Channa Bhatura - San Francisco Dish of the Month August 2012
Announcing the August 2012 San Francisco Bay Area Dish of the Month: Channa Bhatura
The goal is to collectively try as many versions of channa bhatura as possible during the month of August! So let's start exploring and eating—report back with reviews and photos.
Looking forward to seeing what people try!
Slow month on the fried bread front! I tried two versions over the last week or so.
Berkeley - Udupi Palace
The Channa Batura ($9.95) was the size of a basketball and came with the chick-pea curry, raita, and 3 pieces of achar on a metal platter. The batura completely covered the platter with the other dishes peeking out under it.
The batura was quite sweet with a thin, crispy shell and a softer inner layer and quickly deflated when I ripped my first piece. The chick-peas were liquidy and didn't have much seasoning. I liked the bread much better than the curry.
San Jose - Tandoori Bites
Here it's called Chole Bhatura ($10.95. spelling differences are how they are on the menus) and has a good sized serving of the chole topped with some fresh tomato slices and raw red onion and no other sides. Bigger curry serving & smaller bhatura than Udupi. The bhatura was already deflated when served with just a few pockets of airiness.
The bhatura here was smaller in overall size, slightly flakey, and somewhat greasy. Definitely more savory than the Udupi version as well as more dense and heavy. The chole was thicker and more flavorful with a pronounced tomato component. It was on the hot side of the medium that I ordered.
I've never had bhatura before so can't vouch for authenticity, but between the two, I prefered Tandoori Bites' chole and Udupi's batura. If TB's was less greasy, I think I would shift my opinion.
I also had a salty lassi at both spots. Udupi's was pretty boring, tasting of just salted yogurt. TB's one had visible crushed spice in it (pictured) which I think included cumin.
1901 University Ave, Berkeley, CA
3730 N 1st St, San Jose, CA
I think I fared better with my Chana Bhatura at Udupi Palace on Valencia Street in San Francisco. The Chick Peas were thickened with a rich tomato sauce and accompanied by dishes of achar, fresh sliced tomato/carrot/cucumber/green chili/white onion, 3 sauces of cilantro, a yogurt/raita and a tamarind puree. The bhatura was hugely puffed, hot, crisp, flaky, and not a drop of grease. I requested spicy but it was rather mild but still absolutely freshly delicious and satisfying.
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1007 Valencia Street at 21st Street
San Francisco CA 94110
I also had the chana bhatura at Udupi Palace the other day. The bhatura was quite crispy at the top, and a bit thicker and chewy at the bottom. The dough was a bit sweet.
I ordered the chickpea curry medium, and it came out completely mild. The tomato sauce was also on the sweet side (tamarind?) and serving was plentiful...actually a bit too much curry for the size of the bhatura, and I had to borrow some roti and dosa pieces from my dining companions to dip in the curry. I liked the chutneys, and the raita. The dish of raw veggies didn't look very fresh, so I didn't eat them.
A dining companion had a mango lassi, which was good. Not too sweet, and contained cardamom.
I liked this dish, and Udupi Palace in general, though I probably wouldn't rush back.
In terms of atmosphere, food quality, and even the dishware, the Valencia location beats the Berkeley location by a good amount.
The bhatura on Valencia was gigantic and probably had more mass and volume than the two smaller ones I had at Chaat Bhavan combined. The top was a bit too crispy to be able to hold the chickpeas, but not to worry--- kind of like a good croissant, the bottom had both a crispy skin and chewy inside. Had I not tried to pick it up with my napkin for an ill-fated photo-op, I wouldn't have noticed how greasy it was.
I ordered the chickpeas "very spicy" and they came just a bit hotter than mild. I was very happy with the variety of sides, already mentioned by Cysna, and wound up running out of the red onion pretty quickly. I'm not sure I could describe the difference between their and Chaat Bhavan's spice mix, but I preferred Chaat Bhavan's sauciness and perfectly cooked chickpeas.
Had Chole Bhature at Amber India Cafe in Mountain View the other day. An acceptable but not an excellent version. Bread was fine but the only flavor came from the fact it had been fried. The curry was rather one dimensional. Some heat, some corriander etc. spices but not the layering of spices or flavors you get with a really good curry. Ended up craving more red onions/cilantro/lemon juice - but made do with dumping mint and tamarind chutneys in it.
Last night I stopped at Chaat Bhavan in Fremont for some Channa Bhatura and some other dishes. The Channa Bhatura was the highlight of the meal, owing partly to a chaat samosa that was covered in overcooked chickpeas and a panir paratha whose cheese didn't really mesh with the paratha.
The Channa Bhatura came with 2 large bhaturas. Each one had a lot of elasticity in the center and was slightly crisp on the outside. Their bottoms were understandably thicker than the tops. The chickpeas had a lovely sheen to them. Unlike the ones on the chaat samosa, these chickpeas were perfectly cooked. The sauce was good and I liked its thickness, but the spices weren't especially vibrant.
After a few bites I looked at the accompaniments: a raita and some chopped white or yellow onion and a half of a long green chili. I'm not sure what you're supposed to do with an unsliced chili. The raw onion seemed to be the key to this dish. It elevated the flavors of the chickpea sauce and added a nice freshness.
Next time I go here I need to insist they make my food appropriately spicy. I told the server I liked my food spicy, but my two saucy dishes had neither enough heat or flavor. I also need to order the regular or sprouted bhel puri, a dish I really like and which every Indian family seemed to be eating.
whole (or sliced lengthwise) chilies are a common accompaniment to many indian dishes. in my experience people generally just take a bit of it when whatever their eating isnt sufficiently spicy.
my favorite is when, in lieui of a fresh chili, i would get one or two curd chilies (chilies soaked in yogurt and then sun dried to preserve them) which have the added bonus of being stupidly salty in addition to insanely hot.
Went to Cafe Chaat for lunch today with some dining companions from CHOW. I had never been—big menu with lots of chaats and appetizers, and all the usual suspects for main dishes. We ordered the chole bhature, which is pictured, and a few other items:
Vegetable pakora - Kind of bland, a bit falafel-like, and not that good. Wouldn't order again.
Chole bhattura - The chickpea curry had a decent flavor, and wasn't sweet. It wasn't spicy either. Sort of non-memorable. The bhatura was on the thick side, and a bit greasy....I prefer a puffier, thinner version. So overall, not too impressive either.
Samosa chaat - Easily the best thing we tried...lots of cut up veggie samosas with yogurt, tamarind sauce, onions. Delicious, and I will probably come back to eat this (and other chaats) often!
Saag paneer - Spinach was mushy and boring. Cheese was fine.
Lamb tikka masala - Pretty nice tikka masala sauce and tender lamb. Not that special, but not bad either.
Both main dishes came with a platter of sides: rice, naan (didn't taste freshly baked), daal (lots of liquid, almost soup-like), and a dry cauliflower curry which was quite good! Not sure if it's possible to order that cauliflower alone, but I would if I could.
I finally made it to Vik's in Berkeley. They've changed the arrangement of the place since I was there a few years back.
Their channa bhatura is about $6 and comes with one large bhatura. There is a small portion of sides, a mint chutney (?) that has some raw onions swimming in it and some really good pickle. The sides were hidden under the bhatura so I didn't notice them until eating half the bhatura
The bhatura was very blond and chewy, even near the top. It didn't have much flavor and the outer layer wasn't very crisp.
The chickpeas were my least favorite of the three I've recently tried. There was more liquid than chickpeas, and the sweet and tart taste of tamarind dominated the dish. That might have paired nicely with a crisp bhatura, but it wasnt very good with the doughy bhatura. The chickpeas themselves were a bit mealy, and most had split.
I also had the bhel puri. Like rice krispies left on the table during an ill-timed phone call, it was soggy and uniform by the time I got it to my table.
Chaat House has two locations in Sunnyvale and one in Fremont. I tried the chana bhatura, $5.25, at the one next door to the newish branch of Real Ice Cream. While the bhatura were more than decent, the chana was pretty boring and much too soft. More here, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/865198 .
But bonus points for being able to drop into Real Ice Cream for a scoop of alphonso mango ice cream. I reaffirmed that I prefer newcomer Nirvanaah's ice cream better, but closeness/convenience does count for something.
re: Melanie Wong
Had the Chana Bhatura for a late breakfast on Sunday morning after the MV Farmers Market at Raj-jot Snacks located in Sunnyvale at the intersection of El Camino and Wolfe.
I loved the texture of the beans, really well cooked and could taste the layers of spice - not too soupy and just right. Also served raw onion and I had to ask for sliced lemon.
Bhatura was also pretty good - evenly fried, reminded me of Doas's (the Mission restaurant, to be clear) rendition back in 2006.
Also had samosas on a side note, they had virtually no salt. Chai was pretty good and amply spiced on the other hand.
I need to come back one day and try a lot of their other offerings.
For my last bhatura of the month, I decided to go with the most expensive--- the $15 chana bhatura at Dosa on Fillmore. It was my first time there and we enjoyed with all our dishes.
The bhatura was large, and deflated on its own a few seconds after it was placed on the table. That wasn't too big a deal--- the lighting was too dim to get a photo anyway. The bhatura had a nice combination of crunchiness and elasticity, and best of all, it had a delicious flavor that I couldn't put my finger on. The server told me they incorporate banana into the dough. Once we were told this, its flavor was unmistakable but still subtle. I liked that the flavor of the dough went beyond the flavor of the restaurant's deep frier.
There were no sides, so the chana had to impress us on its own. The chickpeas were evenly cooked, and the spicing was fresh and vibrant.
All things considered, this was clearly the best chana bhatura I've had this month.
Also excellent was the rava dosa, a semolina dosa. I've never had that variety of dosa before, and I adored its lacy appearance and crispy thin texture.
One thing I'll add is that this was the only restaurant that's given me food with the right amount of heat. We weren't asked, and didn't say, the level of spice we wanted, but the chefs chose a level that best matched the dishes we ordered.