Chaat or Chat are appetisers, teasers or small bites eaten as a snack. They are flavoured with a very special spicy and tart spice mix that is a wonderful pairing with vegetables, lentils and fruit. It is particularly used to flavour fried pastries, potato dishes, chickpeas and tomato based salads.
Chaat Masala is full of wonderful, contradictory flavours. There are many ways to use it, and it is an essential ingredient to the wonderful Indian street food dish – Chickpea Chat with Chaat Masala.
Chat or Chaat – Indian Street Food
The word chat or chaat means to lick and the word masala means spice mix in Hindi. So generally, the word chat is used for a collection of savoury and highly spicy snacks that would make you lick /smack your lips – if that was acceptable in Indian etiquette.
Chaat is traditionally sold by street hawkers in India and comes under a group of foods known as Indian Street Foods. Chaat dishes are distinguished by the use of Chat Masala which imparts that spicy sour “woh hoh” flavour to the main ingredient of a chat dish. You can buy this powder, but you can also make your own – it is much superior. It is easy to make and you can vary it to your heart’s content.
Asafoetida, mango powder (amchur), and black salt distinguish the chat masala from other spice mixes, giving the blend a sourness that makes it a welcome accompaniment to fresh fruit and other snacks.
Black salt (which is actually reddish gray), available at Indian food stores, is highly mineralised, and has a distinctive flavour that’s quite different from sea salt or table salt. Use in small quantities. It has a strongly mineralised aroma as well as taste.
- Chaat Masala can be used to spice up many snacks, salads, fruit salads, fruit juices, and some curries.
- Add it to roasted nuts, yoghurt and yoghurt dishes.
- You can use it in all sorts of Indian chat recipes.
- Or sprinkle 1-2 tspn on your fruit or vegetable salad, squeeze a little lemon juice over the salad, mix it thoroughly and enjoy!
- Especially nice is fresh fruit sprinkled with lime juice and chat masala.
- Use it with vegetable crudites.
Make in advance and store it in a jar or airtight container. It will keep a number of months to years, but all masalas (curry mixes) are best made often for maximum flavour.
1 Tblspn cumin seeds
1 tspn fennel seeds
1 tspn ajwain seeds (optional)
1 – 2 whole red dried chillies
1 Tbspn coriander seeds
0.5 Tblspn black peppercorns
1 Tblspn garam masala
1 Tblspn mango powder (amchur)
0.5 Tblspn black salt
1 tspn cayenne pepper or 2 tpsn chilli powder
1 pinch asafoetida powder
0.5 Tblspn sea salt
Optional: To add “warmth” to the mix (not chilli heat, just a nice body warmth) include:
1 tspn cloves
1 tspn nutmeg
1 tspn cardamom powder or seeds
1 tspn cinnamon powder or 2.5 cm stick cinnamon
1.5 tspn ground ginger
Dry roast the following spices separately in a heated frying pan. I put my mortar next to the stove and as I roast each one, I tip it into the mortar ready for grinding:
– fennel, cumin, ajwain, dried chillies, coriander, peppercorns, cardamom seeds
Roast them individually until each one browns a little and a rich aroma arises. You will know when you smell it. Be careful with the chillies – they burn easily.
Put the asafoetida powder into the frying pan and roast for 30 seconds or less. Add to the other spices.
Mix these spices with the remaining ingredients and grind to a powder in a blender, processor or spice grinder.
Keep in an airtight jar.