Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Let's chaat........!

Street cooks are magicians. With little more than  a cart and a griddle, mortar and deep fryer, they conjure up not just a delicious snack or a meal, but the very essence of a place! Indian street food is no different and we love our "chaat" (rhymes with "heart"). For those of you unfamiliar with that Indian word, here is the official definition from Wikipedia......."Chaat is plate of savoury snacks, typically served at road-side tracks from stalls or carts in India. With its origins in the northwestern state of Gujarat, chaat has become immensely popular in the rest of north India and the rest of South Asia. The word derives from Hindi "chaat" (tasting, a delicacy) and from "chatna" (to taste).

The chaat variants are all based on fried dough, with various other ingredients. The original chaat is a mixture of potato pieces, crispy fried bread (called "Bhalla" in Hindi), gram or chickpeas and tangy-salty spices, with sour home-made Indian chilli and tamarind sauce, fresh green coriander leaves and yogurt for garnish, but other popular variants include Aloo Tikkis (garnished with onion, coriander, hot spices and a dash of curd), bhel puri, dahi puri, panipuri, dahi vada, papdi chaat, and sev puri. There are common elements among these variants including dahi, or yogurt; chopped onions and coriander; sev (small dried yellow salty noodles); and chaat masala. This is a masala, or spice mix, typically consisting of amchoor (dried mango powder), cumin, Kala Namak(Rock Salt) , coriander, dried ginger, salt, black pepper, and red pepper. The ingredients are combined and served on a small metal plate or a banana leaf, dried and formed into a bowl".

This street food is as popular as the hot dog in the USA, the banh mi in Vietnam, merguez sausage in Marrakesh, the satay skewer in Singapore, the curried wurst in Berlin and the kebab in Turkey! Agreed that sometimes street food can be a potential "trip-wrecker", and no one wants to get sick, but avoiding street food means denying yourself an essential part of the travel experience. So for all those who have not given "chaat" a try...I say, go for it. And for less chance of gastro intestinal distress, just pack a little Pepto...! Here are some photos to tempt you.......
Aloo tikki - who can resist these fried potato patties with yogurt, tamarind and mint chutney?
Bhel Puri - a jumble of puffed rice, sev, potato, red onions and cilantro- an explosion of tastes in the mouth!
Chana Bhatura - fluffy fried pouffy bread with spiced chick peas
Dahi Bhalla - cool, refreshing lentil cakes covered with spiced sweet and salty yogurt
Pani puri - small round crisp hollow bread stuffed with an intoxicating mix of chick peas, potato, spices and tamarind water
Pav Bhaji - shallow fried bread and a tangy butter bombed mash of veggies cooked in tomato paste
Raj Kachori - an oversized hollow bread stuffed with chick peas, spices, yogurt and potatoes
Samosas - the all time favorite
Bombay's favorite Vada Pav - our version of the burger
And then put out the fire with some chilled almond/pistachio milk!

There....does that have you salivating now....?

Images courtesy various media sources.


PreeOccupied said...

Lovely! I have tried and made most of these at home here. But a big question mark dangles on the Raj Kachori. How do you make that basket of wonder!!!

Shankari said...

yum! I stumbled upon your blog and have been hooked. Spent the last one hour reading various posts. I love the your hyderabad home, so well planned and set up!

Kamini said...

Thank you Shankari and welcome! Just back from a 3 week hiatus, so am slowly getting back into it :-)