Indians have a love affair with food. It isn’t a secret affair either. It’s an infatuation so widespread, the entire country is swept up. It’s called chaat (Pronounced “chahht”). It’s a funny sounding word for the assorted savory snacks typically served at road side stalls throughout India, Pakistan and SE Asia. Millions of hungry customers seek out their favorite chaat vendors each day in order to satisfy the unique taste which can come only from India’s street cuisine.
Chaat is a Hindi word which means “to taste.” It’s small portion size makes for a perfect pick-me-up snack or light afternoon meal. Combine multiple dishes for a larger chaat meal. Stuffed breads with meat or vegetables, deep-fried pastries with dipping sauces; veg and non-veg appetites can easily find something tempting at the local chaatwalla.
The origins of chaat have been greatly disputed. Like Indian food in general, chaat is rather diverse. Many regions of India have specific chaat specialties which are hard to find outside of that area, and some chaat is limited to only a distinctive district within Indian cities or provinces. Even the way chaat is served varies from one stall to the next. One thing is certain, you will need to use your hands.
Chaat is commonly dished up on thin paper plates or in newspaper, folded into cones or square boat-like dishes. Many chaats are deep-fried, like pakoras and samosas, and they may be sweet or savory. The freshly made finger foods are meant to be eaten quickly. Eating chaat can be a noisy, messy experience. A variety of dipping sauces like yogurt raita and spicy ground chili dips are served with chaat, along with relishes and various garnishes. So whether it’s the container used to hold the food, or the base ingredients smothered, stuffed or holding the multitude of spice laden sauces, most chaat don’t hold well if not consumed immediately.
Initially, chaats were known as the street food in cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi and a few North Indian States but now has found a place in the upscale Indian restaurants, weddings and occasions. Even the smallest of towns offers at least one outlet where a traveling local or tourist can quickly pick up a bite on the run. Chaat can also be made at home, either as a standalone meal of mixed chaats or in the form of appetizers for a larger Indian meal.
Popular Indian Chaats
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