Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Journal: Chaat, Recipes from the Kitchens, Markets and Railways of India

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I am quickly perplexed the clerk who helped me find groceries at the indian market in Issaquah, Washington. She looked at the length of the shopping list on my clipboard, then at me, and said, “Let me find the manager. He and I went through the first 10 or 15 ingredients, stuff like black chickpeas, Kashmiri chili powder, jaggery, black seed, curry leaves and buttermilk, before he gave in. .

“What do you do?”

These purchases created a whole new annex to my spice drawer. I was happy to switch from consuming one of my favorite foods – the Indian snack known as chaat – to doing it myself, thanks to a fantastic new cookbook. My guide was its author, Maneet Chauhan, an Indian chief with a set of restaurants in Nashville and a slot on the Food Network show Chopped.

Chef Maneet Chauhan, one of the authors of Chaat recipe book.

Photography: Amelia J Moore

It was an exciting leap to take: Chauhan and his co-author, Jody eddy, use their book Chaat: Recipes from the Kitchens, Markets and Railways of India to introduce readers to what I consider to be the funniest food most westerners have ever eaten. It’s also perhaps the least subtle of foods, pressing all of our buttons at once, delivering huge doses of sweet, sour, salt and salty, with a litany of spice, spicy to funky and multiple varieties. crunchy.

My favorite and suggested introductory medicine is bhel puri. Chop up ingredients like baked potato, red onion, cilantro, tomato and mango. Add spoonfuls of tamarind and cilantro-mint chutney, add toasted cumin seeds and large scoops of puffed rice, sprinkle with chaat masala, itself a tangy and funky spice blend, and mix gently. . If at any point in this ingredient list you have thought, it’s probably a lot, you missed the point. Instead, sprinkle crispy, tiny noodles with chickpea flour on top.

It’s fresh and healthy and the gourmet equivalent of being in a room full of your best friends, an explosion of joy on your palate. I don’t know how your pandemic is going, but I’m 100% having a little fun right now.

So… what is chaat again? The Hindi word for “lick” – chaats are street snacks that Chauhan describes as “tangy and sweet, fiery and crunchy, salty and sour, all in one mouthful upside down… They often include a main element such than an idli or puffed rice, which is served with a variety of other ingredients such as chutneys, yogurt and chaat masala.

Chauhan’s book is your passport to this joy. Chaat is classic Indian station cuisine, and it reminds us that Mumbai alone has five major stations and over a hundred local stations, each with its own chaat specialties. The book, with pictures of Linda Xiao, is structured like a train trip across the country, with each section broken down into recipes for a handful of regional specialties. While there are a few more compound shots, most of them come from Chauhan, Eddy, and Xiao’s trip there. My favorite is a passport sized photo of the chef on page 113, enthusiastically munching on a potato fritter sandwich called vada pav. As she says, it’s “a baseball-sized potato donut stuffed into a flaky white bun, smeared with coconut and spicy green chili chutneys, then mashed until so it’s small enough to fit in your mouth. ” No frills here, just great food.

Courtesy of Clarkson Potter


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