It’s time to chat about chaat – a term that encompasses small and delicious savoury snack foods, commonly purchased from roadside stalls or street vendors in India. In fact, chaat has grown in popularity all over Asia and even the name has some rather delectable origins, developing from the Hindu word for ‘delicacy’ and the Prakit word for ‘devour with relish’. With a name that evokes these lip-smacking connotations, it is clear that chaat holds a reputation for not only fast but also delicious food – something to be savoured whilst on the go.
The key element different chaat have in common is that they are all fried, dough-based delicacies. The original chaat consists of crispy potato and bread pieces, coated in gram flour and fried with various spices. It would usually be served with a tangy, home-made sauce of tamarind and ginger as well as a warming dahl or cool and refreshing yoghurt side.
Different regions of India tend to have a preference for different types of chaat. Some of the most popular types include:
- Aloo Tikki
These popular snack foods are small, potato patties, flavoured with onions and warming spices similar to a spicy croquette. This is particularly popular in Delhi and is usually served with a tasty, tangy chutney or mint dip.
A snack created from puffed rice, potatoes, onions and vegetables, bhelpuri is a Gujarati favourite with a delicious blend of contrasting textures and flavours. It is served with spices and tamarind sauce.
- Dahi Puri
Originating from Mumbai, these snacks are round, puffed up shells of fried, Indian bread, stuffed with mashed potatoes or chickpeas and a little bit of chilli for an added kick. These snacks encompass the sweet, salty, spicy and sour flavours that Indian food is famous for when smothered in tamarind sauce or spicy, green chutney.
- Pakora and bhajji
The humble pakora and bhajji have blossomed from their Indian street-side origins into worldwide power snacks, variations of which are hugely popular in Western countries as well as throughout Asia. Traditional pakoras are based around one or two key ingredients which could be any of a range of vegetables such as eggplant, spinach, cauliflower or a protein such as paneer or chicken. They are then coated in a gram flour batter and deep-fried. When pakoras just consist of onion, they are instead referred to as bhajjis.
Another famous Indian treat, samosas are generally triangular pastries, filled with spicy potatoes, peas, lentils and occasionally with meat. Introduced to India by cooks and traders from the Middle East where these golden parcels quickly became a firm favourite at court.
Reminiscent of mini-pizzas only with a far more exotic flair, sevpuri are little discs of puffed puri bread, decorated with toppings of masked potato, chopped onion, chutney and sev – a crispy, noodle made from gram flour.
Although chaat began as a street-side snack, the sheer popularity of these tasty morsels means that innovative restaurateurs have brought them onto the menu in Indian fine dining restaurants – chaat make wonderful starters or sharing dishes. Book a table today and sample exquisite, contemporary versions of these authentic, Indian street snacks.