For the love of Chaat

Ah the joys of street food! You cannot explain in words how the aroma entices you towards that roadside joint. In India, specially in the evenings, the aromas emanating from the griddle or the skillet combined with the articulate noises made by the vendor with his iron spatula on the iron wok, just make you wander towards the stall. Everything is prepared in the open in front of you so there are no secrets, but you just can’t create the same flavor at home!

                     Now there’s one category of street food which is relished all over India – the “Chaat”! I don’t know if there’s a different name for it in the different states, but the composition is the same – grams, peas, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, beaten curd and different kinds of “chutneys” and spices. Then there are the things that are used as the base – puffed rice, puffed balls of flour (golgappas), vadaas and crackers.
                                The golgappas (aka paani puri, puchka, paani bataasha, goup-choup) are a distinct category. It’s an experience by itself just to have the golgappas in a group standing around the vendor, when he places the golgappas one by one in everyone’s extended “donas” (small round plates fashioned out of dry leaves), in a round robin fashion. Every Indian would know (ok, may be the snobs won’t) what it feels like to stand at the stall anticipating your turn when the aroma of the paani (water soured with tamarind/raw mangoes and spiced with cumin, chillies, salt and mint) is tantalizing your nostrils and watering your mouth as the reaction. Today I realized the worth of having exactly the right number of people at the paani-puri stall being served by the vendor. If the number is too less, then you have to eat the puris very fast and then you can’t Othersavour each piece. If the number is too large, then your turn comes very late and the vendor forgets the individual instructions given by everyone as to what they want filled in their puris.
So after posing this question to “Deep Thought”, the answer is 4 (pun intended) :-)! That’s the ideal number of people to be served in one round.
                Had I been in the north of India, I’d also have had the aloo tikkis (potato cutlets – shallow fried on griddle, served with chutneys and curds), the bhel-puri and any other thing that the vendor would have until I could have no more.It’s so much fun but a word of caution – you need a strong immune system to enjoy all this on the roadside! Those who don’t possess it, can give prepare at home but everyone should definitely experience this awesome Indian cuisine called – THE CHAAT! After all, what’s life without some spice :-)..


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