It's not even really a recipe: There are no rules! Chaat is a category of foods that are craveable and flavor-packed. Chaat means "to lick." The idea is that you have lots of flavors and textures all in one bite, each one making you crave the next, and wanting to lick the bowl when you're done. To create this harmonious flavor alchemy at home, you can follow a loose formula of combining flavor and texture categories, balancing them to your taste. The categories for chaat are, loosely: sour, sweet, spicy, savory, crunchy, soft, hot and cold. This bowl is an example of a version of chaat I grew up eating, but please feel free to use your imagination if you don't have the same ingredients. I bet you could create a chaat party with things you already have at home right now. Even the swaps listed below are by no means an exhaustive list!
Technique tip: There is no one recipe for chaat. Every single chaat vendor makes it their own way. Every family makes it their own way. Even on the same table with the same ingredients, no two bowls will ever be exactly the same. Let this be an opportunity to break out of the mold of following recipes exactly — there isn't one. Play with it and experiment so everyone in the family can make their own perfect bowl of chaat-harmony!
Swap option: I'd say the only real non-negotiable for me is the chaat masala. It's really what makes it chaat, and you can make it yourself or buy it online or in many grocery stores. As for the rest, you can swap anything in each category. That's part of what makes it an adventure and a party. One tip to make this version a completely no-cook recipe: Use a can of chickpeas instead of potatoes. Some more swap ideas:
Crunchy: Any crackers, flavored or not, potato chips, tortilla chips, tapioca chips, salty banana chips, Chex, puffed corn, puffed rice.
Sweet: Any berries, sweet potatoes, small chunks of ripe pineapple, mango, apple.
Sour: Any citrus will do! Lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc. Slices of starfruit and small pieces of green mango work, too.
Spicy: Finely chopped ginger, thinly sliced fresh green or red chili, favorite tingly spice blend.
Savory: Cooked chickpeas, any roasted nuts.
Chutneys: Approximate a green chutney by whizzing up whatever leafy green herbs you have around with lemon, a little chili and salt. It doesn't have to be just mint and cilantro. You can also use yogurt as one of your sauces.
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- 1 pound bite-sized pieces cooked potato or 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
- chaat masala, to taste
- chili powder, to taste
- lime wedges, to taste
- salt, to taste
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cups roasted peanuts
- 2 cups roasted corn kernels
- 2 cups puffed rice (bhel)
- 2 cups sev
- 1 jar tamarind chutney
- 1 jar green chutney (mint, cilantro, or both combined)
- pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Cook potatoes using your preferred method. You can steam, boil, roast or fry them, just make sure they're in bite-sized pieces or chunks when you're done with them. Toss potatoes (or chickpeas if you're using them instead) in chaat masala, chili powder, lime juice and salt, to taste. Set aside until ready to assemble.2.
While potatoes are cooking, put each of the other ingredients in its own dish/bowl with a serving spoon. Give everyone their own empty chaat bowl.3.
Everyone makes their own bowl! I like to start with the warm potatoes (or the chickpeas) on the bottom, then pile on the onions, peanuts, corn, bhel and sev.4.
Stir in a dollop each of tamarind and green chutney, and mix it all up.5.
Top with pomegranate seeds. Squeeze some lime over it. Taste a big spoonful and see if it needs anything. Add more chaat masala, salt and chutney, to taste!