The Green Pea Man of Varanasi

By Mark Wiens 18 Comments
The Green Pea Man of Varanasi, India
The Green Pea Man of Varanasi, India

So, green peas.

What could be so special about them?

That’s what I thought too.

We often think of them as those mushy little green balls that are sometimes added to mixed vegetables, but are sort of an awkward and hard to cook with vegetable.

But in India, peas (known more commonly as mutter), play a significant role in Indian food. Mixed veg curry, one of North India’s most common dishes, always includes peas; Aloo mutter, potatoes and peas, is another favorite. I even had a parantha bread at Parantha Wali Gali stuffed with green peas.

Varanasi, India, is famous for its chaat snacks and Indian desserts, and it’s also where I met the Varanasi pea man.

Shelled green peas
Shelled green peas

His street cart was filled with shelled green peas placed on an orange table cloth, plus a few pea shells sprinkled on top to add some decoration.

Green peas in Varanasi, India
Green peas in Varanasi, India

On one side of his street cart was a India wok-like pan and cooking station where he stir fried his peas and created them into yet another tasty Indian street food snack.

His cart was positioned not on the side of the road, but right in the middle of the road – we could call this a street food median.

Frying up a fresh batch of green peas
Frying up a fresh batch of green peas

With permanently green stained hands, you know this man was dedicated to serving green peas!

So I ordered up a couple portions to see just how good his green peas were.

Batch of bright green peas
Batch of bright green peas

Slow cooking on a candle like flame, fueled by a small camp stove propane cylinder, the pea man stirred his peas every now and then while serving hungry snackers at the same time.

Indian street food
Green peas in a green leaf

After ordering, he would grab a small stack of fresh leaves, form them into a little cone shape, and pile in some of the hot green peas.

A few scoops of masala spices, some chili flakes, a dash of salt, fresh chopped red onions, and a squeeze of lime made the green peas complete. He’d give it a quick stir to half-mix the different ingredients, and then hand it to you with a smile.

Just like ghugni chaat, this was another super affordable 10 INR ($0.19) street snack.

Fried mutter (fried green peas)
Fried mutter (fried green peas)

A little slice of the same leaf was folded up and used conveniently as a spoon.

Forget about those mushy flavorless green peas.

The Varanasi pea man served slightly crisp, full of texture, and wonderfully flavorful green peas. The spices, the chili, the red onions, and the sourness from lime juice made it a delicious and healthy snack. Eating from a stack of leaves, with a leaf spoon, was another extra fun bonus!

18 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • High Rated Gabru

    4 months ago

    Yummy street food. Thanks for share.

  • Rahul k

    8 years ago

    Dear Mark,

    Excellent description of the green pea man… Being an Indian and a crazy traveller, I can relate to both sides of the story…keep the good work on …

  • Barbara

    8 years ago

    Hi, Mark, I’m new here to your blog and really enjoying reading your posts! This is surely a new twist on green peas and one I would love to try. Your photos and description of the process had me wanted to cook up a batch myself! Happy Travels!

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Thank you so much Barbara, I agree, it’s so simple but so good!

  • Olga’s Flavor Factory

    8 years ago

    Remarkable things you posted in here. It was very practical and well-thought of; although I would say you could improve in your manner of writing. Anyway, I’m going to subscribe to this site on a regular basis, so keep us up to date. All the very best!

  • Christoffer Moen

    8 years ago

    Wow that looks yum. And it’s an interesting flavor profile, I think would be a cinch to re-create at home but not half as good as hitting up the original Varanasi pea man’s stuff right in the streetfood median. Thanks for sharing this! Cheers.

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey Christoffer, yes it would probably be easy to recreate, but the atmosphere was part of the deliciousness!

  • Turtlestravel (@Turtlestravel)

    8 years ago

    Not 100% sure it was the same guy, but we had some AMAZING street food in Varanasi, including peas! Thanks for the report, and for continuously making us hungry!

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey, very cool, it could have easily been the same guy!

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    8 years ago

    Yum! I actually really love peas, but I’ve never seen them prepared in such a fashion… As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, we’re thinking of starting off our time in India in Varanasi, and I will surely keep an eye open for this man! His peas are so good, they stop traffic!

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey Steph, if you go to Varanasi you will surely meet this pea man!!

  • stephen

    8 years ago

    Is this why you are losing so much weight Mark?

  • Corinne

    8 years ago

    Looks good!