Friday, May 15, 2009

Chaat in the Park

I have been in love with chaat, or chat, or however you would care to spell it, since 1997. I was 19, it was my first restaurant job at Takashimaya, and a girl who worked front of the house took me to her favorite Indian snack place called Dimple. The menu was huge, and I was overwhelmed, but my new friend guided me through it, and we ordered almost half of it, which looked like this:

Chat special

All Day

Bhel Puri: puffed crisps served with potatoes, beans pulses, sauce & mint water
Khaman Bhel: puffed crisps served with khaman potatoes, beans pulses, sauce & mint water
Kachori Bhel: puffed crisps served in kachori potatoes, beans pulses, sauce & mint water
Special Bhel: puffed crisps served in kachori with khaman, potatoes, beans, pulses, sauce & mint water
Sev Puri: flour crisps heaped with potatoes, onion, spices & topped with sauces fried vermicelli
Dahi Puri: (gol gappe) puffed crisps served with potatoes, beans, pulses sauce & mint water
Dahi Chat: lentil dumpling in yogurt tossed with crick peas, sauces & topped with vermicelli
Samosa Chat: samosa topped with chick peas, onion, sauces, yogurt & vermicelli
Channa Chat: (cold) baked chick peas with tangy spices
Alu Chat: potatoes & chick peas with sauces topped with vermicelli
Kachori Chat: special kachoris stuffed with chick peas & topped with sauces, yogurt & vermicelli
Ragda Patties: special patties dipped in white beans & tossed with onions sauces & vermicelli

Now Dimple, sadly, does not exist anymore, and I am no longer friends with that girl. However, I am eternally grateful to her, and the place, for the introduction to a new food experience.
Of course, I have never been to India, and am not an expert in Indian food, but there is something so satisfying about this complex snack that clicked with me immediately. That, and the fact that I was sure, as a young girl, that I had been an Indian housewife in a past life. I watched Namaste America every Saturday morning, and ate Deep Brand Original Hot Mix whenever I got the chance. So even though it was my first time tasting chat that fateful day at Dimple, there was already something very familiar and comforting about it. There are usually some crispy bits; puffed rice, chickpea flour chips, vermicelli, that sort of thing, as a base. Then it is seasoned with spices, a chat masala, and topped with various sauces, such as tamarind, mint or cilantro chutneys, perhaps some chopped onions, boiled potatoes, tomatoes, chiles, yogurt, chickpeas, it really depends on what type of chat you are trying to make. I luckily live very close to a few places that make their own delicious items off of the chat list in Jackson Heights, and are much better than anything I could possibly mix together myself but, for experimentation's sake I decided to bring some ingredients to the park, and have a little chat picnic. Behold the pictures I took of my very own version of sev puri. The combination of flavors explode with each bite. Sour tamarind, crunchy crispy bits of vermicelli and puffed rice, soft boiled potatoes, spicy chiles, spicy-sweet mint chutney, and an indescribable mouth-feel. Eaten under a tree, sitting on a striped blanket, out of a plastic container with a plastic spoon, shoes off, and happy.

1 comment:

  1. I want golgappas so bad! Let's go find some next week.