With Mother’s Day this weekend, it’s only fitting that today’s blog post is another recipe learned from my mother — and also a dish that she absolutely loves.
Chaat is an umbrella term for a certain variety of fast food/street food popular in South Asia. The term chaat means to “lick,” making it quite an appropriate title for this assortment of savory treats that can be found everywhere from stalls to fancy restaurants. There’s all kinds of chaat: samosa chaat, bhelpuri, aloo chaat and then of course today’s recipe, papdi chaat, which features a bed of savory fried crackers amid other delicious ingredients. In some ways, the concept is not terribly different from that of a platter of nachos.
My mother, a chaat fiend who often ruined her dinner by stuffing herself with chaat on outings during my youth, has always had a couple of basic chaat recipes up her sleeve for entertaining at home. Her papdi chaat became a hit over the years, with some family friends even saying they’d only come over to visit if she made the chaat. So when I had a couple of friends over for dinner recently and decided to do some Indian cooking, I thought I’d finally give papdi chaat a try as the appetizer for the night.
The concept is simple: it involves the aforementioned papdis, which I did pick up at an Indian grocery store — but if you’re in a tight spot, you can either fry them yourself at home or even bake them (which is an option I might try out someday when I’m less pressed for time). The remaining ingredients include potatoes, chickpeas, a good amount of yogurt and tamarind sauce. Also key to the process: chaat masala, another ingredient that definitely gets sold at Indian groceries. This is all my mother’s recipe entails — she calls it “Delhi-style” papdi chaat and I’ve always enjoyed it this way, though other regions of India may prepare it somewhat differently.
The end result is a little messy and a lot glorious.
- Serves about 4 as an appetizer
- Potatoes (I used 2 Dutch yellow potatoes)
- 15-ounce can chickpeas
- Papdis (16 to 20)
- 1.25 cup plain regular yogurt, whipped
- Roasted ground cumin
- Tamarind chutney/sauce
- Chaat masala
- Red chili powder
- 1. Boil the potatoes, then peel and cube once they've cooled down.
- 2. Rinse and drain the chickpeas, then put them in a mixing bowl with the potatoes. Add 1 teaspoon chaat masala (or slightly more), along with salt to taste. Mix it all up evenly — and you can also slightly mash the mixture. This mixture can be refrigerated and kept aside a few hours ahead of serving.
- 3. Whip the yogurt until its consistency is on the thinner side. You can add a little water to help it along.
- 4. Assemble the final product moments before you're ready to serve: Dip each papdi in the yogurt until each piece is about half covered and put them on a plate or shallow bowl. Cover the papdis with the potato/chickpea mixture, then pour the yogurt on top as evenly as you can. Drizzle the tamarind sauce/chutney on top.
- 5. Sprinkle some more chaat masala on top of everything, along with some roasted ground cumin and a little red chili powder based on preference. You can serve this alongside a little chaat masala on the side for people to add as they'd like.
If I’ve gone Bollywood for previous Indian recipes, I might as well go for one of the very Indian-influenced Beatles tunes. This song really doesn’t need much of an introduction at all, but the way all the elements meld together certainly suit the nature of chaat: Zingy, with all kinds of popping flavors, yet harmonious too. So turn off your mind, relax… and take a bite to a classic tune.