Chaat is a term describing savoury snacks, typically served at road-side tracks from stalls or carts in India. With its origins in Uttar Pradesh, chaat has become immensely popular in the rest of India and the Indian Sub-continent.
The chaat variants are all based on fried dough, with various other ingredients. The original chaat is a mixture of potato pieces, crispy fried bread Dahi vada or Dahi Bhalla (“Bhalla” in Hindi), gram or chickpeas and tangy-salty spices, with sour home-made Indian chilli and Saunth (dried ginger and tamarind sauce), fresh green coriander leaves and yogurt for garnish, but other popular variants included Aloo tikkis (garnished with onion, coriander, hot spices and a dash of curd), bhel puri, dahi puri, panipuri, dahi vada, papri chaat, and sev puri.
There are common elements among these variants including dahi, or yogurt; chopped onions and coriander; sev (small dried yellow salty noodles); and chaat masala. This is a masala, or spice mix, typically consisting of amchoor (dried mango powder), cumin, Kala Namak (rock salt), coriander, dried ginger, salt, black pepper, and red pepper. The ingredients are combined and served on a small metal plate or a banana leaf, dried and formed into a bowl.
Most chaats originated in some parts of Uttar Pradesh in India, but they are now eaten all across the Indian Sub-continent. Some are results of cultural syncretism – for instance, pav bhaji (Bread/bun with cooked and mashed vegetables) reflects a Portuguese influence, in the form of a bun, and bhel puri (Sev puri), was created by a Gujarati migrant to Mumbai.
In cities where chaat is popular, there are popular chaathouses or dhabas, such as Mumbai’s Chowpatty Beach. The chaat specialities vary from city to city. Chaat from Agra and Mathura are famous throughout India. In Hyderabad, chaat is mostly prepared by vendors hailing from Bihar, and is different in taste.
Types of chaat
Aloo chaat vendor, Connaught Place, New Delhi
Aloo Chaat – Aloo (potatoes) are cut into small pieces and then fried till crisp and served with chutney
Chila – Besan pancakes served with chutney and sooth (sweet chutney)
Pakora – Different things such as paneer, vegetable dipped in besan (Chickpea/gram flour) paste and fried.
Samosa Chaat – Samosa is broken into pieces with green and sweet chutney added to it.
Mangode – Similar to pakora, but besan paste is replaced with yellow moong paste.
Bedai – Puri stuffed with dal and fried till crisp. Typically served with aloo sabji and eaten for breakfast.