don’t eat eggs, you can always go for butter toast instead. Besides being simple and healthy, this is very affordable food for train journeys.
4. Idli And Vada – The Long Laster
If you’re fond of South Indian food, idli and vada are among the best long-lasting Indian food for travel on trains. Neither of the two would get spoiled any time soon as long as you pack them properly in foils and airtight containers. Carrying the sambar might be a problem, but focan simply eat them with chutneys instead.
5. Kachori – Most Popular Indian Travel Food
It is a popular food that most of us love, and commonly available on trains. Kachori vendors board trains at various times of the day, especially in the morning. Unless you’re on a diet or don’t want to eat any sort of unhealthy food from vendors, you might want to go for it.
Dry kachoris (khasta kachoris) are also a good choice if you need food to carry while travelling in India. Firstly, you can carry them for long periods without worrying about them going bad. Secondly, they’re dry items and don’t cause a mess. You may either make them at home or buy them before boarding the train.
6. Upma – Minimal Yet Nutritious
For travellers who love North Indian food, Upma is always a great choice. The dry texture of this dish makes it mess-free, and you can carry it for long periods without any problem. The light texture of upma makes it a perfect breakfast item during travel, while the ingredients make it healthy and nutritious. It’s easy to see why I listed upma among the best food for the train journey.
Lunch And Dinner Ideas For Indian Travel
Now that we have covered the breakfast items, let’s find out what you can have for lunch or dinner when travelling by train. This is often a problem as most of the common Indian meals involve gravy or curry-based foods, which might create a mess. Thankfully, there are a few relatively dry and non-messy options too.
1. Paratha And Puri – Delicious Travel Food
Parathas and puris are one of the most common tiffin choices in India. However, they’re also one of the best travel food recipes for lunch and dinner as they’re easy to make, can be stored for a long time, and are quite satisfactory for the stomach.
If you’re setting out in the morning and have some time, you can make parathas or puris and pack them for lunch. However, make sure the food accompanying the parathas is something dry and won’t go bad if you leave it packed for a long time.
Alternatively, you can just go for parathas made with the fillings already inside them, such as aloo paratha or onion paratha. In this case, all you’ll need is some pickle.
2. Thepla – Best Alternative to Paratha
Similar to rotis and parathas to come extent, theplas are a great option for long train journeys too. For train travel, it’s better to go for different thepla variants like methi thepla, doodhi thepla, zucchini thepla etc., rather than regular theplas.
The added flavour will make up for the lack of a good side dish. In this regard, remember not to use curd when making the theplas. Curd lowers a thepla’s shelf-life, which is the exact opposite of what you need.
3. Roti – Most Preferred Dinner Choice
Rotis are another good type of homemade food for travelling. Parathas are delicious, but rotis are admittedly healthier as they don’t contain oil. Being a common staple, rotis are widely available, and you can easily buy some before you board the train.
The same advice I mentioned for parathas goes for rotis too – eat the rotis with dry side dishes to avoid creating a mess. If you decide to eat the food provided by IRCTC, you may have rotis among your options there too.
4. Rice With Side Dishes – Best Alternative To Roti
I mention rice only because it’s a staple food in India and one of the most popular meals. However, this isn’t a viable option unless you’re travelling in a train class with IRCTC catering or you are on a road trip.
A variety of thalis, including both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, are available on Indian trains. Even if the official catering service isn’t available to you, getting good food during train journeys won’t be a problem. Speaking of IRCTC, did you know that online catering services with price list are also available on trains?
IRCTC has launched an e-catering service that delivers restaurant foods to railway passengers. If you’re picky about your meals or would just like something special for a change, this is the perfect solution.
On the other hand, carrying rice and its side dishes during long journeys is not only inconvenient but there’s a high chance of the food going bad.
5. Pasta – My Favourite
If you’re more in the mood for some spicy homemade food for travelling other than Indian cuisines, you may carry pasta for your train journey. Seasoned with vegetables and sauces, pasta is one of the most popular Italian dishes.
It’s particularly preferred by Indian mothers to cook tiffin for their kids as it doesn’t take much time to make. The same reason also makes it a great choice when you have a train to catch.
Being a fried or boiled dish, pasta can last a long time in an enclosed container. Apart from homemade pasta, you may also buy pasta at various fast-food corners.
Snacks To Carry While Travelling
When it comes to snacks for travelling in India, there’s no dearth of options. In fact, the diverse range of snacks available during road, flight and train travels greatly adds to the experience. I don’t think I have ever had a train journey in which I didn’t buy snacks along the way. Here are some of the best and most popular snack options for you:
There’s no way one can talk about Indian snacks without mentioning samosas. Affordable and delicious, they have always remained one of the top choices for Indian travellers. You can easily buy them from vendors boarding the trains or the small snack shops on railway platforms. Even IRCTC sometimes provides samosas among the food they offer through their catering service.
It is not only available for train travel, but also at airports and roadside shops. Especially if you get some tea or coffee, there’s no better way to enjoy it than having it with a couple of samosas.
Like samosas, pakoras are another great choice for snacking. If you travel in sleeper class, it’s quite common to find vendors selling various types of pakoras. However, if you’re strictly sticking to homemade food for travelling, you may even make the pakoras at home and carry on your trip.
For any dietary restrictions due to religious factors or health issues, you’re free to pick what to fill the pakoras with. Besides, deep-fried items like pakoras last very long. If you seek long-lasting Indian food for travel, it’s easy to see that pakoras are among your top options.
3. Dry Fruits
Can’t have samosas or pakoras because you’re on a diet? Don’t worry, here’s an option for travellers who need healthy snacks for the train journey.
Dry fruits like raisins, cashews, and nuts are not only good for your health but also have a very long shelf-life. You may even carry a container full of dry fruits for a train journey that’s going to last a few days. The next time you visit Kashmir or any other place well-known for dry fruits, feel free to buy some for your return journey.
While dry fruits are tasty and healthy, they’re rather small and light. Dhoklas make good snacks for the train journey if you’re looking for a healthy item with low oil content. You may either make them at home or buy them from a snack shop on your way. With their beautiful blend of sweet and sour taste, dhoklas are a good solution if you’re travelling with children and it’s hard to make them stick to healthy foods.
Moving away from the healthy stuff again, chips are one of the most popular packed food items for travel in India among snacks. Ranging from simple salted potato chips to flavoured chips from well-known brands, there’s a diverse range of options to pick from.
Besides, chips are pretty much ubiquitous in India – available almost everywhere. In case you’d love to enjoy this crunchy snack during your journey, but are worried about the ingredients, homemade chips are the way to go. There are various homemade chips recipes like potato chips, sabudana chips, banana chips, etc.
6. Cookies And Cakes
Maybe you’d like to carry some packed food items for travel in India but would prefer something healthier than chips? Well, you can always go for some cakes and cookies. They’re available almost everywhere – even at the small tea stalls along the roads or airport. Besides, baked food have a very long shelf-life, making them a suitable option for longer journeys.
As for carrying homemade food on train and road journeys, just remember to pick items that won’t go bad by the time you plan to consume them. I personally go for potato-based preparations for my rotis and parathas since they’re dry and less likely to cause a mess.
Apart from the above food ideas, you can also carry chocolates, biscuits, cold drinks, fruit juice, puffed rice, namkeens, and sweets like laddu and rasgulla on your next trip.
In case you plan to travel by plane during your journey, keep in mind that food for air travel deserves special consideration due to various restrictions. Check with your airline to know what kind of food you’re allowed to carry on the flight. Hopefully, you found this guide helpful and can now enjoy your travel on train, air, or road as much as I do.