Guys I’m back with my last post of the week. This week was completely dedicated to a vegetarian week. I’m signing this off with a healthy salad meal, which in India includes in the category of chat. What exactly is chaat? It is a savory snack, typically served as a hors d’oeuvre at road-side tracks from stalls or food carts in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. With its origins in Uttar Pradesh, chaat has become immensely popular in the rest of South Asia.
In India, “chaat” is a word that describes more than just a set of snacks: It’s a way of life, and a category of food that hits practically every element that makes something craveable—sweet, sour, tangy, spicy, and crunchy. Chaat can be enjoyed anytime. It’s light enough to be eaten for breakfast or as an afternoon snack, but satisfying enough to take the place of lunch or dinner. Plus, you can find it anywhere there’s Indian food—it’s even for sale in the back of many Indian grocery stores.
In a country with as much regional culinary variation as India, chaat remains a “common denominator”. The exact names of the dishes (one region’s gol gappa is another’s panipuri, and so on) might vary, but you’ll find chaat in some form practically everywhere. There are tons of different types, and proper methods of eating each. But at its core, any chaat dish is just a combination of a five essential components, each of which contributes to creating an addictive mash-up of flavors and textures:
The Base: This is usually a carb, be it a samosa, a papdi (fried flour cracker), or puffed rice—but it’s often crispy. This is the base upon which all other flavors will be piled on. Sometimes the base will be neutral (puffed rice, papdi), or it will already be spiced (samosa)—either way, more seasonings will be added.
2. The Sauces: Cilantro-mint chutney and tamarind chutney are the two most common sauces in chaat, as they lend spicy and tangy/sweet elements, respectively. Plain yogurt also joins the party, to add a cooling, refreshing note.
3. The Crunch: Besides the base (which often gets soft when loaded up with chutneys), chaat dishes will have other crunchy ingredients like thin sev—little spicy bits of fried potato—or masala chana—fried, spiced chickpeas.
4. The Vegetables: Diced onions, tomatoes, and potatoes figure heavily in chaat. The potatoes are usually simply boiled, and the tomatoes and onions are raw—these are meant to add texture.
5. The Umami: Almost all chaat includes a sprinkling of chaat masala, a ubiquitous Indian spice blend that smells like rotten eggs but adds a jolt of umami to any dish.
And while many places get creative in their chaat offerings (Desi Galli does a French fry based dish!), there are a few staples that you’ll find almost everywhere:
Gol Gappa (Also known as: panipuri—“panipuri” literally translates to “water bread” in Hindi) Spherical fried crisps filled with potatoes, chickpeas, onions, and chutneys, served with some kind of flavored water (usually tamarind or cilantro-mint). To eat a gol gappa, you spoon a little bit of the water into the center of the crisp and pop the entire thing in your month. Whatever you do, don’t take a bite out of it, or you’ll end up with a huge mess. You can have this in the same way as Sushi.
Samosa Chaat : This is a dish that—like the act of melting cheese on anything—would have to try very hard to be bad. It’s made of a base of chopped up samosas (savory fried pastries filled with spicy potatoes and peas), and topped with chutney, yogurt, and sev (those thin fried potato bits). Each component is wonderful in and of itself, but in this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To eat, scarf down with a spoon.
And then comes Sev Puri which is like Samosa Chaat, but with samosas subbed out for fried puri crackers. It’s lighter and less spicy—but all too easy to eat a whole lot of. Bhel Puri, a puffed rice salad with all sorts of fixings including onions, thin sev, and chutneys that have been thoroughly tossed together. Always order this dish with everything, and eat it quickly—it gets soggy very fast. There are more in the list which I’m not taking up.
I have been getting requests for chaats and the like. Here I’m starting with my journey of chaat street food. More will be coming up soon as I have been planing to do these from scratch. I thought of starting it in a healthy way by a chick pea salad chaat. This is a famous salad of north India which is light on stomach and healthy too. It is also filling as a snack.
Nothing much to do for making this dish. Only thing is that you have to remember to soak the chick pea in advance. Minimum three hours. 5 hours is the ideal time or you can do it overnight. Adding fo soda bi carb is optional. But that will help in maintining the softness of the chick peas even after chilling. I soaked 250 gms of chick peas and boiled it with a pinch of soda-bi-carb and 3 cups water. From that I used 2 cups for making the salad.
I’ve added all the ingredients according to out taste. Those who are in favor of heavy and over loaded spices, can add in more of spice powders, onion and tomatoes. I prefer to keep it light as I usually serve this for dinner and want it as healthy as possible, light on stomach and minimum carbs. So feel free to try it in your way. Enjoy and happy weekend.
N.B: Recipe of the sweet tamarind chutney will be up on the blog soon.
Soak the chick peas in water for 5 hours. Pressure cook for 5 whistles adding 3 cups water and a pinch of soda- bi-carb. Allow it cool.
In a salad bowl, add the all the ingredients and combine thoroughly.
Chill in the refrigerator.
Enjoy a happy healthy meal.