The Green Pea Man of Varanasi

By Mark Wiens 1 Comment
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!

1 comment. I'd love to hear from you!

  • Corinne

    11 years ago

    Looks good!