Crispy, crunchy, spicy, sweet and tangy – these are the essential components of every ‘chaat’ – a savoury snack and popular South Asian street food that can be enjoyed any time of the day.
Among the Muslim population of the Indian subcontinent, chaat is a staple in the menu for the fasting month of Ramadan. It’s hugely satisfying, refreshing and energising to break the fast with a bowlful of mixed fruits and vegetables, topped with all sorts of sweet and sour chutneys and crunchy bits of fried dough (papri) or fried potatoes. But really there is no time or occasion to eat chaat! It is a year round thing which can be made light enough to be enjoyed for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. It can be dressed up with potato patties and samosas to make carb filled meal.
There are really thousands of regional variations but at the core of it every chaat must have a base ingredient, sauces, crunch, vegetables and a spice punch. My Matar Paneer Chaat is an endeavour to make chaat delicious without any fried dough bits or processed carbs and choose a healthy protein as a base ingredient which can be nothing better than homemade paneer. Paneer is a rennet free, quick n easy, cheese that you can easily make at home by curdling warm milk with lemon juice, vinegar or yogurt and then strain it to get a firm block of paneer. The vegetables, fruits and roasted peanuts add plenty of juicy crunch and mouthful of munch to it. Tamarind, lemon, brown sugar, mint and chilli peppers provide the much needed sweet n sour boost.
A special spice blend/chaat masala is used for a typical umami hit and spice punch that you find in chaats sold at roadside stalls. The masala is a mx of black salt (a type of pungent smelling rock salt), black peppercorns, cumin seeds, dried mango powder, and asafoetida. If you can’t find the ready made blend or some of the exotic ingredients, don’t worry! You can still enjoy chaat with a quick mix of any rock salt, black pepper, cumin powder, red chilli powder mixed with a generous drizzle of lemon juice.
If you are strictly on low carb diet, you can substitute apples with rhubarbs, peaches, cantaloupe, watermelon or strawberries and peas with zucchini, cucumber or asparagus.
500 grams paneer or cottage cheese
1+1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 onion, sliced
1 apple, cut into cubes
2 medium tomatoes, diced or 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 green chilli pepper, finely chopped
A few mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2 tablespoons yogurt
Rock salt or black salt to taste
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon organic brown sugar/crushed jaggery/desi shakkar (optional)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
This Is What You Do:
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat.
Add peas, cover and cook for a couple of minutes or till the peas are tender. Remove lid and sauté for another minute. Add to the serving bowl.
Add the remaining oil to the pan. Toast cheese cubes till light golden and crisp on the outside. Add with the peas into the serving bowl.
Dry roast peanuts in the same pan. Remove and set aside.
Add onions, apples, tomatoes, green chilli pepper and mint to the chaat bowl.
Combine tamarind paste, yogurt, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt and all the spices in a small bowl to make a sauce.
Pour the sauce over chaat. Toss to coat paneer, peas, apples, tomatoes and onions with the sauce. Taste for seasoning. Adjust to your taste.
Garnish with roasted peanuts.
Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.