Eating “chaat” in India is something I will never get tired of. It has to be one of my favourite foods that I have experienced as a young girl. And even today one of the first things I do when I get to India is follow my MUST HAVE list; chaat is first on the list followed by a Frankie/ sandwich roll. “Chaat” essentially is a kind of food that encompasses a variety of savoury dishes that are eaten at street stalls primarily.
I frequent India often enough to hear people say that it must be eaten from clean & hygienic places; where they would use mineral water. And I must admit; I do try but I am equally guilty of eating it in places that just remind me of my experience when I was younger. One such place is most definitely Chowpatty in Bombay. But lets face it half the fun of eating street food is the fact that there is that rustic quality to it. The idea of sampling all these delights; in crowded areas with commotion around and traffic. The energy, hustle & bustle is in my opinion half the fun.
A lot of families even cook all the chaat dishes at home. Some of the best home chaat I remember having is at friends who were Gujarati/ Marwari. That’s not to say no one else makes it well but they just make it that tad bit better. This is the kind of food that most vegetarians would definitely make part of their fare but it’s equally popular with meat eaters too.
It is cheap & cheerful, makes a good meal and after you’ve sampled a few bites it’s the sort of things that keeps you wanting more. By the time you get to the end of the meal you’ve tried most things on the menu. There usually is Bhel Puri, Pani Puri, Dahi Batata Puri and also some fruit chaat for those who fancy something healthyish. The dishes could be endless to be honest but most stalls would definitely stock these dishes.
You might be wondering what the all these names above signify in terms of dishes. Trust me having eaten all of them I can vouch for how utterly delicious they are and can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I have tried to replicate them at home. Quite successfully at that! But one thing I would say is how hard it is to actually explain what each dish is. But I’ll try – here goes…
The puris generally used in chaat are small & crispy. My post is Dahi Batata Puri; which is yoghurt with potato filled in these crispy shells. There quite a few more components to the dish. Once the puris are filled with potato, onion and yoghurt, it is topped with ‘sev’ fried crispy noodle, tamarind chutney & mint chutney. I also put a sprinkle of red chilli powder and some black salt.
The fun part is the eating where you must stuff an entire puri in your mouth (I always do!). It not so much about looking like a glut but more to have all those flavours come alive at once in your mouth. The sourness tangy of the tamarind; the heat from the mint chutney; crispy puris & sev with the red onions & soft potato. Black salt or Kala Namak as its known adds that bit of tart flavour to the dish. Just what you want. A few things about the recipe; I have used ready mini crispy pani puri shells (readily available now in most Indian stores) also sev to garnish the dish. Quantities in this recipe are just a guide so if you fancy more tamarind & less mint just do as you please. Use sea salt instead of black salt if you can’t get hold of it. I have also added some boiled green lentils to the dish; and tossed them in a pinch of cumin powder and dry mango powder. Make sure all the ingredients for the recipe are prepped in advance, that’s the main thing. I reckon assembling and eating would not take that long!
16 pani puri shells/ they are also called golgappe
7-8 tbsp of Tamarind chutney
5-6 tbsp of Mint chutney
Sev to garnish
Roughly chopped coriander to garnish
Pinch of black salt or sea salt
Pinch of red chilli powder
For the filling;
1 medium potato boiled and chopped into small chunks
50gms green lentils boiled
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp dry mango powder
1 small red onion finely chopped
200mls lightly beaten natural yoghurt
Add the boiled/ chopped potatoes and lentils to a bowl and sprinkle with cumin powder and dry mango powder.
When you’re ready to eat, prick a small hole in each puri. Be quite light when handling it, as the whole puri might come apart. Fill each puri with potato & lentil filling; add the red onion to each puri as well along with the yoghurt.
In each shell add a tsp of tamarind chutney & mint chutney; any remaining chutney can just be drizzled all over. Garnish with coriander and a sprinkle of the black salt & red chilli powder.
For the tamarind chutney; Mix 4 tbsp of tamarind puree, 2 tbsp of ground jaggery, ½ tsp of cumin seeds, pinch of salt and chopped coriander. If the mix is too thick add a little water to get the required consistency. Serve at room temperature or cold.
For the mint chutney; in a blender add 200gms of mint, 100gms of coriander, juice of half a lemon, 1 green chilli, ½ red onion. Blend to a paste. Tip in a bowl and add 2 tbsp of Greek yoghurt and a pinch of black salt or sea salt.