Chaat is a highly popular Indian snack made mainly of crisp fried indian bread pieces in combination with vegetables and a variety of sweet and sour spicy Indian sauces. It is typically savoured at the road-side carts or stalls. The chaat recipe is counted one among the most mouth-watering evening snacks among Indians and Pakistanis. In fact, varied versions of the dish are served and enjoyed in entire South Asian sub-continent. The word, “chaat”, is a Hindi translation of the English word tasting. The parent word from which the dish name has been derived is 'chaatna', meaning to lick in English.
The concept of serving chaat as a delectable snack or side dish originated in Uttar Pradesh. However, owing to its spicy and relishing flavour, the entire India and later South Asia replicated the concept of classic chaat recipe to produce their own variations. Years after the origin, a cultural syncretism was observed with the invention of varied dishes of chaat in different parts of the country, reflecting their culture influences and eating preferences.
One of the most important requisites of an authentic chaat is chaat masala. This masala is a spicy mixture of varied Indian herbs like amchoor, or mango powder, Kala Namak(better known as the rock salt) cumin, dried ginger, coriander, black pepper, red pepper and of course, salt as per taste preference. The ingredient is so important that every dish of chaat is considered incomplete without it. In fact, in restaurants, people ask to be served chaat masala, nevertheless chaat recipe, in a different plate so that they can additionally add it to the dish and savour it. Besides masala, the original form of chaat requires ingredients like spicy boiled potatoes, fried bread, better known as dahi vada, chickpeas, and a tamarind sauce, saunth.
Chaat is unbelievably easy to prepare and quick to diges prtovided the ingredients are available in the usable form. Nevertheless, the speciality, preparation of an authentic chaat recipe simply requires the manual mix of all the ingredients together with adequate dash of chaat masala. Once the ingredients are ready, there is no need for cooking them further.
The dish is traditionally served in a dried leaf formed into the shape of a bowl. This form of serving is especially observed in dhabas, chowpatty beach of Mumbai, roadside or street shops of Delhi, Hyderabad and Bihar. However, in big restaurants, chaat is usually served in plates. Ingredients like chaat masala, yoghurt, tamarind sauce may be served separately along with the dish. It is best savoured at a normal temperature in the evening, a few hours before the dinner.
Popular Variations of Chaat
The specialities of chaat differ from one city to another.
- Aloo chaat is mostly enjoyed by locals of Mumbai and Delhi. It is a mix of fried potatoes cut in cubical shape and served with tamarind sauce.
- Pakora- is a mixture of assorted fried vegetables, sparingly sprinkled with chaat masala.
- Chila is a kind of pancake made of besan (gram flour) and served with mint sauce.
- Some other popular varieties include bhelpuri, papri chaat, panipuri, bedai, golgappa and more.
- Most of the ingredients used in chaats are deep fried. A healthy alternative is to used baked versions. Alu chaat can be baked with minimal oil sprinkled on the potatoes.
- Pakoras can also be made in the electric tandoor. They can also be pan-fried instead of deep frying them.
- Chilas can be made with soaked moong dal which is ground later to a fine paste.
- Bhel puri, sprouted moong bhel and corn bhel are healthier alternative to alu chaat and tikki choley. They are a good source of dietary fiber.
- The tikki made in tikki choley can be made with a mixture of other vegetables like carrots, green peas, beans and celery along with potato. This will make it more nutritious.