What Does Namkeen Mean in Hindi?

Popular Snacks in India's Culture

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If you have been around someone from India, been to India or eaten Indian food, you may have heard the word "namkeen." What does it mean, exactly?

Namkeen is the Hindi word used to describe a savory flavor. The word namkeen is derived from the word Namak (meaning salt). Namkeen is also used as a generic term to describe savory snack foods. Both black and regular white salt are used in Indian cooking, which gives it the salty flavor many people like. Regardless of the salt used, namkeen recipes typically satisfy that salty food craving many people have. 

Other namkeen snacks common in Indian cuisine include khaara, farsan, chivda, sav, chips and bhujiya. Namkeen of Indore and Ratlam are two snacks that are very well known for their tastes.

Namkeen is pronounced "num-keen," and can also be referred to as numkeen, namkin and numkin depending on where you travel throughout India.

Indian Namkeen Snacks

Here are a few other Indian snacks that incorporate salt and have a namkeen flavor. Please note that some of these are made from basic grains and can be flavored in a multitude of ways, and can therefore be similar but have several different names. 

  • Tikha gathiya: This snack combines salty sev into a crunchy texture with red chili pepper spicing that is made from besan.
  • Crispy Masala Puri: This is a crispy snack that is made from whole wheat flour that fuses in the spices of red chili pepper, ajwain, turmeric, salt and other spices.
  • Sakinalu: This snack is made in areas of Telangana and incorporates rice flour, spices, sesame seeds, carom seeds (ajwain) and salt. 
  • Maida Namkeen: Deep-fried flour and spices such as ajwain, kalonji or jeera can be added to these strips. It can be baked if you want to make a healthier snack.
  • Chivda: This crunchy, namkeen snack is made from thick poha or aval, which is a flattened rice along with dry fruit and spices. 
  • Gujarati Gathiya: Also known as gathia, ghatia and ghatiya, this is made from sev or ompodi. A lot of pepper and carom seeds are used in this recipe, which is similar to kara sev. The gathiya, though, has a puffier texture, is less crunchy and weighs less. The taste is also milder than regular sev.
  • Punukkulu: A common street food and snack that is deep-fried and made from rice, urad dal and other spices. The punukkulu is often served with peanut chutney that is known as verusanaga chutney, palli chutney or Toordal chutney. 
  • Sev: This versatile crunchy snack can be flavored with all sorts of spices, and looks similar to the Chinese hard noodles served in American Chinese food.