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Chaat: Indian Street Cuisine

Sunday, February 10th, 2013 Indian Desserts

Indian Chaat

If you’re from India, or have had the opportunity to stay for an extended period of time, chaat, Indian street cuisine, is the one part of day-to-day life you will probably miss the most. Whether you’ve left permanently, for business, study, or travel, it’s rare you’ll come across what seems like a sea of endless dishes to choose from, so many that it’s impossible to leave for an extended period of time and miss just one.

Recently, I returned to Mumbai to rediscover the flavors that continue to inspire the dishes we prepare at Palki. On one of my first trips out, I was reminded of how India’s culture has such a direct influence over its cuisine that I was delightfully overwhelmed by the extent of it. It is actually the diverse mix of readily accessible flavors that has made chaat so popular.

People will often grab a quick bite after work, or they’ll roam the streets with loved ones searching for the right mix of savory bites.

In Vancouver, well North America for that matter, it’s easy to find samosas, or pakoras but it’s difficult to find some of my personal favorites such as sev puri, pani puri or papri. Sev Puri, a type of Indian canapé, is a biscuit made with flour and topped with diced tomatoes, onions, potatoes, mint chutney, tamarind chutney and sev, small Indian noodles made with chick pea flour. The first bite, flavor explosion, think skittles ad circa mid ’90s.

The spice from the onions and mint chutney is neutralized by the sweet and tangy tamarind chutney. After enjoying my sev puri, I was tempted to have another but my friend convinced me to head over to Jhama, a popular chaat outlet in Chembur, for some dahi puri. Similar to sev puri, dahi puri features homemade yoghurt and chickpeas.

Because of the yoghurt, dahi puri is milder in comparison but you are still introduced to a mix of several spices along with a hint of sour tanginess from the yoghurt. After enjoying some savory treats, it’s a given to want something sweet. Luckily, we were in the right place, Jhama is ranked number one for Gulab Jamun in Mumbai.

These sweet milk dumplings are soaked in light sugar syrup flavored with cinnamon stick, cardamom and rosewater. Until my next report, give chaat a try, Palki has pakoras, papri chaat and gulab jamun.