Most Chaat walas (Chaat Hawkers/ Stalls) in North India have a big flat tawa with a little pool of ghee in the middle and that is where all the drama happens. Scores of people surrounding the stall, stare on, craving for chaat, waiting for their order and the secret to their happiness is usually dancing in the middle of that big flat tawa.
Whether it is Aloo Tikki, Pav Bhaji or Aloo Chaat, that magical tawa yields delicious crispy or sometimes, butter soaked deliciousness that sate many!
I’ve always been fascinated at how quick and dexterous hawkers are with their knives and ladles. When you order an Aloo Chaat at a chaat-wala stall, they quickly dice some boiled potatoes and soon those potatoes are swimming in the oil/ghee. They use a long rustic knife (the same one they used to cut the potatoes) and flip the pieces gingerly till they cook them to a crispy finish. Next thing you know they’re tossing the fried potatoes with spices and chutneys in big steel pateela (a kind of an Indian Caldrun) with a steel ladle to create a loud rattling noise rhythmically to call out to other potential customers!
It’s quite a sight! And then after all these theatrics, you’re presented with a bowl of steaming spicy tangy potatoes that are crispy on the outside but soft and comforting on the inside!
And when your ten year old impressionable self sees this, you think to your self, I wanna be a chaat wala when I grow up! 🤩
How hard can it be?
Making a small batch of Aloo Chaat is really easy and is great as a finger food for parties, as hors d’oeuvres or just on it’s own as a snack.
The business of running a stall, that, I’m not sure about!
Whether you decide to be a chaat wala or not, it is definitely not too difficult to fix that chaat craving at home!
Preparation Time – 30 minutes (20 minutes inactive, 10 minutes active)
3-4 potatoes- boiled, skinned
2 tablespoons cooking oil
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-2 teaspoons Chaat masala
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
1-2 tablespoon Hari chutney (optional)
1 tablespoon sweet tamarind chutney
Wash potatoes and place in a pressure cooker.
Cover them with water and add 2 teaspoons of salt.
Pressure cook till the cooker starts whistling. Try and take off the heat before the first whistle goes off. It’s okay if you’re unable to do that but do not overcook the potatoes more than one whistle because the potatoes will be too soft otherwise.
Let the steam escape from the whistle on it’s own. This may take 5-10 minutes.
If you are boiling the potatoes in an open pot, check the potatoes by piercing with a knife. Do not over boil. Cook only till the potatoes are half cooked.
Drain the potatoes. Place in cold water for them to cool for a few minutes and then peel them.
Dice the potatoes and keep aside.
Heat oil in a non stick pan. I made a small batch so I used a small pan.
Once the oil is hot enough, carefully place the diced potatoes in the pan. They should start sizzling. Stir the potatoes gently or if you’re confident enough, toss the potatoes around the pan to coat them with the oil.
We do that because we don’t want the boiled potatoes to mash because they are already soft. The aim here is to make the potatoes crispy and form a nice light brown crust.
Once you notice that the potato pieces have started forming a light golden crust, flip them gently and cook till they are evenly crusted and are a lovely golden brown in colour.
Once done, take the pan off the heat and take out the potatoes on a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.
Add salt, black pepper, chaat masala, roasted cumin powder, lime juice and toss. Add a tablespoon of tamarind chutney and a teaspoon of Hari chutney and toss to coat the potatoes. You can skip either of the chutneys according to what you have at hand. If you aren’t using any of these chutneys, add extra lime juice.
You can also add chopped raw onions and coriander leaves on top if you prefer!
Take out in bowls and serve hot!
Enjoy this tangy snack with a glassful of lassi/chaas or thandai or Ginger chai!
- You can also make this recipe with sweet potatoes
- If you want to avoid frying the potatoes, you can use an air-fryer or oven to roast the boiled potatoes.
- Do tell us incase you try any variations in this recipe in the comments below!
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