By now most of you must have got introduced to my friend Anita of "Slice of my Lyfe", who very conveniently stays right across the block. So when we had this delicious "Indian street food night" at her places with all these yummy treats, I had to share it with you all. And if you are thinking, then yes she made all of these. I know how jealous you are feeling. So without getting in the way of good food and great writing, I would let Anita do the talking! __________________________________________________________________________________
I must thank Anamika for this wonderful opportunity to do a guest post for her. This would be my first ever food guest post for any blog. I follow Anamika’s blog ardently because her posts are emotionally moving and photos tell stories all by themselves. With this guest post I want to wish her a wonderful holiday in the Swiss Alps, while the not so lucky ones like me sweat it out in the desert.
I have been living an expat home maker’s life for last 3 years. Before this, when I worked with a corporate, I lead a nomad’s life travelling for months and staying for short durations in a number of countries. Adapting to different countries, their culture, people, the food, the climate now seems a lot easier than before. It is the part, I take for granted now. But there are some days where I miss the country of my birth more than other days. The intensity sometimes shocks me and I find myself reminiscing my growing up years, the food that I grew up eating, and many such little things that otherwise wouldn’t cross my mind. It is then, when the heart becomes restless and seeks for familiar tastes, sounds, smells and emotions.
Whenever I visit Delhi I make it a point to visit Chandni Chowk to fall into a food coma. The aroma emanating from the parathewali gali, the sinful daulat ki chaat, the piping hot jalebis are what make life worth living, in my opinion. Chandni Chowk is the Mecca of good food, if I can humbly say so. In the same breath, I have to also add that Gujarat (in the western part of India) is also famous for their variation of the chaats. Ahmedabad has Law Garden where the Pav Bhaji is to die for and Vijay Chaar rasta serves the vada pav that is has no parallel (I am sure a lot of Mumbai-Pune people might disagree though). So such is my craze for the simple street food and it has left an indelible impression on my heart and mind.
The beautiful part about living in the world that we live right now is that nothing seems out of reach. Especially for food, with ingredients available easily, it is possible to recreate flavours. For that instant when I savour that food; it lets me escape to where I once belonged.
August ushers the festival mode in India. One festival after the other rolls in bringing with it, its unique emotion, ritual, change of season and fervour. This is also the month when nostalgia hits me and I find myself craving to go back in that familiar space and among familiar people. This is the month I miss India the most. In one such weak moment I craved for the comfort of Indian Street food that we commonly call ‘chaat’. I can unabashedly admit that this is what I miss the most about India. There are places here in Bahrain (where I live now); that offer a good imitation of this heavenly mesh-mash of ingredients but it comes nowhere close to the original.
Anamika and I stay quite close to each other and hence have the opportunity to meet up quite often. I relayed to her my desire to gorge on some chaat and we ended up doing an Indian Street Food themed dinner at my place. This was the first time I tried making some of the popular chaats at home. What I realized from this endeavour is that it does take a lot of patience and whole lot of ingredients to make a seemingly simple looking dish. It is the balance of the flavours – sweet, sour and spicy that makes or breaks a chaat. I proposed to make the infamous Aloo Tikki, some Dahi Puri and Bhel. Anamika was thoughtful to bring some fabulous Pav Bhaji and for dessert, I made some Rasagulla at home. All in all it was such a wonderful evening where we and our spouses had a hearty time exchanging interesting ‘Chaat’ stories.
Aloo Tikki – This potato cutlet based chaat is wholesome and hearty in its own right. Calorie wise, in my opinion, it should make a complete meal by itself. But the nature of chaats is to make us crave for more. So Aloo Tikki does just that - it acts as an appetizer for the rest of the chaats to follow! I followed the famous Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipe for Aloo Tikki and I wasn’t disappointed the way it turned out. I made a slight change and did not stuff the Tikki (cutlets) like he has mentioned in the recipe.
Aloo Tikki Recipe:
Potatoes 4 large
Salt to taste
Oil to shallow fry
Matara, boiled 1/2 cup
Yogurt 1/4 cup
Sweet date and tamarind chutney - 2 tablespoons
Green chutney 1/2 tablespoon
Roasted cumin powder 1/4 teaspoon
Chaat masala 1/4 teaspoon
Red chilli powder 1/4 teaspoon
Papdis, crushed a few
- Boil potatoes. Peel and grate. Put them in a bowl, add salt and mix.
- Knead the grated potatoes. Apply oil in hand. Take a portion of mashed potatoes and shape into a tikki. These tikkis should be thick and round.
- Heat oil on a tawa, place the tikkis on it and shallow fry. When one side is golden, turn over and fry till the other side is also golden.
- To serve, take a tikki on a plate. Open it in the center and put matara on it. Put some yogurt, sweet date and tamarind chutney, green chutney.
- Sprinkle cumin powder, black salt, remaining chaat masala powder, remaining red chilli powder. Crush a few papdis and top up the chaat with it. Serve immediately.
The chaat has a few staple ingredients that lend it the addictive flavour. A chaat gets the tangy flavour from the date-tamarind chutney and the fire from the coriander and mint chutney. Both of these chutneys are very easy to make and find themselves a staple in most Indian homes.
Date – Tamarind Chutney
2 cups of pitted dates
¼ cup of tamarind (deseeded)
1 tsp of chilli powder
Pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste
4 cups of water
1. Add all the ingredients in a sauce pan and it cook for 40 minutes.
2. Cool and strain.
3. It will make for a larger quantity than you may actually require. So you can bottle the rest and store it in the refrigerator. It stays for a very long time and discard it when you see traces of fungus on it.
Coriander Mint Chutney
A small bunch of coriander leaves (Remove the big stems and retain the leaves, wash thoroughly and chop)
A small bunch of mint (Remove the big stems and retain the leaves, wash thoroughly and chop)
Salt to taste
2 tsp of sugar
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 green chilli chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic chopped
Water as required
Shove all the ingredients in a blender and blend with required amount of water. Store in an airtight container.
Dahi Puri – The main hero of this dish is the semolina crunch balls that can be easily bought from the market unless you want to go through the entire hardship of making and frying them at home. I wouldn’t dream of doing it. So I bought them from a Gujarati Restaurant in Manama.
Way to assemle: Then all I did was to gently tap it on the top to crack it open and shoved some yogurt, boiled, peeled potatoes cut to tiny pieces, some boiled black gram, some rock salt, chaat masala, pomegranate seeds, sev and garnish it with coriander, date-tamarind chutney and coriander chutney.
Phew!!!The results were this drool worthy pots of savoury, tangy and sweet deliciousness that can inspire poetry from non poets too. Okay, I may have exaggerated a bit there. But it was really good.
Bhelpuri- This is a savoury snack that can whet my appetite any day. It is a mixture of different fried snacks which is then spiced up by condiments and chutneys. A bhel is best consumed as soon as it is prepared else it tends to turn soggy.
A mix of: Bhel is a heady concoction of puffed rice, sev (thin noodle like pieces made out of chick peas flour), fried/roasted peanuts, boiled and chopped potatoes, chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, pomegranate seeds, dollops of green coriander-mint chutney, date-tamarind chutney, rock salt, chat masala, chilli powder and garnished with chopped fresh coriander.
I would rate bhel as anytime snack and hardly takes a few minutes to make. Mix everything well in the end break some papdi (small, fried, savoury, flat breads) which could also be used as a spoon to scoop bhel on the go.
Pav Bhaji- Anamika had brought her sumptuous Pav bhaji. This happens to be my all time favourite and I can eat Pav bhaji till the cows come home. Hers was lightly spiced and show cased the perks of being home made.
Rasagulla – This is one of the most popular milk based sweets in India. It originally hails from the east of India – West Bengal (now they call themselves Paschimbangal). Calcutta is famous for its own version of chaats and I remember wolfing down some phuchka (paani puri) and jhaalmuri (bhel) during my last visit. I always thought it was inordinately difficult to attempt making Rasagulla at home but only until I saw this easy-peasy recipe on Jay’s blog. Check it out for the step-by-step rasgullas made from scratch and in pressure cooker. The rasagullas came out dainty and for added flavour I scattered saffron threads.
We had to tone down the spice a bit since we wanted our toddlers to enjoy their snacks as well. But it did not take anything away from the whole emotion with which we devoured the fare. For now the ‘Chaat’ beast inside me lays low, satiated, until another day.