Chaat in Hindi literally means “to lick”, a reminder of the fact that chaat was originally served by food vendors on banapa leaves, leaving customers to lick each leaf clean.
Chaats are jumbles of flavor and texture: sweet, sour, salty, spicy, crunchy, soft, nutty, fried and flaky tidbits, doused with cool yogurt, fresh cilantro and tangy tamarind and sprinkled with chaat masala, a spice mixture that is itself wildly eventful. Crackers and dumplings, made from lentils, chickpeas or potatoes, act as vessels for a stunning variety of chutneys – mint, cilantro. coconut and tamarind. The contrasts are, as one fan said, “a steeplechase for your mouth,” with different sensations galloping by faster than you can track them.
Chaat is a word used across India, Pakistan and the rest of South Asia to refer to small plates of savory snacks, typically served at the side of the road from stalls or carts. Most chaat originated in North India, but they are now eaten across the country Some believe that the chaat in Delhi is the best in the world, but other regions in India have their own styles, and would dispute that claim. Some are results of cultural syncretism – for instance, pao bhaji reflect a Portuguese influence, in the form of a bun, and bhel puri was created by a Gujarati migrant to Mumbai. whose descendants still run Vithal Bhelwala, near Victoria Terminus railway station. Each major Indian city has its own popular chaathouses.
Chaat is what Indians have traditionally eaten between meals: after work, after school, on the way to the bus, at the beach The word refers not to snacks in general, but to these specific mixes of crunch and salt with *ht classic toppings of yogurt, cilantro and tamarind. Chaats seem to have originated in Delhi, made from broken papadums (papri chaat).
All over India chaat wallahs, ply their trade from street carts or small storefronts Like New York’s hot dog vendors they are ubiquitous in parks, at tram stations, in busy shopping streets. Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai is legendary all over India for the quality and variety of its chaats.