Street food has become fashionable in the last few years and some restaurants now exclusively serve only street foods! But what is street food? Street food has to have the following properties: 1. Most of the preparation could be done in advance 2. Requires only minimal preparation before serving 3. Can be eaten standing without too much discomfort. And chaat checks out on all of these requirements.
Chaat is found everywhere on the streets of North India. Normally, a shop serving chaat will also serve golgappas (also called panipuris or gupchups which are little balls of spicy heaven which melt in your mouth). As you queue up, food vendors will ask you whether you want chaat or golgappas. While both of these dishes are phenomenally tasty, you have to pick one. And I mostly always picked chaat and my younger sister always picked golgappas. Then I would try to scam some golgoppas off my sister. Does this choice reveal something profound about our personalities? I wonder? But I digress.
A good chaat has a number of components but at a minimum it requires three items: lentil dumplings, tamarind chutney and yogurt. Other items which make the chaat special are: papdi (fried dough discs), green chutney and chickpeas. Moreover, you can buy most of the items from a store (if in a rush or can’t be bothered) but I highly recommend making lentil dumplings, tamarind chutney and green chutney from scratch. These are not too much effort and completely worth the trouble. They really up your chaat game!!
The lentil dumplings that are sold in the streets, called bhalla, are made from black lentils (dhote maah daal) whereas the dumplings that my mom makes are from yellow lentils (moongi daal). While both are pretty tasty, the ones made from moongi daal, called filauria, are more flavourful. I enjoy both but definitely prefer filauria.
You can also serve the filaurias as a tea-time snack with tamarind chutney green chutney rather than make the chaat.
- 1 cup yellow lentils moongi daal
- 2 tbsp plain yogurt
- 1 green chilli
- 1/2 tsp red chillies
- 1 tsp cumin seeds roasted and grounded
- Salt to taste
- Oil for frying preferably smoked mustard oil
- 2 cups plain yogurt
- 10 tbsp tamarind chutney
- 5 tbsp coriander and mint chutney
- 1 tsp chaat masala
- Salt to taste
Make filauria (dumplings)
- Wash the lentils thoroughly and soak them in plently of water. Make sure that there is water left over even after the lentils have soaked the water.
- If soaking overnight, cover the lentils and put them in the fridge. If soaking for 4-5 hours, then leave it outside.
- Two hour before cooking, drain the water. Save the water so that can add it back in the batter if the batter is too thick.
- Grind the lentils to a slightly coarse consistency. You don't want the batter too fine.
- Add two tbsp of yogurt to the lentil mix and set it aside for 1-2 hour.
- When read to fry, add red chillies, roast cumin seeds and salt to the mix.
- Set the oil to high heat. When the oil is hot, add a drop of mixture to the oil and if rises to the top quickly, then the oil is hot and ready for frying.
- Make a little ball of mixture ( 1-2 tbsp) with your fingers and gently put it in the oil (don't drop the filauri in the oil as it will cause the oil to splash!)
- Fry about 4 or 5 filauris in one go but make sure that they don't stick together in the frying plan. Once they are golden brown on one side, turn them around gently so that they are cooked on both sides.
- The trick is to maintain the oil at high-enough temperature so that the filauris are not burning or taking too long to cook. If the oil is too hot, the filauris will burn on the outside but won't cook on the inside. It the oil is not hot enough, the filauris will turn hard and chewy. Alternate the heat between high and medium-high if needed to keep the oil at right temperature.
- Use a slotted spoon the remove the filauris from the oil and set them on a paper-towel lined plate.
- At this point, you can serve the filauri with tamarind chutney and green chutney as a snack to go with masala chai. But if you want to make the chaat, contiue following the next steps.
Prep the filauris for chaat
- Boil water in an large pan.
- Once the water has come to boil, add the filauris to the water and turn off the heat. You want to make sure that you have enough water to so that all the filauris are completely submerged in water.
- Soak the filauris in water for about 2-3 minutes or less depending on how hot the water. You don't want to soak them too long as they fall apart but you want to soak them long enough so they are soft and hot water has leeched off the oil.
- Once the filauri have softened, squeeze water out of them. This step is tricky as the water is hot so you have to be careful not to burn your hands. Also, you have to make sure you don't squeeze tightly as that will break the filauris but if you squeeze too lightly, it will result in slightly wet and oily filauris.
- Set the filauris aside to cool. Once the filauris have cooled down, you can construct the chaat. You can leave the filauris in the fridge for couple of hours.
Construct the chaat
- Lightly beat the yogurt so that it's smooth and creamy. Add 2-3tbsp of milk to have a creamy consisteny.
- See links in the notes below for making tamarind chutney (imli chutney) and coriander and mint chutney.
- You can make about five plates of chaat and it's best to make each plate separately.
- In each plate add, add 5-6 tbsp of yogurt, add 3-4 filauris, add 1-2 tbsp of tamarind chutney, 1 tbsp of green chutney. Sprinkle salt and chaat masala according to taste.