Friday, June 4, 2010

Chaat at home: Bhel Puri, Dahi Puri, Papri Chaat plus chutneys to explain what chaat is? It is a genre of hot and sour crunchy snack foods. How do you explain chaat to someone who has never had it before?

In Dubai, we have a lot of chaat places. Not all of it is fabulous. Stale crunchies, overly seasoned or flavorless chutneys, a chaat mixer who robotically throws ingredients together, not caring to balance the flavors---it all lends to bad chaat. But some chaat places are consistently amazing. You cannot pass them by without stopping for a plate of gol gappe or dahi puri even if you have just had a meal. Eating great chaat is like having an explosive festival of flavor and texture in your mouth. I adore chaat. If I hadn't married my Pakistani husband, my life might be void of chaat. I may never have heard of the yummy stuff. Perish the thought!

In the des, chaat can be one of those foods that poses a high risk to the tummy for non-locals. For sanitary reasons, or for reasons of ritual purity, there are many desis who prefer to make chaat at home as well. My Gujarati neighbors employ a Maharaj (Brahmin cook) who prepares fresh chaat or Gujarati farsaans for them on a daily basis. In a Western country, you may live somewhere that there is no chaat house, or where the chaat isn't that great. So, it is useful to know how to make chaat at home. I actually prepared these recipes and did a demo on home made chaat for my school. It went really well. I hope you have as much success with the recipes.

Here are some recipes and ideas:
*I use Shan Chaat Masala as my chaat masala blend.

In order to give the hot, sweet, and sour flavors to most chaat dishes, you have to use a green chutney and a sweet chutney. Many chaat dishes also require yoghurt, which you may choose to lightly season. Many English and American people think chutney means a fruit sauce, but chutney is really any kind of dipping sauce. Green chutney is mainly cilantro and can have mint. Sweet chutney is usually made of tamarind or dehydrated dates, or a combination of the two. My dear cooking teacher showed me a way to make sweet chutney with mango powder (amchoor), although this is not her exact recipe (she uses roasted cumin and red chile powder in addition to chaat masala). Before I got her recipe, I was soaking and straining tamarind and pitting dates and boiling and straining and boiling and straining. What a headache. Now, I just boil the mango powder, fuss free.

Green Chutney
1 bunch cilantro chopped  (about 2 loosely packed cups)
½ bunch mint leaves (about 1 loosely packed cup)
1-2 green chilies
½ piece bell pepper
½ small onion
3 tbs lemon juice
3 tsp sugar
Salt 1 heaping tsp or to Taste

How to make green chutney :
Blitz all ingredients thoroughly in a blender to make a paste. If you own a desi style grinder like this one, this is superior to a blender. Add a little water if required.

Sweet Chutney
In Dubai we get bags of gur cut into 100 gram chunks. They are about the size of a large American lemon. I hope these are available in the US, too. I don't want to deal with that giant block of gur. If that is all you have. Soften briefly in the microwave and cut off and weigh 200 grams.

200 grams (two large chunks) jaggery sugar (Gur)
1 tbs mango powder
1 cup water
1 tsp chaat masala or to taste (I use Shan brand)
¼ tsp salt or to taste

How to make sweet chutney:
Boil jaggery sugar and mango powder together in water until the sugar melts. Keep boiling for about 5 minutes or until it thickens, stirring in the salt and chaat masala. You can make a double batch of this chutney and keep it in the fridge for a month to use as needed. I serve this chutney with any kabaab, chaat, or dahi baray

*This chutney contains no tamarind. If you prefer the mild, smokey flavor of tamarind as opposed the the sharp tartness of mango powder, omit the tbs of mango powder and in place of that use 1 tbs tamarind concentrated pulp...the seedless brick in the clear plastic wrap, not the terrible one in the jar.

Yoghurt for Chaat
4 cups yoghurt
1 tsp salt or to taste
2 tsp sugar or to taste

Three Types of Chaat to Try at Home
I do not make my puris, bhel/murmura, sev, etc. at home. That is beyond my cooking skill level. All of this can be bought pre-packaged at any Indo-Pak grocer. Haldiram's and Bikanerwala are excellent brands. Bhel puri mixes usually come with chutneys, too. Throw those away. Those chutneys are terrible and full of preservatives. Use the fresh recipes provided above.

Bhel Puri
Pre-packaged Bhel Puri Mix – 3 cups
Potato-1/4 up boiled, peeled, and cubed
Whole green Mung beans- 2 tbs boiled
Chickpeas-1/4 cup cooked
Onion – 2 tbs, finely chopped
Sour green Mango – 2 tbs, finely chopped (optional, you can subsitute tart green apple for this, too)
Cilantro – 2 tbs, finely chopped
Green Chiles – 2-3 should suffice, use less for less heat
Sweet Chutney – 6 tbs or to taste
Green Chutney – 3 tbs or to taste

In a medium bowl, mix together bhel mix, onions, potato, chickpeas, mung beans. and sour green mango, cilantro and green chiles. Add sweet chutney and green chutney (you can adjust the amount suggested here according to your taste). Mix well and serve immediately. You just eat this stuff with a spoon. Yum!

Dahi Puri
Pani Puri shells– 1 bag from Indian store
Potato – 1 medium cut into cubes
Chick peas – 1/4 cup cooked
Whole mung beans – ¼ cup cooked
Onion – 2 tbs finely chopped
Cilantro – 5 sprigs (finely chopped)
Yogurt – 1/2 cup (well beaten)
Chaat Masala – to taste
Salt – to taste
Red Chile Powder – to taste
Fresh green chiles- 1-2 chopped finely
Green Chutney – 1 tbs or to taste
Sweet Chutney – 2 tbs or to taste
Fine (Thin) Sev – 1/2 cup

Punch a small hole on top of each of the pani puri shell and place them in a plate. Stuff the puri shells with a little bit of the following: Potato, chick peas, mung beans, and onion. Spoon a little (to taste) green chutney and sweet chutney into the puri shells. Spoon some yogurt into the puri shells and then all around them. Sprinkle with chaat masala, salt, red chile powder and cilantro. Garnish with more sev and some chopped green chile slices. Drizzle green and sweet chutney on top.

Papri Chaat
Paapri – 1 bag or 20-25 flat puris/paapri from Indian store
Potato – 1 small sized, boiled, peeled & cut into cubes
Chickpeas - 1/4 cup, cooked
Mung beans- 2 tbs cooked (soak for one hour then boil for 20 minutes and strain)
Onion – 2 tbs, finely chopped
Sour green mango- 2 tbs cut in cubes (optional, or substitute with tart green apple)
Fresh green chile- 1-2 chopped (or to taste)
Yoghurt – 3/4 cup, seasoned with salt and sugar and well beaten
Chaat Masala - to garnish
Green Chutney – 2 tbs or to taste
Sweet Chutney- 3 tbs or to taste
Thin Sev – 1/2 cup

Lay papri chips out on a plate. Sprinkle potatoes, onions, mung beans, chick peas, and green mango (optional) over the layer of papri. Drizzle yoghurt over the papri. Sprinkle a dash of chaat masala. Pour Green Chutney and Sweet Chutney on top to taste. Last, sprinkle thin sev and chopped green chiles as a garnish.

All chaats that contain crunchy ingredients should be served immediately to avoid going soggy.