I got carried away recently. I wrote a post that went on forever. Now, feeling much more sensible, I have split the post into three, so you can digest it (ha ha ha) more easily. This is the story of Chat Masala. It is a prelude to a wonderful dish – Chickpea Chat with Chat Masala that is made with this equally wonderful masala. If you have read my previous marathon of a post, no need to read it again….
Chat or Chaat – Indian Street Food
The word chat or chaat means to lick and the word masala, as we have seen before, actually means spice mix in Hindi. So generally, the word chat is used for a collection of savoury and highly spicy snacks that would make you lick /smack your lips – if that was acceptable in Indian etiquette.
Chat is traditionally sold by street hawkers in India and comes under a group of foods known as ‘Indian Street Foods’. But be careful of the food hygiene of street food – it is often suspect, frequently leading to “Delhi Belly“, most people prefer to make chat at home. There is some debate about whether chat is Northern or Southern Indian – I think it is wide spread. You might like to tell me.
Chat dishes are distinguished by a wonderful masala called Chat Masala that is used to impart a the spicy sour “woh hoh” flavour to the main ingredient of a chat dish. You can buy this powder, but I thought we might make our own today.
Black salt (which is actually reddish gray), available at Indian food stores, is highly mineralised, and has a distinctive flavour that’s quite different from sea salt or table salt. Use in small quantities. It has a strongly mineralised aroma as well as taste.
In this post, let’s make our own Chat Masala, even though you could buy it from your local Indian grocery. But it is easy to make and you can vary it to your heart’s content. Then let’s use that to make a wonderful Chat with Chickpeas.
Chat Masala is a mix of hot and tangy spice that is used to spice up many snacks, salads, fruit salads, fruit juices, and some curries.
Add it to fried nuts, yoghurt and yoghurt dishes.
You can use it in all sorts of Indian chat recipes.
Or sprinkle 1-2 tspn on your fruit or vegetable salad, squeeze a little lemon juice over the salad, mix it thoroughly and enjoy!
Especially nice is fresh fruit sprinkled with lime juice and chat masala.
You can make this masala well in advance and store it in a jar. It will keep a number of months to years, but all masalas (curry mixes) are best made often for maximum flavour.
1 Tblspn cumin seeds
1 tspn fennel seeds
1 tspn ajwain seeds (optional)
1 – 2 whole red dried chillies
1 Tbspn coriander seeds
0.5 Tblspn black peppercorns
1 Tblspn garam masala
1 Tblspn mango powder (amchur)
0.5 Tblspn black salt
1 tspn cayenne pepper or chilli powder
1 pinch asafoetida powder
0.5 Tblspn sea salt
To add “warmth” to the mix (not chilli heat, just a nice body warmth) include:
1 tspn cloves
1 tspn nutmeg
1 tspn cardamom powder or seeds
1 tspn cinnamon powder or 2.5 cm stick cinnamon
Dry roast the following spices separately in a heated frying pan. I put my mortar next to the stove and as I roast each one, I tip it into the mortar ready for grinding:
– fennel, cumin, ajwain, dried chillies, coriander, peppercorns, cardamom seeds
Roast them individually until each one browns a little and a rich aroma arises. You will know when you smell it. Be careful with the chilli – they burn easily. If you want to use a fresh chilli you can. Take care roasting it – I had one explode on me recently! So prick it or slit it with a knife before placing in the pan to allow the air inside the chilli to escape.
Put the asafoetida powder into the frying pan and roast for 30 seconds or less. Add to the mortar.
Add the remaining ingredients and grind to a powder. You can of course use a blender or spice grinder, although I prefer the taste of using the mortar and pestle.
Keep in an airtight jar.
Now you can make your way to Chickpea Chat with Chat Masala for a wonderful taste treat! Enjoy!