Indian Street Food – Chaat
Chaat , one of most popular items of Indian street food is more than just a snack for Indian people. it’s probably the cheapest, lightest and most convenient meal to have when you are on the move. It is one of the most famous symbols of Indian street food and also most varied. A lot of Indian street food dishes qualify as chaat. Most popular amongst chaat dishes are gol gappa or paani puri, papdi chaat and bhalla chaat. Chaats started as a street food item, but they are always served during wedding and other parties in India. these days, even posh restaurants have started serving chaat items too, but they don’t hold a candle to the street food vendors who have been involved in this work for generations.
A number of varieties of chaat exist in India, many with completely different ingredients and flavour from others. Most chaats are served cool and thus are palatable even in summer inspite of the apparent heaviness. Gol gappas for example are nothing more than water flavoured with digestive spices served in hollow crisp flour balls. They are sometimes garnished with boiled potatoes and chick peas. The flavoured water is usually salty made using rock salt, pepper, pudina (mint) and some other ingredients. For people with sweet tooth, a bit of sweet tamarind chutney is added individually. These days, a number of different flavours are available catering to almost every type of gol gappa fan. The flavoured water is also supposed to help with digestion and useful in preventing dehydration during hot summers of India. . Another excuse for street food fans to have more gol gappas and even drink the water by cups.
For other types of chaats, the most common ingredients are small crisp brown puris which crackle loudly when broken, boiled or fried potatoes and two or more types of chutney ( a type of sauce). One chutney is sweetish type, made of imli (tamarind) . Second is spicy and salty made of pudina (mint), green chillies and ginger.
The dish may or may not have dahi (yooghurt), another favourite food item in India. It’s supposed to help with digestion and help make excess spiciness tolerable for people who are not used to it. Dahi bhalla chaat is a very popular and good looking street food item. The yoghurt is thickened and sometimes sweetened, giving it a smooth creamy texture which gels really well with dahi bhalla dish. the dish is sometimes sprinkled with onion garnishing, small pieces of fried potatoes and chaat masala.
Another thing which helps with digestion but is used more in a way so as to increase the flavour is chaat masala, which may have numerous varieties and ingredients. Most common ones are powders of dried pomegranates ( anaar daana) , dried raw mango (aam choor), ginger, pepper and rock salt. Outside of their use as chaat masala, these are mostly used in combination with different ingredients as churan to help with digestion.
Aaloo tikki is another very popular chaat dish made of boiled and then fried to crisp potato cakes. They are served hot garnished with chutney, chaat masala and sometimes yoghurt. It’s a bit heavy dish because of fried potatoes but people love it all the same.Owing to it’s popularity, McDonalds even launched a McAaloo Tikki burger in India.
Bhel puri, which originated in Maharashtra is a very light and tasty snack made of puffed rice and sev ( thin noodle like crisps made of besan). They are sprinkled with chutney, chaat masala and garnished with tomatoes and onions. It’s a great snack to have when you are in a mood to eat something light.
So even if the chaat itself may seem heavy or tough with digestion, yoghurt and cjhat masala make sure that your tummy stays healthy. As with everything else, it’s not advisable to consume chaat in excess, but you can enjoy it often without fearing for any side effect.
Where and how to enjoy chaat
When taking a tour of Delhi or any other north-Indian city, you will come across numerous street food vendors selling different varieties of street food with chaat vendors being a significant majority. A lot of them will be there just to make a quick buck while some serve food with passion, pride and care for customers. Key is to know which one belong to the latter category. Food vendors who are in it for long terms, care for their customers and serve only the best quality food. You can tell it from their loyal clientele.
. As with everything else, make sure that the vendor obeys basic hygiene rules. Ensure that the ingredients are covered and protected from dust and flies. Most street food vendors use disposable plates, but if they are not, make sure that they are clean. On our Indian street food tours, we take maximum care about the hygiene of the establishment and freshness of the ingredients.
We hope that this article will help you enjoy Indian street food, specially chaat better. Happy munching.
Image courtesy: Wikipedia