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.


Khadija said...

Looks yummy... Our sweet chutney always leaves a little something to be desired (I also have always done the lippRa with cooking down the dates) so I'm going to give yours a try.

Just a note, you didn't actually mention the imli in the ingredient list. I am assuming from the directions that you just break off a tablespoon sized piece from the seedless hunk?

Jazakum Allahu khairan for the recipes. We made the sindhi biryani the other day and it came out yummy... We don't usually add podina to biryani and that made it a nice change from our usual. Keep the recipes coming!

luckyfatima said...

Khadija: Glad you liked the biriani.

About the meethi chutney, it actually doesn't have any imli in it at all. The souring agent is just the single tablespoon of aamchoor. It sounds funny but I promise it works! I'd better edit so as not to confuse anyone else who happens upon the recipe to make it more clear.

Rosann said...

I found your wonderful blog today through answered your question about the Balochi Resha Gosht served at Himalaya Restaurant).

Anyway, thank you for sharing the "Chaat at Home" recipes. I have had many chaat plates at the various Indian-Pakistani food markets where I live. The items I have eaten sound very similar to the ones you have presented/ described here on your blog. I cannot get enough of the stuff! Since I love to cook and would have no problem getting the proper ingredients here, I have wanted to experiment with making my own chaat for a while. I was never inspired by any of the recipes I found online until I found yours today. You have given me confidence to try. I am looking forward to learning a lot from you and your recipes. Please keep up the good work. I appreciate it and so does my hungry husband!

luckyfatima said...

Hi Rosann, Thanks, I hope you like the recipes. You must be in Houston. Where do you recommend for chaat there? I am from Austin but I travel to Houston and end up on Hillcroft a few times a year, so I would love to check out the chaat offerings.

Rosann said...

Yes, you are correct, I am here in Houston, Tx.

Austin is a great town. I love the Austin/ Hill Country BBQ. Being from Austin, I’m sure you know Houston is not the best place for BBQ. Thankfully, we do have great selection of other stuff though. I can pick up the tamarind brick and green mangos … only a short drive from my house.

Okay… now back to the topic of yummy Chaat. I’ve never had the real deal from a street stall in Juhu beach (I’m working on getting there!) so I don’t know how qualified I am to judge the best chaat in the Hilcroft area. Anyway, to answer your question, here are some places we like:

In the Hilcroft area, we like chaat from Shri Balaji Bhavan, Bombay Sweets and Vegetarian Restaurant, and Bismillah Restaurant (Pakistani Halal menu). I thought Bismillah’s chaat was the best, even though I only had it once. Also, we enjoy many items from Shri Balaji Bhavan’s menu, in addition to their Bhel Puri. Bismillah is also reported to have a tasty Halwa Puri. I am eager to try this too.

Outside the Hilcroft area, we like the chaat counter in Rani’s World Food Market. I like their Pav Bhaji plate the best. The Bhel Puri –Samosa plate is okay too. Although, yesterday it was a little bit soggy. Think they let it sit for too long. Speaking of food markets, although they don’t serve chaat, Phoenicia International Specialty Foods (huge place with fresh deli and bakery) is worth a visit. A few years ago, an Egyptian lady from one of my cooking classes directed me here. I thank her everyday! Maybe you have visited Phoenicia Market on one of your visits?

Also, I would enjoy hearing your restaurant recommendations for the Hilcroft area. With all of your experience, you would obviously be a better judge of the food than I would be. I have nothing to compare my meals to until I add some more stamps to my passport. I will say that most times we are the only non- NRI/ Desi customers in these restaurants, and there is never a description of any menu items… just a list of items with no details. It is assumed you know what you are ordering. I could be wrong, but this makes me think the kitchens are not concerned with catering to American/ Western tastes, which is totally fine with me!

luckyfatima said...

Thanks Rosann, I will print out your response to take along with me on my next trip to Houston. In Houston I have been to Sheikh Chili's (spelling) and Savoy. If I recall, they are on the other side of 59 on Hilcroft. They are both Pakistani cuisine.

Bhuvana said...

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desert rain said...

i just found your blog and am looking forward to trying some of your recipes. i live in dubai too but haven't found a great chaat place yet. would appreciate any recommendations from you :-)