Isn't chaat the best form of food ? They should make it one of the essential food groups. One bhel puri or ragda or one plate pani puri everyday :) That will be a diet plan I'll religiously stick too :D Specially in the summers, a spicy bhel or golgappa cooled down by a dahi poori or sugarcane juice is pure bliss. It's the best way to get your mind off the blistering sun of the Indian summer. Which brings up a very interesting question. Ever wondered why the hottest peppers come from the countries close to the equator. The cuisines of these countries (India, Thailand, Malaysia etc) also tend to be really spicy. You would think that people freezing in the cold would appreciate a hot pepper, but no, they are happy gulping down scotch/whiskey, and its the ones living in the tropics biting into hot chilli peppers.
Eating local and using what the land gives could be one reason. Most of the spices like chilli peppers, peppercorn, cloves etc prefer the hot humid climate and thrive is these regions. But that might still not answer why you would torture yourself by eating something that makes you feel hotter. Most chilli peppers have a chemical called Capsaicin which is an irritant and also gives them the spicy punch. It is known to act on the central nervous system and pump up the blood circulation, bringing more of the warm blood to the skin's surface causing us to sweat profusely. And since sweating is our body's natural way to cool us down, the spice aids this process. So though you might feel like your skin is burning up and you need a fire extinguisher asap, your body might actually be cooling itself! But this is good only as long as the level of Capsaicin is bareable, too high and you might really need a Doc. I also read in an article that your appetite tends to weaken as the mercury level rises. All you want is a light fruit salad or fruit juice or that cool, tall glass of buttermilk to cool you down. But that's surely not enough fodder for the body and so eating spicy food helps to bring back the appetite. (as long as you continue chomping down that spicy hot pav bhaji, you won't feel the heat :D)
Another theory draws on the unique properties that all of the spices possess- as an antiseptic (turmeric), anthelmintic (cloves), diuretic (coriander), carminative (coriander, pepper, ginger) to name a few. Apart from these they all have anti-bacterial properties in varying extents. So by using one or a combination of these spices, you are adding preservatives, preventing food poisoning from contamination by harmful microbial. This makes sense as modern day means of refrigeration are relatively new and the methods to store cooked food were limited. Now I also read a theory that since food tends to go bad very quickly in hot climates, the hot spices masked their rotten flavors! This, I am not willing to accept, nooooo, never....eoowww. But if you ate a really hot dish and want to put out the fire, instead of reaching for the glass of water or coke, eat a piece of bread. It does a better job at soaking up the capsaicin and gives relief. Milk and alcoholic beverages also help dilute the capsaicin molecules in the mouth.
Getting right back to our lovely chaats, I made some chatpata ragda patties when my friends came over last weekend. I now have chana, kala chana, pinto beans, yellow and green vatana in my pantry that I pre-soak and use when needed. I used yellow vatana to make the ragda and the patties are very easy to put together. I used store bought tamarind chutney and sev, the rest I made at home. Each component is extremely simple, quick and uncomplicated, which is the true essence of chaat - Fresh, flavorful, simple ingredients put together with the right balance of sweet/spice/sour/tangy to entice our tastebuds.
Boy O boy! this was a spectacular treat for the tastebuds. Having your mouth full with the hot peas and tikki, crunchy onions and sev, fresh cilantro, tangy chutnies and the coooool yogurt, all at the same time, is an experience you have to savor, atleast once. And after that its a perfect case of 'no one can eat just once' :D There is no rivaling the sheer genius of chaats, and your taste buds will love the rollercoaster ride. The yellow vatane have a very mild yet slightly spicy, chilli like flavor to them, unlike the ...err..bland (?) chickpeas, and so a mild gravy is enough to make a flavorful dish. All the flavors come together forming an elegant balance without any single element overpowering the rest. Since I like sev in my chaat I added that to the dish, but you can surely skip it. (can you ? will you ?)Ragda PattiesIngredients:
for the patties or aloo tikki - makes upto 10-12 2" round tikkis
for green chutney
- 4 nos - Potatoes, medium sized -cubed and boiled in salted water
- 1/2 tsp - chopped ginger
- 2-3 nos - Green chillies, minced
- 1/2 tsp - Amchur (dry mango powder)
- 2 Tbsp - Cilantro, chopped
- 2 nos - Bread slices/ 2 Tbsp - Maida/AP flour or 2 Tbsp - bread crumbs
- Oil for pan frying
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup - Mint leaves
- 3/4 cup - Coriander leaves
- 1/4 cup - Onion, roughly chopped
- 2-3 - Green chillies (adjust to taste)
- 1/2 tsp - Amchur
- Salt to taste
Tamarind chutney, beaten curds/yogurt, coriander leaves, chopped onions and sev for garnish.
- 2 cups - Yellow vatana/peas, pre-soaked for 8-10hrs
- 1/2 cup - white Onions, diced
- 1 tsp - minced ginger-garlic
- 1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
- 1 tsp - roasted Cumin/jeera powder
- 3/4 tsp - roasted Coriander/dhania powder
- 1/2 tsp - Red chilli powder (optional)
- 1/2 tsp - Garam masala
- pinch of sugar and amchur
- 1 Tbsp - Oil
- Salt to taste
* Swap the aloo patties with crumbled Samosa/Kachori/Papdi to make - ragda samosa, ragda kachori or ragda papdi, as the case may be.
- For the ragda - Pressure cook the vatana with salt for just 1 whistle, (any longer turned them to mush in mine :( ), if not cook them on the stove top or microwave.
- In a pan, heat the oil on medium heat and add the minced ginger-garlic. Cook for 30secs and add the diced onions, turmeric. When the onions turn translucent add cooked vatane, a cup of water, and the spice powders. Bring to a boil and simmer for 8-10 mins. Add the sugar and amchur powder and, mash a few of the beans with the back of your spoon to slightly thicken the gravy. Taste and adjust the spices to balance the flavors, add more water as needed.
- The green chutney is the easiest, toss everything into a blender and give it a blitz adding spoonfuls of water as you go along.
- For the aloo patties, mash the potatoes (I did not peel them) and add the rest of the ingredients. If using bread slices, dip them in water for a few seconds. Give them a tight squeeze to remove excess water, crumble and add it to the potatoes. Mash everything together to form a light dough. Pinch off a key lime sized ball of the mixture, roll it into a round and press to form 1/2" thick discs. Heat a few drops of oil in a shallow pan and fry the patties until they turn golden brown with a crisp outer layer.
- While serving, place 2-3 patties on a plate, pour a ladleful of the piping hot ragda on top, drizzle green chutney, tamarind chutney and beaten curds on top. Sprinkle some onions, cilantro and a generous amount of sev. Serve immediately.
Each one can also customize their plates with a lil more of the khatta-meeta chutney or green chutney or sev or all the above :D Its filling and its healthy. The green chutney can be made and stored in the fridge, extra peas can be frozen, a pack of sev should last you awhile. And so, once you have all the components on hand, putting the dish together is a snap.
This goes to the Sunday Snacks - Spill the beans event hosted by yours truly this month :) I took over from Pallavi this month. This being a bi-monthly event, you have time until the last Sunday of July to cook up some fabulous snacks.