Street Food Cravings: Kaala Chana Chaat

Kaala Chana Chaat (A warm, mildly sweet, tangy, spicy, herby street food of black chickpeas and potatoes)

Today, I shall take you on a nostalgic trip to my country of birth, India.

Where birds sing on roof tops, children joyfully play a game of hop scotch, a street vendor calls out from a distant corner, there is life all around and conversations abundant.

As I prepare myself for my trip to Asia in summer, I cannot help but imagine how things are back in my country of birth. I am also super excited about all the food that I am going to savour.

On this chilly spring evening, this warm chaat and a cup of tea is all I need in my life! The mild tang and sweetness of the dried pomegranates, some heat from the chili powder and fresh green chili peppers, freshly chopped onions, cilantro and the mildly pungent asafetida, the crunch from the sev, instantly takes me back to wander in the streets of India. My sweet neighbourhood. My childhood.

We love our street food and sometimes we try to recreate it at home!

Here’s one that R made one of the weekend afternoons when I was on my downtime! I came drawn to the kitchen with the aroma of all the warm spices he was using.

This is his creation but the only contribution I made was to suggest adding the Anardana powder because I really liked how my friend Dee had used Anardana in one of her Mom’s recipes of Dried Chhole and I’d loved it! So, thank you Dee!:)

For the longest time, R & I just couldn’t be together in the kitchen at the same time. I’ve had fights over how the onions were cut or which variety of okra R picked up from the grocery store! After moving here, he cooks over the weekend and I get fed!

Now, we give each other ideas when we try to create or recreate something. I must add that he has a very well developed and a sensitive palate, and that is a huge help in terms of feedback when trying out new recipes or food! He gives me critical and honest feedback so every recipe that comes to the blog has passed his test, for sure!

This is a great starter for a party, an afternoon snack or a street food themed party, as one can do most of the prep earlier. It’s perfect to serve in the slightly cooler months. However, you can cook this ahead and keep it in the fridge to serve it as a cold for summer.

Recipe for this warm Kaala Chana Chaat (A warm, mildly sweet & tangy, and spicy, herby salad with black chickpeas and potatoes)

Makes: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

Mustard Oil: 2 tsp
Asafetida (Hing): ¼ tsp
Ground Dried Pomegranate Powder (Anardana Powder): 2 tsp
Cumin Powder: 2 tsp
Red Chilli Powder: ½ tsp
Salt: To Taste
Ground Pepper: ½ tsp (or to taste)
Boiled Black chickpeas (Boiled Kaala Chana): 2 cups
Diced Boiled Potatoes: 1 cup
Chaat Masala: 1 tsp
Mustard Oil: 2 tsp to add on top

Garnish (Totally customized):

Onions: Chopped, fine (a tbsp per serving or as per your liking)
Green chilli peppers, finely chopped (as you prefer)
Cilantro – a handful, roughly chopped
Lime – a squeeze, or more if you like
Crispy Sev (Chickpea flour) – a tsp or as much as you like

Method:

  1. Heat 2 tsp of mustard oil.
  2. While the oil is still getting warm, add Asafetida powder, Ground Anardana, Cumin powder, chilli powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Stir well, in the oil but ensure they don’t burn (adjust the heat as necessary).
  4. Add 2 cups of boiled Kala Chana making sure to add very little of the boiling liquid.
  5. Mix well.
  6. Continue cooking on medium heat until the spices are uniformly coated and stick to the Black Chickpeas & there’s no liquid left.
  7. Add the diced, boiled potatoes (1 cup)
  8. Mix well until it is well coated in all the spices.
  9. Now add 1 tsp of chaat masala.
  10. Stir for another min, add 1/2 tbsp of mustard oil and turn off heat.

Serve warm, loading it with garnish as you like!

To Serve:

Scoop a portion of the cooked Chickpeas and Potatoes in a bowl.

Add a tbsp or two of the chopped onions, green chillies (as per taste) and some freshly chopped cilantro. Squeeze a bit of lime. Enjoy!

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Sweet Potatoes w/ Pancetta, Rosemary and Mandarins.. Let’s get the party started!

Sweet Potatoes with Pancetta and Rosemary

A few weeks ago, I had a couple of these sweet beauties (sweet potatoes) lazing around. It was a Friday and the kids were in school, which meant, I could give my full attention to creating something with all of my senses fully present. There was no yelling, no interruptions and I had time to myself. If you have little kids at home, you know exactly what I am talking about! And if you don’t, then just take my word for it!

Going back to my story about the beautiful sweet potatoes… I opened my fridge for inspiration. I often do that before I start cooking. I stare at the produce and most days that is how I get inspired!

It’s like a party with a special guest list .. you know, the ones which say ‘By invitation only’ ! I opened the chiller and stared some more. Pancetta! There was a light bulb moment! And.. the idea of inviting Pancetta to this party got me super excited!

Now I also needed something earthy to match the meatiness of the pancetta while serving as a bridge between the sweet potatoes and the meat. I began a quiet search for this next guest. And there it was. The fresh rosemary stalks beautifully intertwined together with the confidence one has when they are the party starter!

I started prepping the ingredients, super excited but I got a certain uneasiness that I was missing out an important guest on the list. I needed something a little refreshing and zesty to lift it all up and make it fun! Just then, the mandarins said ‘hello, is it me you are looking for?’! (Sorry, I just couldn’t help it!)

The preparation was done and now we needed some music because what’s a good party without great music and dancing?!

This is an excellent party starter .. perfect for an appetizer or just by itself as a snack when you are in the mood for something delicious! Also, you can always make it vegetarian by removing the Pancetta, using ghee (or Oil for a vegan version) and topping it with some fried cashew nuts!

So, without further ado, let’s get the PARTY started!

Sweet Potato with Pancetta & Rosemary with hints of mandarin!

Total time: 30 mins
Preparation time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

Pancetta : 1 store bought packet or 4 oz or 113 gms (I used 1 4 oz packet of Boar’s Head brand diced uncured Pancetta)
Garlic: 2 cloves of garlic – sliced or if you prefer, you can chop it finely
Onion: ½ cup of finely chopped onions (I used yellow onions)
Ghee or any oil of your choice: 1 tsp
Salt
Pepper: to taste
Rosemary: 2 stalks, washed, stems removed, leaves finely chopped
Dry Chilli flakes or freshly chopped Thai red chilli peppers – 1. Just a hint of spice is needed
Sweet Potatoes: 2 cups of medium diced sweet potatoes (As a ballpark, I used around 2)
Mandarin: Juice of ½ a mandarin + Zest of 1 mandarin
Fresh parsley: a small handful, Finely chopped, as garnish

Preparation:

  1. Finely slice the garlic, if you are lazy like me and you love garlic. Otherwise, mince it finely.
  2. Finely chop the onions to yield ½ cup of onions. I used yellow onions. You could try with red onions, shallots. They would all go well.
  3. Wash the rosemary stalks. Pat them dry. Now remove the leaves from the stem and finely chop them.
  4. Peel the sweet potatoes. And cut them into medium dice.
  5. Take the zest of a mandarin. Cut it into half and juice ½ the mandarin. I challenge you to not juice the other half directly in your mouth and get some of that zesty orange juice stuff all over your face.

Method:

  1. Heat a flat, heavy-bottom pan. I would recommend using something which has a broad surface area that can be used for cooking.
  2. Add the pancetta and mix it around until it renders fat and turns nice, brown and crispy.
  3. Now remove it from the pan. If the oil left behind is enough, you don’t need to add any more oil. If not, you could add a tsp of oil or ghee. I used ghee because I love ghee.
  4. Add the garlic and stir it around until it releases aroma. Do not brown it.
  5. Next add the onions/shallots or whatever you are using. If you are using fresh Thai chilli peppers, finely chop them and add them together with the onions. Season with salt & pepper and sweat it. Go for a translucent colour without browning.
  6. Next, add the rosemary leaves and the diced Sweet potatoes. Season again with salt and pepper. Cook this covered for the next few mins on medium-low heat to get them cooked through but remember stirring them every few.
  7. Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, add the zest and keep heat to medium and just let the edges turn a little brown. Now deglaze the pan by adding the juice of ½ a mandarin. It will sizzle and who doesn’t love a good sizzling sound! Combine the flavours and remove them into your serving dish. Now top it with the Pancetta and a little bit of fresh parsley and you are good to go!

Notes:

  • If you choose to make a vegan version of this, do not include the pancetta. Use coconut oil or any oil of your choice and instead you could add some dry roasted, crushed peanuts as a topping to replace the Pancetta.