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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The magical thing called papri chaat

For many years after I was born I had no idea that chaat existed. It was a secret that my parents successfully managed to keep for 12 years.

 It was one day when I was at the market with a neighbour that I discovered this irresistible thing called golgappa (pani puri) and papdi chaat.

 At this point I've got to say that Jamshedpur , where I grew up has the most delicious chaat in the world.
Here it is unlike pretentious big cities where you go to swish joints, sit at tables and get served the pani (made of mineral water) and the puri seperately and then you attempt to put the two together with a spoon and end up with disastrous results.
In Jamshedpur you need to patiently await your turn to get to the coveted, grubby ill lit thela (hand cart) - which is just as well because the wait compells you to watch others gorging on the mouthwatering mucky water for long enough to tempt you beyond all reason.

When your turn arrives at last, you are handed a Sal leaf folded into a cup and you gratefully accept the water laden puri from the hands of the stall owner.

Once the ball explodes in your mouth your taste buds go into raptures of joy and the only way you can wait to be served the next golgappa is by slurping the remaining water in the cup while he serves the others.

It is amazing. It is the one time when taste beats logic and you actually understand what greed can do to perfectly sane people.

Greed got the better of me time and again after that and I braved several episodes of upset stomachs but was never discouraged from pursuing excellent taste.

I have never been able to find golgappas and papdi chaat of that calibre in any of the cities that I have subsequently inhabited in the past 20 years. Nothing has given me that heady high that that chaat did and I have not been able to justify the torture of taking ten bitter tablets to cure an upset stomach.

Three years ago I started attending what in the forces is known as ladies clubs. At every meeting home made papdi chaat would rule the table and that's when I hesitantly started imagining recreating this food of the Gods in my kitchen.

 Then - I actually attempted it.

 Though I have to admit that the chaat sans the roadside germs and bacteria can never attain the status that it aspires to - I think it did deserve a pass mark because it was instantly gobbled down.

Papdi chaat - taste that beats all logic

The first step is to get hold of papdi . These are like small puris that are hard instead of soft. Of course it would be great if we could make them at home and I have met people who churn out fabulous home made papdi, but frankly that much work is just not my cup of tea. I buy my papdi from supermarkets and confectioners. I prefer the kind that is salty. In the absence of papdi I have used salty biscuits (Monaco) or even fried papad  - with excellent results.

  1. Soak a cup of chick peas (kabuli chana ) overnight in a lot of water. In the morning pressure cook it with salt to taste and some ginger garlic paste. Pressure cook for one whistle at full flame and then for half an hour at minimum flame.
  2. When the cooker cools open it and drain the liquid away from the chana.
  3. Boil 5 large potatoes. I like to keep the peel on and pressure cook it because that makes it really fast. yYou need to watch it however because the potatoes must not get over cooked and mushy. They must retain their body.
  4. When the potatoes are done - peel them and cut them up into small squarish pieces. the pieces should be about the same size as the chana.
  5. Now take a big tub of curd. I never have the fortitude of setting curd in advance so I have to buy curd - but if you remember its great.
  6. Mix the cooled chana without its liquid into the curd and then dump in the pieces of potato.
  7. Taste a little of all three elements of the mixture to get an estimate of how salty it already is.
  8. Now start adding the commercially available chaat masala in generous teaspoon fulls. Taste each time after mixing to get exactly the right taste.
  9. Once you've got the mixture right cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate
  10. At serving time, crush the papdi into largish pieces and add it to the bowl. Mix these in. Save a good number of intact papdi and line the edges of the bowl with these.
  11. Squeeze imli chutney over it ( I always use imli pichkoo)
  12. Sprinkle the dish generously with sev bhujia ( I buy it - it's not worth the effort to make it).
  13. Sprinkle some chaat masala on top and serve.
You have the queen of all dishes ready to serve on the table.



  1. Sounds fab, but why aren't you reaching for a tin of chick peas? It's the best shortcut to boiling your own there ever was invented!!

    1. I wish I could. I'm all for shortcuts. Unfortunately tinned chick peas are not available in India .I wish they were. Especially because, from what I've read, all the nutrients remain intact in the tinned chick peas as well. It's a really good tip however for those who do have it available. Thanx