Chaat is more than just a dish or singular culinary concept; chaat is a whole lifestyle. In much the same way that almost anything could be defined as a salad, with minimal rationalization, everything and anything is chaat. In fact, salad could qualify as chaat and vice versa. You could eat chaat for every meal, even though it’s commonly thought of as a snack. It’s a solo savory treat and also a party starter. Everywhere you go in India, chaat is found everywhere tucked away in back alleys, hawked on the street, packed into kids’ lunchboxes, and spread lavishly across top restaurant tables.
So… What Is Chaat?
Known for its aromatic spices and tangy sauces, chaat is an entire genre of Indian street food that offers a symphony of exotic tastes and textures. The range of possibilities spans beyond conventional limits; there are no wrong answers. Every region has certain affinities or specialties, but that’s only the beginning of the story. Chaat is a living recipe that continues to evolve with every subsequent cook that puts their own spin on it.
How Can You Build Your Own Chaat?
Formulas can be simple or complex, ranging from a half dozen ingredients to a list that’s longer than your average CVS receipt. The key is to balance contrasting flavors and textures by including elements that are crunchy, creamy, spicy, sour, fresh, sweet, and savory. When crafting your own chaat, here are the basics to start with and some suggestions for making it your own.
All About That Base
Carbs are the foundation to build upon, which usually means potatoes for me. That’s why I call mine aloo chaat anyhow, but that doesn’t mean we can’t invite more players to the party. Cut carbs and swap half or all for roasted zucchini or cauliflower. Switch it up with sweet potatoes, or dig other root vegetables like parsnips, rutabaga, or turnips. Other traditional selections include smashed samosas and crushed papad.
Consider this the salad portion of the program. Raw vegetables are chopped finely for a refreshing foil to the often heavy base. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions are common. If you want a shortcut, you can always pick up some prepared pico de gallo, or any chunky fresh salsa, and no one would be the wiser.
Chutney will never go out of style. It’s like an accessory that goes with everything and pulls the whole outfit together. You don’t have to choose just one, either; stack them to make a bigger statement. Top choices include cilantro chutney, tamarind chutney, and mango chutney, which are respectively herbaceous, tangy, and sweet to make a well-rounded trio. Don’t forget a drizzle of unsweetened yogurt for a bit of creamy richness.
This is what I consider the fun stuff that really sets chaat apart from the average pile of foodstuffs. Sev, which are fine strands of deep fried chickpea noodles, are most popular. They can be a bit tricky to find in the US, so I like to use wheat-based crispy chow mien noodles instead. Crunchy chickpeas, either store bought or homemade, are another excellent addition especially for adding more plant-based protein. Don’t forget toasted nuts or seeds, pomegranate arils, and even crispy rice cereal.
The Spice Is Right
Arguably the single most important component of any chaat is the chaat masala, AKA chaat spice blend. This one is distinctive for its heavy use of kala namak, also known as “black salt” even though it’s a light pink color in real life, which contributes an unmistakable sulfur aroma. This is the primary culprit for eggy flavor in vegan scrambles, but it takes on all new life alongside a pungent blend of toasted spices. Already boldly umami, that savory taste is further heightened with the addition of Sugimoto shiitake powder. It comes alive when the powder touches moisture, becoming even more potent than a regular fresh shiitake mushroom. For best results, I like to toss the base with the chaat masala, infusing those flavors right into the core. You cal always finish it with a second sprinkle once fully assembled for extra oomph.
Want to simplify your chaat?
- Start with a ready-made chaat masala spice blend and simply add shiitake powder to amplify those spices.
- Use prepared chutney, and if tamarind eludes you entirely, try a drizzle of pomegranate molasses instead.
- Cook the potatoes in advance and store them for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat them for 1 – 2 minutes in the microwave when ready to serve.
Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients. Everything is optional, adaptable, and open to interpretation. I haven’t even scratched the surface on all that chaat can be. Worry less about authenticity and focus on flavor first. There are endless ways to make chaat, and if you focus on creating a delicate balance between seemingly disparate, contrasting tastes, you will never go wrong.
- 3 Tablespoons Whole Cumin Seeds
- 1 Tablespoon Whole Coriander Seeds
- 1 Teaspoon Whole Peppercorns
- 1 Teaspoon Whole Carom Seeds (Ajwain) or Caraway Seeds
- 1/4 Cup Dried Mango Powder (Amchur) or Sumac
- 2 Tablespoons Black Salt (Kala Namak)
- 1 Tablespoon Shiitake Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Mint
- 1/2 Teaspoon Asafoetida Hing (Optional)
- 2 Pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, Diced
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 2 Tablespoons Chaat Masala
- 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
- 1 Clove Garlic
- 1 Shallot, Chopped
- 1 Jalapeno, Chopped
- 1 Cup Fresh Cilantro, Roughly Torn
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1/3 Cup Pomegranate Arils
- 2 Roma Tomatoes, Diced
- 1 Jalapeno, Sliced
- 3 - 4 Tablespoons Plain, Unsweetened Vegan Yogurt
- 2 - 3 Tablespoons Mango Chutney (Optional)
- 2 Tablespoons Pomegranate Syrup or Tamarind Chutney
- 1/2 - 1 Cup Sev, Crispy Chickpeas, Puffed Rice Cereal, and/or Chow Mien Noodles
- To make the chaat masala, set a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the whole cumin, coriander, peppercorns, and ajwain. Toast for 2 - 3 minutes, until highly aromatic. Transfer to your blender or spice grinder. Let rest until cool; about 5 - 10 minutes.
- Add the amchur, kala namak, shiitake powder, ginger, mint, and asafoetida. Grind until finely everything is powdered and well mixed. Store in an airtight glass jar until ready to use.
- For the potatoes, preheat an oven to 400 degrees* and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the diced potatoes in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil, garlic, chaat masala, and lemon juice until thoroughly coated. Spread them out in an even layer in across the prepared pan. Roast for 20 - 25 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown and easily pierced with a fork.
- Meanwhile, prepare the cilantro chutney as the potatoes bake. Combine the garlic, shallot, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse to break down the vegetables. With the motor running, slowly stream in the oil to emulsify. Continue blending until the mixture is mostly smooth, with just a bit of texture remaining from the cilantro leaves. Pause to scrape down the sides of the canister, making sure everything is incorporated, as needed.
- To serve, either spread the potatoes out on one large platter or divide them between individual plates for each person. Drizzle with cilantro chutney and top with pomegranate arils, diced tomatoes, jalapeno, dollops of yogurt and mango chutney, pomegranate syrup or tamarind chutney, and any of the crunchy additions as desired. Enjoy right away while hot and crunchy!
*Alternately, the potatoes can be air fried at 370 degrees for 15 minutes, cooked in two - 3 separate batches.
Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 461Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2371mgCarbohydrates: 79gFiber: 10gSugar: 22gProtein: 10g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.