The Surprising Thing You Might Not Know About Chaat

Indian cuisine is vast and draws from a range of flavors, aromas, textures, and influences. While the country's curries often receive the most attention, the assortment of side dishes, snacks, and quick bites can be especially tantalizing to your taste buds. One such delicious snack called chaat, which means lick in Hindi, is described by chef Maneet Chauhan as one of her favorite foods (via Restaurant Hospitality). She loves the versatile dish — which is really any type of chopped-up snack — so much that her latest book and restaurant both focus on chaat. We're not talking about foods you lick such as ice cream, but as Chauhan tells Restaurant Hospitality, food that you relish enthusiastically — until you might just lick your plate clean.

Served as a popular street food, chaat comes in a multitude of styles and can be hot or cold. You might be familiar with the samosa, a fried pastry filled with vegetables or meat and accompanied by chutneys and sauces. Taste of Home remarks that there are no boundaries when it comes to chaat, as it takes on many faces depending on the region. The outlet explains that all of the versions of the dish incorporate different textures, and a mix of sweet, spicy, salty, sour, and savory components. A starchy base, some fresh or cooked vegetables, chutney, a spice blend, and a crispy topping are all essential to chaat. Serious Eats explains that the spice blend should contain kala namak, a black salt with sulfurous compounds that contribute to its pungent aroma. 

Where can you enjoy it?

Since chaat is so diverse and contains various ingredients, it can be eaten at all times of the day. PriaVanda Chauhan, an Indian street food chef in New York, explains to Bon Appétit that the dish can be found all over India, making it a "common denominator" in a country with such diverse food specialties. Chaat is generally sold as street food but can also be found in grocery stores or small food courts according to Serious Eats. The outlet compares enjoying chaat and tea with others as similar to going out for happy hour.

Though it has since made its way across India, Serious Eats notes that chaat is thought to have originated in the state of Uttar Pradesh, home to the Taj Mahal. Beyond India, the site indicates that chaat is also served in local forms in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. It's not hard to see why the category of snacks is so popular. Each chaat is made on the spot for the consumer, allowing you to personalize and enjoy every last morsel to your liking. The medley of flavors, textures, and constant variety keep you excited for every next bite or version you will savor. You don't have to be in India to enjoy a variation of chaat. Serious Eats shares chaat recipes and tricks to turn up the flavor of something as basic as a simple Chex Mix. What are you waiting for?