Along withÂ garam masala or the hot indian spice blend which got more popular in the west, I find chaat masalaÂ equallyÂ versatile and quite frequentlyÂ used in my kitchen. ‘Chaat‘ translates to any snack orÂ food item served on the streetsÂ in the northern parts of India and ‘Masala‘ in Hindi refers to any sort of (dry or wet) spice blend. If you happen to hit streets in India for food, mostly everything that you will order will come to your table speckled with generous pinches of chaat masala, of course making it lip smacking good and addingÂ a myriad array of tart, salty and hot flavors all at once.It is essentially the spice blend which you will spot on top of pakoras(fritters), tandoori chicken, kebab platters, murghÂ tikka,Â chaat items (of course), mixed in withÂ raitaÂ (yogurt dip) and sometimes sprinkled over side salads and onions in indian restaurants here.The one which punches all the senses in the first bite and with a tempting flavor profileÂ of tang and heat.
I would essentially compare chaat masala to the movie theatre popcorn seasoning (oh I love those) which come in all sorts of flavors and add the much-needed zip to your treat.The only difference that can be pointed here is that even though the spice blends differ from brand to brand and home to home and cook to cook but all are referred to as just ‘chaat masala‘. If you are buying from the stores, pick up a couple of brands, try, choose your favorite and stick to it. I am using the same brand for more than a decade and its worth all your money. While you will sniff and taste warm and (slightly) bitter notesÂ in garam masala, chaat masala is sour and peppery with a pronounced heat level. It is a strong blend, one with a kick, in aromaÂ as well to taste.
After IÂ Â came to the States, like many immigrants starting their life, building bit by bit,Â accepting the smoothness of life here (trust me it didn’t come easy),I recollect howÂ in those days, we did not own a car and trip to indian grocers was a hardly a once or twice a month activity.Even after making ten lists, I would forget a lot of pantry staples. It was during that time that I delvedÂ into making my own spice blends.I found this recipe last month scribbled at the back of an old notebook while I was spring cleaning the garage of old boxes from moving Â and with an afternoon to kill ahead of me, I blended up some chaat masala. For those of you who happen to live in a place where indian grocer are quite far away to drive to or simply just to try your hand at homemade blends,this recipe could be a starting point. Play with it. Measure, grind, sniff and taste. Add or take items as per your liking. Let the flavor and aroma of spice that you like shine.
For all practical reasons, almost always,I go and pick up a pouch from the grocer shelf for the heck of convenience but it is less inÂ comparison to homemade.Trust me on that. Make some and sprinkle on anything and everything you want. It goes very well on top of cut up raw vegetables like cucumbers, celery, radishes or baby carrots. Add it to marinades (just be cautious of heat) and salad dressings. Use it on grilled meats or seafood. My favorite way is to dredge a lime wedge in it and slowly savor it, try it, its addictive!
1teaspoonÂ kala namak(black salt, available in indian stores)
3-4 dried mint leavesÂ
2 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
In a dry skillet, lightly dry roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, whole chillies,Â ajwain, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick, each spice one at a time,Â separately,Â on low heat. Do not let the spices turn brown. Let cool completely.
Put the roasted spices along with other items into dry coffee grinder or spice grinder and blitz to a fine powder.
Store in air tight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.