When you talk of Delhi, host of things immediately comes to your mind – its winters, scorching summers, Delhi’s traffic, Delhi’s smart girls, Delhi’s metro, Delhi’s aggressive culture, its politics but to top it all is its food.
Delhi today offers foods and cuisine of all kinds and tastes, though the food menu is dominated largely by North Indian and Punjabi food.
No discussion about Delhi’s food can ever be completed without a mention of its street food and the old Delhi bylanes.
And the most famous of this is – Chaat !!!
Something which is so routinely consumed and relished not just by Delhites but any visitor to Delhi.
You could find a Chaat vendor lurking around every colony/market place and there are a host of these in old Delhi.
Not only this, the Chaat in its various forms is a standard part of a menu in most of the social gatherings and festivals.
People of all ages and social backgrounds love to have it.
There is a huge variety of chats that are available and consumed – Cold chaats like Papri Chaat, Dahi Bhalla, Golgappas, fruit chaat,bhel puri or the hot ones, straight from the tava – Alloo Tikki, Matara (Chick Peas), Dal(Lentil) Chilas, samosa chaat etc. which make them suitable for consumption around the year. The variety is huge and you have a mouthwatering Chaat suiting all tastes and weathers.
The concept of Chaat and many of the recipes seem to have originated in parts of Uttar Pradesh and later spread through rest of Indian subcontinent.
Some of the Chaat recipes also evolved out of fusion eg. the famous Pav Bhaji of Mumbai, where Pav (bread) suggests Portuguese influence. The method of preparation and the ingredients vary from region to region but then some of the ingredients that are used commonly – green chutney ( a dip made from Coriander, mint leaves), saunth chutney (dip), Curd, and Chaat masala (mix of spices).
The literary meaning of Chaat – has evolved from the Hindi word – Chaatna i.e. to lick.
Yes, chaats are meant to be so yummy that it is expected that the eater would not leave anything on the platter because of the sheer taste of it.
Chaats are traditionally served in plates made of dried leaves or leaves held together with a mall toothpick like pins made of thin bamboo shavings – entirely bio degradable, though these days this trend is changing in favour of cutlery.
The old Delhi refers to the area around iconic heritage part of the city – Red Fort & Chandni Chowk.
The distinctive feature of an Old Delhi traditional Chaat preparation is that it is very rich in spices and teekha (hot) with use of chillies too. This is what makes it different from Chaats that are prepared in other cities.
Chaat is very hot and spicy and if a new comer, he may break into perspiration.
But thankfully, you can tell the vendor if you need to keep it milder and he would do so most willingly.
The Chaat available in the rest of Delhi would be however milder.
The old timers and connoisseurs love the spicy chat.
The Chaat masala used in preparation of the Chaat is a very important ingredient and each outlet has their own recipe for the same. It’s a mixture of spices, delicately balanced and differently prepared for various kind of Chaat recipes.
The recipes of the chaat masala are handed over from generation to generation in the case of some, are closely guarded secrets of most of the outlets. They can make all the difference to the taste and distinguish the preparation from what is available in rest of the market.
Broadly speaking, this consists of a grounded mixture consisting of various spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, Kala Namak (black salt), coriander powder, cloves, cumin seeds, amchoor (dried mango powder),chillies, saunth (dried ginger and tamarind sauce spiced up with herbs) etc. Generally, a base chaat powder is prepared and individual spices are added to lend a distinctive taste to the chaat.
There is a very interesting folklore around how chaat became so spicy and hot as a part of Delhi’s cuisine. It so happened that in Mughal era, sometime after the construction of the Red Fort was completed and Chandni Chowk got established as a bazaar, there was a strange fever which afflicted the people and kept on bothering the citizens of Delhi. No medicine seemed to prevent or cure this fever effectively. So the people started leaving Delhi and the emperor got worried and pressed resources to find a cure but in vain, till one day a fakir came along and after deliberation announced that if the people wanted to save themselves from the fever, they should consume very spicy and hot food. The remedy proved successful and the people got relived from the strange fever.
And that’s how food preparations in Old Delhi became very spicy and hot. And that’s how the Delhi Chaat became very hot and spicy and has remained so over generations. Its now only, for last few years, that the spice in the old Delhi Chaat has shown some signs of mellowing down.
My Uncles-in-law stay in old Delhi and we have a real treat whenever we go there.
My brother is a great chaat fan too and he visits old Delhi quite frequently to enjoy helpings of Chaat and more particularly during Navratra festivals, when Chaats are very famously consumed by all and sundry.
My sister-in-law, Tripti Gupta makes excellent Kulias (fruity Bowls) owing to her expertise in art and craft. Yes, chopping watermelon in the perfect shape and then scoop out flesh from it is no less than a work of art. Infact, today also I seeked her guidance before making these sumptuous fruity bowls.
I and my hubby are both Chaat fans and share this food interest very intently. We do not like to leave an opportunity for a good sumptuous and spicy Chaat.
I prepare some of these items at home too, but at times the home made ones do not measure up to the ‘real taste’, so to say, largely because, I feel, of the spice mix that is to be used.
I will now share with you the recipe for making Kulia Chaat!!!! Wondering what is a Kulia ???
Well let me demystify it for you. It refers to small fruit cups chiseled out of fruit dumplings and scoops being carved (scooped) out of them by removing some portion of fruit. This then can be called fruit bowls and resemble little bowls (Kulia). It is ensured that the bottom remains intact otherwise the filling would drop down.
To make Kulia Chaat, soaked chickpeas (preferably very small ones) are mixed with the spice mixture and then filled in the cavity created due to scooping. Lemon juice is added in to make them more sour and tasty.
For variation and also to add colour, we use pomegranate seeds too in addition to chickpeas for filling purposes.
This is an all weather chaat, more so in summers, when the appetite may not be high due to high temperatures outside apart from the other benefits it may bring for the body and soul.
More than the recipe there is a method to make these Kulias.
These can be made of any fruit which can be chiseled (scooped).
Normally, these taste good of boiled potatoes or sweet potatoes, cucumber, tomatoes, watermelon, bananas.
Making of Watermelon kulias is hell of a task and leads to wastage too. Not wastage actually, as the left over pieces can be eaten or use for making juice. But all this is worth the effort as these are the bestttt !!.
Same way scooping out Banana is also ticklish.
Others are much easy to make.
I have tried to share step by step pics so that it becomes easier for you to make these.
Also, though I have listed the ingredients but it is not possible to specify their quantity . Use as per your taste and preferences.
Go through the Method and Notes first then it would be easier for you to make it.
Boiled Sweet Potatoes
Chaat Masala, Homemade or Store Bought
Roasted Cumin Seeds Powder
Powdered Sugar or Bura (fine grained sugar)
- Soak chickpeas for 3-4 hours and boil them.
- Separate pomegranate seeds.
3. Cut big dumplings of the given fruits/vegetables.
4.Scoop out the flesh inside these with the help of a scooper/peeler. (See Notes2 and 3)
5. Mix salt, rock salt, cumin powder, chaat masala and Bura /powdered sugar.
6. Marinate the hollowed vegetables/fruits with the above prepared spices. But marinate only from the inside. For this, sprinkle the above made masala in the hollowed vegetables/fruits. (See Note 7)
7. Mix salt, chaat masala and lemon juice in boiled chickpeas and in pomegranate seeds separately.
8. Fill this filling in marinated vegetables/fruits.
9. Put some lemon juice in each kulia.
10. Garnish with ginger julienne and green coriander.
11. Serve with love.
- Take the smallest size of chickpeas. Bigger ones would fill the space in just one or two kernels only.
- Scooping is best done with Peeler.
- Take care that the bottom remains intact. Otherwise all filling would drop.
- Scooped out potatoes can be used for stuffed chapatis/cutlets/Papdi Chaat etc.
- Scooped out cucumber/bananas can be eaten raw.
- Scooped out watermelon can be eaten raw or for making juice.
- Sprinkling masala in the hollowed fruits is very important as this does not give bland taste when kulia is eaten. It acts like marinating the vegetables in spices.
This Chaat is very good for Navratras fast or any other fast too.
Healthy, no cook, easy, delicious chaat for fasts.
For consuming it during fasts, just omit chickpeas and use pomegranates only for filling.
Similarly, use rock salt in place of common salt.
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