Chaat always brings back memories of carefree weekends spent at my parents’ beach house in India. I’d walk over to the beach in the afternoon when the tide is low enough to pick sea shells. I’d return home with my pail full and stomach empty. A gorgeous bowl of chaat would be waiting for me – crunchy, sweet, tangy, spicy, filling all at the same time. I’d sit on the verandah eating chaat, listening to the waves crashing near by and watching the kites sail over me.
Chaat on weekends still transports me back to those balmy evenings in India. Sev puri is my favorite kind of chaat ('chaat' is a general name for this Indian street food; there are several variations). Sev puri are little puffed, fried rounds of dough (puri) stuffed with crispy noodles (sev), potatoes, onion, yogurt, tamarind chutney and mint chutney. The whole thing is then finished with a sprinkling of amazingly zestful chaat masala – a blend of salt, red chilli, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, anise, pepper, cumin, cardamom, clove, mace, carom and dried mango.
You will need to make a trip to the Indian store for this recipe. You could attempt to make all the ingredients at home, but that would be time consuming. Why bother when you can buy the same thing at a store!
This is a basic recipe for sev puri; I encourage you to be creative — you are limited only by your imagination. When pomegranates are in season, I like to sprinkle some on top for a colorful, refreshing sweetness. A little chunk of pineapple tucked into the sev puri is divine (toss the pineapple chunks in chaat masala for a delightful sweet-savory flavor). To make these sev puris vegan, simply leave out the yogurt and use hummus, tahini or cashew butter instead. If you don’t have pani puris, try making this with tortilla chips instead; Scoops! will be perfect for this.
Finally, there is only one way to eat a sev puri – put the whole thing in your mouth! Don’t try to bite into it, just pop the whole thing in your mouth!
Sev Puri (Chaat)
Serves about 6
1 medium potato, boiled, peeled and diced 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained 3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped red onion 40 pani puris* (fried rounds of dough) 1/2 cup yogurt 1/2 cup sev* (crispy noodles) 1/4 cup date-tamarind chutney* 1/4 cup mint chutney* 1 tablespoon Chaat Masala* 1/4 tablespoon red chilli powder or cayenne or paprika A few sprigs of cilantro
*easily available at any Indian store
Mix together the boiled diced potato, chickpeas, red onion, 1/4 teaspoon chaat masala and salt. Set aside. Gently poke a hole on one side of a pani puri. Make it large enough so you can stuff it with the potato mixture. Place some potato mixture inside the pani puri cavity. Top with about 1/2 tablespoon of yogurt. Sprinkle some sev on top of the yogurt. Then add date-tamarind and mint chutneys. Finish by sprinkling a little chaat masala over the top. Repeat with all pani puris. Serve immediately.