Chaat – Indian Street Food
Various varieties of Chaat are some of most popular Indian street food dishes and quite more than just snacks for people in India. Chaat is among the lightest, cheapest and most convenient meal to have when someone is in a hurry. Indian street food is incomplete without a mention of chaat. A confusing point that many people don’t get is that a lot of Indian street food items are called chaat. Some of more popular chaat dishes are papdi chaat, gol gappa also called paani puri,and bhalla chaat. Chaat is a street food dish, but some kind of it always served during most parties in India. Even posh, high-end restaurants have started serving chaat items, but they are often beaten by the street food vendors who have been doing it for generations
A large number of chaat food items exist in India, many with completely different flavours, looks and ingredients from the rest. Many chaats are eaten cool and thus are enjoyable even in summer. Pani puris for example, are just water flavoured with digestive spices served in hollow balls made of crisp flour. Sometimes they are garnished with chick peas and boiled mashed potatoes. The flavoured water is usually salty made using pudina (mint), rock salt, pepper, and some other ingredients depending upon where you eat it. For people who like sweetness, bit of sweet and tangy tamarind chutney is added. A number of different flavours among pani puris are available catering to almost every type of fan. The flavoured water is considered to help with digestion and is useful in preventing dehydration during hot summers of India. Many people drink pani puri water by cups.
Puris are the most common ingredients for other types of chaats. They are small, crisp and crackle loudly when broken. Boiled or fried potatoes and two or more types of chutney ( a type of sauce) are also used. One chutney, made of imli (tamarind) is sweet and tangy . Second one is spicy and made of pudina (mint), ginger and green chillies.
Many street food items, including chaat may or may not have dahi (curd, yooghurt), another popular food item in India. It helps with digestion and makes tolerating excess spiciness easy for people who are not used to it. Dahi bhalla chaat is a very popular and tasty street food item, specially popular during summers. The yoghurt is thickened and sometimes sweetened, giving it a smooth creamy texture which gels really well with bhalla . It is sometimes sprinkled with chaat masala, onion garnishing and bits of fried potatoes.
Chaat masala is another thing which helps with digestion but is used more in a wa, not just to increase the flavours. It may have different varieties and ingredients in different places. Most popular are powders of , dried raw mango (aam choor), ginger, pepper, rock salt and dried pomegranates ( anaar daana). Apart from their use as chaat masala, these ingredients are also used in combination with other different ingredients as churan to help with digestion.
Bhel puri, from Maharashtra is a very tasty light snack made of sev ( thin noodle like crisps made of besan) and puffed rice. They are sprinkled with chaat masala, chutney and garnished with tomatoes and onions. It’s a good snack to have, light on stomach and low on oil.
Aaloo tikki is another very popular chaat dish made of boiled and then crisply fried potato cakes. They are served as soon as they are cooked, garnished with chaat masala, chutney and sometimes yoghurt. It’s a heavy dish due to fried potatoes but it’s popular all the same. McDonalds in India even launched a McAaloo Tikki burger to cash in on its popularity.
Even if the chaat may seem heavy or tough to digest, yoghurt and chat masala make sure that your digestive system stays fit and healthy. As with everything else, it’s not good to eat chaat in excess, especially if you don’t know about Indian food in details
How to eat chaat or any other food in India
While traveling in Delhi or any other Indian city, you will find a number of street food vendors selling different varities of food with chaat vendors being a significant majority. Some of them will be there just to make a quick buck and be done with the whole thing, while others serve their food with pride and care for customers. Important thing is to know how to distinguish between the two. Good street food vendors care for their clientele and serve only the best quality food. You can tell it from their loyal customers.
Make sure that the food vendors you visit obey basic hygiene rules. Confirm that the food 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. Read this article to know more about how to keep safe from water and food related problems while traveling.
We hope that this article will help you enjoy Indian street food, specially chaat better. Happy munching. Contact us for feedback, queries or for booking an Indian street food tour.
Image courtesy: Wikipedia