Finally a chance to write about one of my true passions: Chaat. Chaat is a snacker's dream: it satisfies all the major snack food groups of sweet, spicy, salty and crunchy. It's light yet satisfying, perfectly acceptable as an appetizer or the main attraction. It pairs beautifully with coffee and chai. It has a special place in our heart and our menu.
The closest thing to chaat in American cuisine might be nachos, which also come piled with layers of different ingredients, textures and flavors. While I do love a good plate of nachos, chaat comes together without needing meat or a long wait while it bakes in the oven. Chaat is much more portable, making it the ideal street food. And that gives it an edge with me!
In India, chaat is more of a class of foods than a single dish. Chaat generally refers to the layered snacks served out of roadside stands. As you can see below, there are 26 officially recognized varieties of chaat on Wikipedia. More than 1/2 of these chaats have their own wikipages! Clearly its many fans have something to say.
While my goal is one day serve all 26 varieties of chaat (rotating chaat menu anyone?), for a starting point Lassi & Spice will serve two types: Bhelpuri and Samosa Chaat. These chaats have similar ingredients in the layers, but start from a different base. For Bhelpuri, it's a crunchy, savory cereal mix made out of peanuts, puffed rice, and crunchy fried crackers called papri. For samosa chaat, as you might have guessed, the base is chopped up samosas.
To each base, we add diced potatoes, diced tomatoes, diced onions, coriander chutney, tamarind chutney, masala sauce, a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of crunchy sev (deep fried noodles). Pile it high, give it a gentle mix, grab a spoon and and it's all yours. Take it in a paper boat to go, or sit and enjoy with a cup of chai. Wonder where it's been all your life. Tell nachos you met someone new.
In closing, we can't wait to share the deliciousness. And leave you with a video of some tempting street chaat classics coming together out of a street cart. It's truly an art form.
What's your favorite chaat variety?