Winters are the perfect time to eat all your favourite delicacies and enjoy guilt free. Food like Chaat or Gajar ka Halwa has its own charm during the season.
One winter morning sent me off to the street food heaven of Delhi, Chandni Chowk. If you are foodie from any part of India, then you’ll know this place.
I visited one of the oldest and most famous Chaat stores, Natraj Dahi Bhalle Wala (opposite Paranthe Wali Gali). The place is quite small and may not impress you at the first glance, but you have to wait for their Chaat for a lip-smacking experience. While I was enjoying my plate, I got into a conversation with some of the other people who looked to be loving their aloo tikki. They told me that the Chaat here has a traditional flavour that is unique and not to be found anywhere else in Delhi. I ordered a plate of Dahi Bhalle which was indeed out of this world. It was like a romance of all the spices and my palate. Garnished with a perfect blend of chutney, saunth and ginger and some secret ingredients.
Chaat means to lick, which I assume comes from the fact that the spices linger on your taste buds and you literally lick your fingers (or at times the plate as well!). The most important ingredient in Chaat is the masala—a nice amalgamation of amchoor (mango powder), kala namak (rock salt), cumin, dried ginger, coriander, black pepper, red chilli, and salt.
The story behind the origin of chaat is also very interesting. Some say it comes from Bengal, others say it originated in Delhi, still others claim it comes from outside India. Though the most famous story, and the one that stood out the most to me, is the one that chaat originated from Agra, Uttar Pradesh (UP). It is believed that chaat originated in the royal kitchen of the great emperor Shah Jahan. One time he fell ill, and the Shahi Hakim instructed him to strengthen his immunity by consuming food which is loaded with spice but really light on the stomach. Hence, the famous chaat was discovered.
This amazing mouthwatering dish then travelled the whole of India and got introduced to different cities, traditions and cultures and became a Pan-Indian cuisine with different names. In fact, regions of India have specific styles of preparation which are hard to find outside of that area, like aloo chaat, tikki chaat, samosa chaat or bhelpuri. Every chaat has its own distinct flavour.
This article was originally published on Food and Streets by Sadaf.