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Chaat bar (is there such a thing)?

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As a veteran of Rajbhog, Maharajah Sweets, and Dimple, I am now looking for something which I am not quite sure exists - a chaat bar, where a person can make his or her own chaat with all the ingredients and fixins, sort of like a salad bar for chaat. Does such a thing exist? If it sounds improbable, I'm only asking because I *seem* to recall reading about a chaat bar on a CH thread a long while back, but I can't find that post again...

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  1. Cool idea. I might try this for a party and let you know.

    1. Well, I thought I had one for you; close, but no banana! http://www.villagevoice.com/2008-11-1...

      1. Although I'm not a fan of Jackson Diner, they do have a make-your-own-chaat bar at their weekend buffet. I sometimes stop by just so I can have unlimited chaat.

        2 Replies
        1. re: saritad

          I hadn't been to Jackson Diner in years, but seeing that chaat bar brought me in for lunch when I was shopping at Patel Bros a couple weeks ago. It was nothing humongous, but having papri, aloo tikki and chickpea chaat to go with a decent lunch was a good deal.

          1. re: saritad

            similar "bar" at Indian Taj although really, its just the usual condiments, potatoes, chick peas, papri, raw onions, etc. but with the samosas on the buffet, you could def. build y ourself a samosa chaat or something like that. probably the best thing about the place.

          2. Bukhara Grill in Manhattan has one, although it was not extensive.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Andrew Hyatt

              The idea of a chaat bar sort of runs counter to the whole idea behind chaat culture. I believe that the Chaatwallah has as much to do with the quality of the Chaat as the ingredients (although they also play a part). I would add that the chaat places in Edison are far superior to anything I've experience in Queens or Brooklyn. I would highly recommend a trip out there (I went to Dimple express, not clear if there is a relationship with the Manhattan Dimple but it was excellent).

              1. re: mmm...food

                You are partly right, but in India, families make chaat at home almost as often as they eat it out. I once had an auntie feed me bite after bite of pani puri at the kitchen table. Making it from a "bar" is kind of the same idea, but more convenient for people who may not want to go shopping for all the ingredients.

            2. Indus Express on 48th between 5th and 6th.

              2 Replies
              1. re: brooklynmasala

                not really a bar, iirc....they make the dishes,, no?

                1. re: david sprague

                  I thought of mentioning that one, too. The bar is behind glass, but you can direct the chaatwallah to add more of one ingredient or another and to hold back on others, if you know how you like your chaat.

              2. Delhi Palace's takeaway snack shop next door has just been remodeled and is much nicer; the buffet next door on a sunday actually looked pretty good but more importantly, they had a chaat bar! had 2-3 different crunchies, bunch of sauces, pre-mixed potato/tamarind/veg mix, plus a bunch of other add-ons; it looked pretty damn good and probably well worth it just for that. didn't try it, but the guy in the restaurant said they don't always offer it (this was today, on a sunday) so your best bet is to call ahead. it looked quite good, much better than the one I've seen at Jackson Heights (didn't eat) or at Indian Taj (very rudimentary).

                8 Replies
                1. re: bigjeff

                  haha, it DOES exist!
                  Thanks man, will check it out.

                  1. re: bennyt

                    Usha does all of this very well.

                    1. re: JFores

                      thanks for the note on Usha. I went to the big one (3 storefronts, close to 256th street); is the other one affiliated? the one further down hillside, that looks like a mostly takeout operation? that one is called Real Usha Sweets.

                      had a fried chili stuffed with potato ($1.25) and khasta kachori chaat ($4). very good. the kachori is the round fried balls about 2" diameter filled with mung bean and other seasonings, then cut up, served with potatoes and maybe other stuff, then ladled over with tamarind, green stuff, yogurt, sev, some of that hing/salt stuff. simple serving style, very satisfying.

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                      Usha Foods
                      255-03 Hillside Ave, Queens, NY 11004

                      1. re: bigjeff

                        It's funny you mention they added hing. Some of the stuff I was eating at Mumbai Xpress had a funny taste that I couldn't place. At the time I thought it was preserved lemon, but now you have me wondering if it was hing. Does anyone know if preserved lemon is a common ingredient in these South Asian snacks, or is it actually hing that I was tasting. I've used hing in cooking before, but the smell was so strong that even after sealing it tightly in two ziploc bags I had to throw it away because it was contaminating everything else in my refrigerator.

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                        Mumbai Xpress
                        256-05 Hillside Ave, Queens, NY 11004

                        1. re: Greg

                          I don't think preserved lemon is used in chaat—or at least not that i know of. Dried green mango powder (amchoor) is sometimes used and can give things a sour flavor.
                          Also, tho hing might be in some chaats, the funky taste in most chaats (and in chaat masala) comes from black salt, a sort of sulphurous smelling and tasting salt—sour and funky. If you like chaat, this is the spice that is probably doing it for you.

                          and no need to put hing in the fridge--i keep mine inside the container in a glass jar with the rest of my spices and everything seems fine. it keeps a long time since, even if it loses pungency, a little still goes a long way.

                          1. re: missmasala

                            Very interesting, thanks.

                            1. re: missmasala

                              thanks missmasala, it might not have been hing but I thought it was; black salt doesn't quite sound right either but it was a generous shake of some strong stuff. it would make more sense to cook with it or throw it in the batter than just shake it directly on, right? I do like that stuff and keep a jar of it at home (probably low quality export stuff though).

                              1. re: bigjeff

                                I don't actually make chaat, but in my experience in India (and here) the chaat masala is what is sprinkled on at the very end (strong and funky tasting) not something used in the cooking process—unlike many other masalas.

                                The chaat masala is what makes chaat, chaat.