Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chaat Potato Salad, Husband Style

Chaat is an Indian snack food. Often eaten on the street, it involves potatoes, onions, tamarind or date sauce, coriander sauce, and an assortment of fried crunchy bits. In essence, it is fried, unhealthy, escapist eating on small stainless steel plates. So, why has chaat not caught on in America? This is after all the land of unhealthy snack food. As the combination of saucy and fried requires immediate consumption, it is not tasty when placed on an Indian buffet—the most common way for most to experience Indian food.

There was a place in Berkeley called Vik’s that made perfect chaat—like Aloo Chaat (boiled potatoes, crunchy disks of fried dough, raw onion, piquant tamarind sauce, and coriander) and Samosa Chole (rich, spicy chickpea stew over a fried samosa). The restaurant was basically a converted garage with plastic spoons and café tables. But it was always packed, and with two or three people behind the counter turning out food to order everything was fresh.

Chaat offerings in Cleveland are singularly unsatisfying, so usually I just dream of the snacks. About once a year, I succumb to my cravings. It involves making two to three sauces, boiling potatoes, and frying stuff. While each of these tasks are easy when taken alone, the sum total of tasks, all for a small plate of food that is available on every street corner in India, smacks of futility. I just read a great post about making pani poori, so in a few months I will likely get up the energy to make chaat.

But tonight, my husband perfected our new short cut—Potato Salad, Chaat style. We made a seriously more mannered version the other day. We had a brown curry on hand, so this would be a great recipe to use up those Indian leftovers. We had store bought mango chutney and a homemade coriander one on hand, but store bought would be fine. The result was tangy, cool, salty, vinegary, sweet and refreshing—this was clearly one heck of a potato salad. It is also my final recipe for the potato contest.

Potato Salad Chaat Style
Combine in a large bowl
2 T finely diced onion
2 T brown curry sauce
3 T vinegar
pinch of salt
¼ cup red pepper diced
1 T & 1 t chaat masala
1-2 t Major Grey’s Chutney
2 T Coriander Chutney
2-3 large baking potatoes, cooked (Ideally still warm)

After everything is combined, let the mixture rest a room temperature for at least 1/2 hour to let the flavors mix. Serve topped with sev (available at Indian grocery stores.)

Chaat Masala
1.5 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ajwain seed
1 teaspoon black salt
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground asafetida
2 teaspoon amchur
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Brown Curry Sauce (This will make enough for a dinner of curried tofu and leftovers for the potato salad)
Sautee in olive oil
3 medium onions diced
1-2 T ginger paste
1 T garlic paste
1 T cumin
2 t turmeric
2 t coriander seeds
1 t cinnamon
1 t red chili flakes or chili powder

When the onions have browned, put in a blender until lumpy but not watery. Return the mixture to the pan and add
1 T tomato paste
½ cup crushed tomatoes.
salt to taste

Simmer until it the tomatoes have blended into the onion paste.

During the simmering phase, add sautéed tofu, boiled potatoes and boiled carrots. Serve with white rice and something acidic like pickled jalapenos or fukujinzuke.


DK said...

Oh they are so delicious luking. I luv chaats and your ingredients are so different and unique. Have bookmarked the recipe.Your Sliders with burgers and Buns are also new to me and are bookmarked. Thanks for sending these unique creations my way :)

maybellesmom said...

thanks for the contest and the comments.

White On Rice Couple said...

Thanks for the great info here! I never heard of chaats and even better knowing that they are a street food. Love it!
I'm gonna try this with the swiss chard dish you gave me too soon. I'm waiting for the swiss chard to get bigger!