Posted on May 10, 2022 at 10:00 AM by Madhu Gadia
Papdi Chaat: Indian Nachos
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Chaat is one of the most coveted street foods of India. Street foods are part of the Indian culinary scene. You can enjoy a bowl of chaat or a spicy fruit plate on your outing - a little snack on the way home. When I was growing up, oh what the heck even now, when I visit India, enjoying a treat from the vendor is part of the "day out."
What is Chaat?
Chaat is a food class in itself, unique to India. Chaat literally means "to lick"! Chaat was traditionally only available in northern India, but now it is available throughout the country with migration and cultural assimilation. It's a concoction of various foods smothered with sweet and sour chutneys and spice blends. Chaat can be made with little crispy fried breads (papdi chaat), potatoes (Aloo Tikki), or chickpeas (chole bhature). What makes a dish a chaat is not what it starts with but what goes on the top. Chaat never fails to get one's taste buds going. Young or old, everyone loves chaat. A common Indian phrase is "chaatori hai," meaning a girl who likes chaat—although in my experience, boys like them equally well. I think it became attached to girls because their desire to eat chaat often increases when women are pregnant. This is similar to the pickles and pregnant women myth in America.
A pregnant woman craves chaat (like pickles).
Traditionally, chaat was primarily sold by street vendors at kiosks. Today, it's available in all types of Indian restaurants, from fast-food joints to fancy dining rooms. There is no substitute for chaat, and once you taste it, you'll be hooked. It is best shared with family and friends. I've been known to have just a chaat party, and for my cynical, purist Indian friends who think chaat cannot be a meal, I also make a pulao (rice pilaf) so that they feel nourished.
Let’s Have a Chaat Party
Plan ahead: Making chaat is labor-intensive but well worth the effort. Most of the time is spent making chutneys such as cilantro chutney and tamarind chutney. These days you can find these chutneys in most Indian grocery stores, and they are pretty good. I, of course, make my own, because they are the best. Make the chutneys a few days in advance to help pace yourself. Make sure you hide the chutneys, so you have them for your chaat extravaganza.
Depending on what chaat you're serving, look at the ingredients and prep a few things in advance. For example, for papdi chaat, I will make everything in advance or purchase the ingredients ahead of time, so on the day, I will make only 1-2 items fresh and just assemble the chaat. Assembling papdi chaat is a last-minute process; thus, I have to set up my chaat station like the "chaat wala," the chaat vendor.
Take the time to enjoy, savor, and taste every flavor and texture of the concoction, the chaat.
Papdi Chaat (Indian Nachos)
I recently did a virtual cooking demo for my group Les Dames d'Escoffier International (LDEI) – Greater Des Moines Chapter, for Women's History Month. Dame Elizabeth Chawla (owner of Kaveli Foods) helped me with the demo, and Dame Susan Hoss assisted with the zoom demo
Unfortunately, we were not able to record the demo, but here are the recipes (these are new original recipes and are not in my cookbook).
Papdi Chaat and its components are new original recipes and are not in my cookbook - feel free to forward them to your friends.
Papdi chaat is one of my favorite types of chaat. I call them Indian Nachos because it's a layering of flavors and textures, and once I dig into a papdi chaat, I don't want anything else. I have served papdi chaat as a meal, a snack, or an appetizer.
Quick Note and disclaimer: Papdi chaat is really nachos, in any traditional sense. Papdi Chaat is unique and is naturally vegetarian and healthy as it is papdi (like chips) layered with plain yogurt, chickpeas, chutneys, and spices - there is no cheese or meat in the dish.
For full recipe and details, please see detailed Papdi Chaat Directions, click here.
Tortilla Papdi (see recipe) – Make from tortillas, purchase papdi, or from scratch – I typically make them from tortillas. If you are ambitious and want to make them from scratch - see Papdi Recipe here.
Tamarind chutney (see recipe) – I always make my own chutney using a block of tamarind. But you can purchase prepared tamarind chutney from an Indian grocery store. You can also make chutney using tamarind concentrate (I've to admit, not my favorite, but it is easy and works when in a hurry).
Roasted cumin powder (see recipe) – Roast and grind cumin seeds a few days ahead. Store in an airtight container – it's a great spice, and you'll use it again and again.
Chickpeas (canned or boiled)- I tend to use canned
Plain yogurt (not Greek yogurt)
Fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional garnish)
Pomegranate arils (optional garnish)
Assemble the papdi chaat to order and enjoy. See assembly directions here.
Your friends and family will ask for it again.
Other Chaat Recipes in my Cookbooks
What about other types of chaat? Here, I have picked three mouthwatering dishes for you from The Indian Vegan Kitchen: Potato Patty Snack (Aloo Tikki Chaat, page 71), Veggie Sloppy Joe Sandwiches (Pav-Bhaji, page 82), and Blackened Spicy Chickpeas (Chole, page 121). When I make chaat for my family, I make just one type of chaat, but I would probably make all three for a party.
Happy and Healthy Cooking!
A reminder: Papdi Chaat is a new original recipe and is not in my cookbooks - feel free to forward them to your friends.
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