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Jun 16, 2009 09:53 AM

Chaat Bar

I'm having company and thought the various textures and flavors of chaat would make it the ideal vegetarian hors d'oeuvres. I planned on making a platter of papri chaat or perhaps sev puri with streaks of coriander and tamarind chutney vying against a lattice of beaten yogurt. I'm certain it would be attractive to look at, but I worry that the crisps will go soggy when they're left out. Does anyone have any idea of how long I can leave the chaat out before they go soft or have tips on extending their texture?

Recipes or recommendations for chaat that holds up well are appreciated!

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  1. I would have the chaat separate in a small bowl, and demonstrate for your first few guests to sprinkle some on before eating. They're so delicate, they wouldn't keep that lovely texture more than a few minutes if mixed in traditionally.

    1. YUM!

      When I've had chaat at parties, they've either been from mix-your-own chaat bars, where you add the crisps at the last minute and eat immediately or (at fancier affairs) from a chaat maker standing behind a chaat bar, making them to order. Honestly, the crispy texture lasts approximately two minutes, once mixed.

      Great, great, great idea for a party.

      5 Replies
      1. re: cimui

        That is so unfortunate. I imagined having pre-made chaat on banana leaves thinking the colors and shapes would be striking and that they'd hold up as well as nachos.This might have to be an idea for a picnic instead of dinner.

        1. re: JungMann

          Don't ditch the banana leaf idea -- that would be so pretty. But maybe have clear bowls of chaat ingredients lined up on banana leaves?

          1. re: cimui

            The guys would never stop ribbing me if I brought banana leaves and crystal bowls to a picnic; but then again, if I put enough spice in the chaat, I should be able to restore my manhood by comparison so maybe I will keep your idea!

            1. re: JungMann

              Hah! Throw in a manly bhut jolokia or two and you can get as dainty as you want. No one's going to notice your bowls or banana leaves.

          2. re: JungMann

            how about serving it in endive leaves that can then be set out on banana leaves, with the chaat to be added.

        2. I'm no expert on chaat (apart from eating it!) but my mum makes the best chaat, at home from scratch. Anyway, her tactic for serving a lot of people is to make several small batches. Make a batch for 10-15 ppl, then make another batch once the first is done.

          It's really hard to estimate how long it'll stay 'crisp' because it will matter on the types/brand/size of crisps you use.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Shazza

            Are there any that you could recommend? I only have 10-15 guests coming, so if you have any tips on making enough for a crowd that size which will stay crisp, I'd love to hear them!

          2. Jungmann bhai, never mix in the sev or any other of the crispies before serving. They will go soggy very fast and the "maza" will go. The chaatwalla always puts the crispies in a separate container for a to-go order. You must do the same. You should set up your table like a chaatwala, think of the beautiful colors! Set up the sauces, the fillings, the crispies, and teach your guests to mix their own, or mix it for them. There is no way to get around it, as is the nature of chaat.

            Some ideas: a mixed chaat: buy bags of paapars, crunchies, puffed rice, navratan mix, or what have you, boil whole moong daal, chick peas, chop onions, green chilies, coriander, chopped unripened mango or substitute a very hard and sour apple, some peanuts, some boiled cubed potato, chaat masala, have some date and or tamarind chutney, some green chutney, some whipped yoghurt and just mix it together and top with the yoghurt and sauces. Then you can serve a hot chaat, Like chola samosa or kachori chaat. Buy/make samosas or kachoris. Make some chola masala. In a bowl, put one kachori or samosa, then add chola masala until the samosa is halfway submerged. Then garnish with yoghurt, sauces, onions, chilies, coriander, sev, and a dash of chaat masala.

            Do let us know what kind of chaat you end up serving.

            4 Replies
            1. re: luckyfatima

              I was hoping to hear from the Fatima Aunty I need to fix my Indo-Pak mistakes! I thought the chaatwallah mixes the papri and aloo with the chutneys and yogurt for a to-go. I have to confess that I am not terribly experienced in this department, but I do like papri chaat and sev puri, so I thought about having papris topped with potato, red onion, tomatoes and coriander drizzled with the sauces with sev, chaat masala and chili powder on the side. Do I need cumin? Would this not work? Would tortilla chips (shudder) hold up better?

              1. re: JungMann

                If you have access to proper chaat crispies I would avoid the tortilla chips just because the corn chips wouldn't have the same flavor.. I have heard of rice crispies as "bhel" but nothing else as a sub. If you don't have a store that sells locally made crispies, a good brand of ready made are Haldiram's and also Bikanerwala. The onions are just those small purple onions from the Indian store, they aren't the pickled onions. Those onions are very sharp so soak in cold water after chopping, or just use yellow american onions. hmmm. I can't think of any other advice. You could probably mix all of the other ingredients but the crispy ones, yoghurt, and sauces should be kept aside and added at the end. Cumin is another good addition if you like. Chaat masala has it in there already though. Up to you on how elaborate you want to make things.

                1. re: luckyfatima

                  I can always go to the Desi grocer to pick up a selection of papri, puri and sev. I just thought that tortilla chips might hold up better in the liquid. I'll pass by the chaatwallah for some ideas this afternoon and see what strikes me as feasible.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    Lately I've seen papris labelled as "multi-purpose" or similar at my desi grocer. Package says they can be used for bhel, papri chaat etc. They are pretty substantial. I've been using them for Sev-batata-dahi-papri chaat. I do assemble these to some extent ahead of time (still, this may be the last thing I do before guests arrive). Set out papris in single layer on a serving platter. Top with slices of boiled potato (say 1/6 inch thick?). Smear potato slices with a hot cilantro-mint chutney. Top that with tiny mounds of finely chopped onion. In little bowls, have your whipped dahi, fine sev, and sweet/tamarind chutney and possibly one with chopped cilantro, ready to go. When ready to serve, add dollops of dahi, trickles of sweet/tamarind chutney, chopped cilantro and finally scatter fine sev and pass around. The stability that comes from having potatoes sliced and not diced or smashed, makes it easy to pick up one papri and slide it in your mouth. Umm.. I hope I have fine sev at home tonight!

            2. Thank you everyone for your wonderful suggestions and helpful advice. Fatima Auntie steered me in the right direction regarding the brands of pre-made crunchies to buy. In addition to the Haldiram sev and square-cut papri, I purchased a locally-made circular-cut papri that looked somewhat akin to a deflated puri. I went the extra step of making my own hari chutney, a foul-tasting disaster which prompted me to march through the driving rain to every market in my neighborhood for chutney. What was supposed to be a 5-minute purchase found me 30 minutes later standing in the foyer of the one good Indian restaurant in my neighborhood, dripping water from my every inch, my wet shirt plastered to my frame, offering to pay anything for a sufficient quantity of their chutney. When I got home, I tasted my chutney again and found that in my absence, the previously disparate flavors that were once so argumentative finally came together in a pretty decent chutney. Of course.

              I kept my banana leaf idea which provide a wonderful canvas for the colorful red onions, golden yukons (both sliced and smashed) and cilantro. It was a new experience for most of my guests who heartily loaded platters with their personalized snacks.

              5 Replies
              1. re: JungMann

                absolutely gorgeous, jungmann -- and clever placement of the crisps! i just stocked up on sev and papri over the weekend and think i'll be copying your idea very soon. i'm also so impressed you made your own chutney (and that you went on a horrid, rainy-day search for the holy grail when you decided it wasn't perfect... what a great host).

                question for you and luckyfatima aunty ;) and whomever else wants to chime in: i've made a decent cilantro chutney before, but my tamarind chutney's turned out pretty terrible each time i've attempted it. if you have a good recipe to share for tamarind chutney, i would be grateful for it!

                1. re: cimui

                  I soak Indian tamarind from the packet in about 2-3 cups water, strain the water, retaining pulp but not seeds, and boil it a long time with 2 or so tbs regular sugar or you could try one chunk of "gur" jaggery sugar until it reduces, simply season with salt, 1 tsp roasted cumin, 1tsp roasted red chile powder, and chill it in the fridge to thicken. The end result is brown and a bit liquidy and not pretty and smooth like a resto. Also you have to keep tasting it because not all packets of tamarind are equal so you might need more sugar, etc. If you feel it isn't sour enough at the end, you can stir in some dry mango powder or even cheat and use chaat masala.

                  1. re: luckyfatima

                    Is the "packet" the box of brown tamarinds or is it packaged tamarind concentrate? Would tamarind paste not immediately make a smooth chutney? And have you sweetened with dates? When I was at the Indian market I saw plenty of date-tamarind chutney (along with a bhel chutney with dates), which sounded somewhat intriguing.

                    1. re: JungMann

                      I do make date plus tamarind chutney but that is a different recipe. I think I posted it on CH before. I actually use date chutney for chaat and dahi bhalle. Some people also use a pure amchoor reduction as their "meethi chutney". I gave the pure imli recipe because that is what cimui asked for. With the dates it is basically the same ingredients as plain imli. You remove the date seed, boil the dates in water till they are pulp, boil the strained tamarind water once to kill the impurities, and add the dates, tamarind water, plus seasonings (to taste, you will need more with dates) in a blender. You would use less sugar for this, but you still need a little even though the dates are sweet.

                      The tamarind is in a clear plastic wrap and is just a book shaped lump with seeds and stuff in it.

                      I don't like the tamarind in the jar (like Priya brand). I use it occasionally in some dishes where the full taste is hidden but sourness is needed. But for chutney I don't like the undertaste. Some people swear by it though.

                      1. re: luckyfatima

                        I've sweetened with both dates and jaggery in the past, but I've only ever used the really smooth tamarind paste in the jar. Maybe that's why it's always tasted off to me... I'll make a few small batches and play around with this.

                        Thanks a gazillion, you two!