Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fantastic Indian Street Foods...... also called "chaats"..... Great!!!!!

I've always loved street foods and always look for them wherever we are.... so far, we've never had any problems and have enjoyed some amazing treats! Strong, exotic flavors made on the spot are always an adventure! Here are some incredible recipes to make some of my favorite Indian street foods... this is just a sampling since there is so much more but I was just sitting here during a lull in my hectic afternoon and my mind wandered into food realms I wish I could revisit.... I miss being able to travel to foreign lands but food is the closest thing to being there and with a little imagination.... plus the aromas coming out of my kitchen..... they say "remembering is re-living" and it's true, so here goes.

Regarding some of the more exotic ingredients which you might not find at your local store, as always- be creative and add substitutes but don't decide to not make these just because you don't have it all down perfect.

You can add boiled potato, cooked chana (garbanzo beans), roasted peanuts, cucumber, chopped tomato, raw mango, spring onions, carrots, sprouts, any cooked beans like black eye bean, kidney beans, lima beans and the list goes on and on. So just be creative and add what you like.

Bhel Puri.- The chaat (as snacks are known) of choice in the food-crazy city of Mumbai is bhel puri, a deceptively simple jumble of puffed rice, sev (tiny fried noodles), potato, red onion, and cilantro. Just before serving, the puri is ignited by a spicy tamarind chutney that not only rouses the palate but moistens the rice and sev to a texture that teeters between crunchy and soft. Love those contrasts!!!

½ cup sev (sev is an Indian snack, yellow colored- you can use Mexican Churritos w/o chili)
(here's a picture on the right to give you an idea for substitutions)
½ cup of papadi’s broken (little crisp round spiced Indian crackers)
1 onion finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup boiled chopped potatoes
1/4 cup boiled chana (chickpeas without the outer covering)
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped (aka cilantro)

Mix puffed rice, sev, and broken papadi in a large bowl. Add onions, tomato, cooked chana, boiled potato, add required green and tamarind chutney. Mix well and garnish with sev and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately

Green Chutney:
2 cups coriander leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
5-6 green chilies (can be serranos or Thai green chilies)
1 tbs lime juice
Salt to taste

Grind ( or leave chunky but well mixed) the above items to a fine paste by adding required water.

Tamarind Chutney:
3/4 cup tamarind water (lemon size tamarind soaked in water)
1/2 cup dates deseeded
3/4 cup jaggery (brown sugar )
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp salt

In a pan add the tamarind water, seedless dates, jaggery, cumin powder, and salt. Bring them to boil and cook for 8- 10 min until the mixture reduce to a thick liquid. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool, and grind to a smooth paste.

You can store these chutneys in a container and keep refrigerated. Add ingredients of your choice to the bhel puri. Bombay Bhel puri mix is available in some stores, just buy that and add chutneys and ingredients of your choice.

Lentil Dumplings with Coconut Curry.- This looks like malai kofta (vegetarian meatballs) but this curry is made of lentils steamed and cooked in coconut curry sauce.

1/2 cup chana dal (yellow split peas)
1/2 cup toor dal (dried green peas)
2-3 red Thai chilies or red Serranos
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt to taste
1/2 large onion, finely chopped

Soak ½ cup chana dal (yellow split peas kind of)
½ cup toor dal (called pigeon peas in India) in water for 2- 3 hours. (you could substitute yellow split peas, garbanzos and dried peas here)

Grind the dals with 2-3 red chilies, 1 tsp cumin seeds, and salt without adding water. Grind to a coarse paste and not to a thick paste. To the ground paste add ½ a large onion finely chopped and mix with the paste. Make lemon size balls with your hands. Arrange the balls on steam molds and steam cook for 9- 10 min until the balls get cooked.

Coconut Curry.- Either fresh or store bought paste will do here, make changes you like too.

oil for frying
2 tsp dried mustard
2 tsp cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
2-3 curry leaves (or about 1-2 tsp ground curry or turmeric)
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1/4 tsp fenugreek powder (add lemon zest and some curry powder to substitute maybe)
pinch of Asafetida powder (use garlic and read below)
1 1/ tsp chili powder (I'd use cayenne)
3 1/2 tsp corinader powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tamarind pod, soaked in 1 cup water water, peeled (add with the water too)
salt to taste
1/2 - 3/4 cup coconut, ground

For the curry heat the pan with 2-3 tsp oil, add mustard, cumin, and curry leaves and saute for a few minutes. Add the onion finely chopped, 1 tomato finely chopped, ¼ tsp fenugreek powder, and pinch of asafetida and saute them well. (the asafetida can be substituted for garlic and is a VERY interesting spice)

Add 1 ½ tsp chili powder, 3 ½ tsp coriander powder, ½ tsp turmeric powder, lemon size tamarind soaked in 1 cup of water, and salt. Mix everything and cook on low-medium heat for few minutes. Grind ½ - ¾ cup of coconut and pour it to the curry and cook for another few minutes. Slowly drop the lentil dumplings into the curry and cook for another few min. Serve hot with rice.

Pav Bhaji.- A fast food dish native to Maharashtrians and is popular in most metropolitan areas in India, particularly in the Maharashtrian city of Mumbai. Pav bhaji consists of the bhaji (a potato-based curry) and the pav (bread), garnished with coriander and chopped Onion.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp finely chopped green chili peppers
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 cup chopped Roma (plum) tomatoes
2 cups cauliflower, finely chopped
1 cup chopped cabbage
1 cup green peas
1 cup grated carrots
4 potatoes, boiled and mashed
3 tbl pav bhaji masala
salt to taste
1 tbl lemon juice
8 (2 inch square) dinner rolls
1/2 tbl butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tbl finely chopped green chili peppers
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Saute garlic and green chile for 30 seconds, then stir in onions and ginger. Cook until onions are brown. Add tomatoes, and cook until pasty. Stir in cauliflower, cabbage, peas, carrots and potatoes. Season with pav bhaji masala. Cover, and cook for 15 min, stirring occasionally. Season with salt, and stir in lemon juice. Toast the dinner rolls, and spread lightly with butter. Serve garnished with chopped onion, green chili and cilantro.

Pav Bhaji Masala.- You can make this ahead of time and keep in the fridge.

3 tbl red chili
3 tbl coriander seeds
1 1/2 tbl cumin seeds
1 1/2 tbl black pepper
1 1/2 tbl cinnamon
1 1/2 tbl clove
4-5 black cardamom pods
1 1/2 tbl dry mango powder
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbl turmeric powder

Roast all the ingredients separately. When cool, grind. Stir them and mix dry mango powder, turmeric powder and put in a bottle with tight lid.

Grilled Curried Tofu with Sweet & Spicy Tamarind Chutney.- Firm tofu is well suited for the grill because it does not fall apart. Seasoned with curry powder, the grilled tofu is not only filling, but also refreshing with its complementary sweet, spicy and tangy tamarind chutney served on the side for dipping. You may have extra chutney left over; serve it with grilled chicken or pork.

2 slices tofu
2-3 tbl chutney each
1 cup tamarind concentrate (see Note)
10 small dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 tbl agave syrup (see Note)
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt, divided
Pinch-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 14-oz cans water-packed firm or extra-firm tofu, drained
1 tbl grape seed or canola oil
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Preheat grill to high. Blend tamarind concentrate, dates, agave syrup, ginger, cumin, 1/4 tsp salt and cayenne (if using) in a blender until smooth.
Cut each block of tofu crosswise into eight 1/2-inch-thick slices. Lightly brush each slice with oil and season on both sides with a light sprinkle of curry powder, the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and pepper.
Oil the grill rack well to prevent sticking. Grill the tofu slices until golden and heated through, 2 to 3 min on each side. Serve hot with the tamarind chutney for dipping.

Notes: To make your own “concentrate” combine 1/4 cup tamarind pulp and 1 cup hot water in a medium bowl. Let stand for 20 min. Break up the pod and mix it with the water with a fork. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve set over a bowl, pressing against the sieve to collect as much of the pulp as possible. Discard solids.
Agave syrup or nectar is the naturally sweet juice extracted from the agave plant. It has a lower glycemic index and is lower in calories than table sugar, but is even sweeter. Use it in moderation when substituting for table sugar. Look for it near other sweeteners in health food stores.

The Vada Pav.- The Indian Burger. Roughly 80 percent of the population of India is vegetarian, so why is a burger one of the most popular fast foods there? Well, it's not a burger in the traditional sense, it's a potato burger. Vada pav is eaten all over western India as a snack or a quick meal on the go. These spiced potato patties are dressed up with two chutneys and sev, thin, salted gram flour noodles for crunch. You can use traditional Indian pav bread if you can find it, but if you can't, plain burger buns work just fine.

2 tbl vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 tsp black salt (or regular)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp dried mango powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder or red pepper flakes, less if you like less heat
2 med potatoes, boiled, peeled, and mashed
2 tbl dry-roasted peanuts
1 tbl minced cilantro
2 tbl unsalted butter
4 hamburger buns or pav bread
4 tsp tamarind-date chutney (see above, you see it did come in handy!)
4 tsp Mint Cilantro Chutney (recipe below)
1 tbl sev

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over med heat. Add the cumin seeds. As soon as they begin to sizzle add the onion. Cook for 1 to 2 min, until the onion just begins to change color. Add the black salt, sugar, turmeric, mango powder, chili powder, and potatoes. Mix well. Continue to cook for 1 to 2 min, until the mixture has completely heated through. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to come to room temperature. When you are ready to serve, reheat the potato mixture. It should be warmed through but not hot. Add the peanuts and cilantro to the potato mixture. Mix well and divide the mixture into four equal portions. Flatten them as you would hamburger patties. These are very delicate patties, so be gentle. Set the patties aside. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Butter the inside of your buns. Place the buns buttered side down in the skillet and toast until golden. Remove from heat. Spread about 1 tsp of the tamarind-date chutney on one side of the bun and 1 tsp of the mint-cilantro chutney on the other side.
Place the patty on top of one of the bun halves, sprinkling some sev on top, and close with the other side of the bun. Serve immediately. I love these!!!!

Mint-Cilantro Chutney.- A great accompaniment to this burger... yum!

1 cup packed cilantro (leaves and stems)
1 cup packed mint (leaves only, please)
1 green Serrano chile (optional; if you don't like too much heat, remove the seeds)
1/4 small red onion, peeled and sliced
1 tbl dried pomegranate seeds (optional)
2 tbl fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
Up to 2 tbl water

Blend the cilantro, mint, chile, onion, pomegranate seeds (if using), lemon juice, and salt in a blender to a smooth paste. To aid in the blending process, you can add up to 2 tbl of water, if needed. Taste and add more salt if needed. Transfer to a covered container and chill for about 30 min. Serve cool. This chutney will keep, refrigerated, for 4 days.
How about it, are you tempted to try these Indian favorites? If you could be here with the aromas wafting through the kitchen, you'd be convinced I'm sure. I will also repeat a favorite mantra: don't let the number of ingredients put you off from trying these.... the procedures are easy and anyone can make them so I hope you'll try them. Also, these dishes are vegetarian and will give you economical dishes with flavor plus! Once you get the spices you need, they'll go a long way too, if you make the chutneys in advance, prep time will also be cut down. So go ahead and give them a try.....

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