Masala 790 xxx
photos by george billard

5.15.10 Condimental: Let's Chaat

Chaats are Indian snacks and appetizers, a sort of street food that is widely welcomed indoors as well. In India, there are restaurants that specialize entirely in chaat. When I told our driver in Jaipur that I wanted to eat chaat from a street stall, he raised his brows in horror and whisked G and me to an air-conditioned restaurant where we sat amongst Indian families and had delicious sweet-tart-spicy-crunchy treats accompanied by cooling lassi. Chaat is Hindi for “to taste,” and mostly consists of small dishes, often easy to eat by hand or off banana leaves on the street. As with Indian cuisine in general, chaats are quite diverse, with many regional specialties, but quite a few are fried, like pakoras and samosas, and some are stuffed breads. Dipping sauces and raita are key to the whole experience.Many of these dishes are flavored with chaat masala, a combination of spices that varies from person to person and place to place. I buy mine pre-made (Kalustyan’s yet again) and it contains salt, amchur (mango powder), musk melon, cumin, black pepper, pomegranate seed, coriander, mint, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, chile, caraway, ajowain (a relative of coriander), cloves, hing and bay leaf. Hing? you ask.
Tagged — bhel puri