Aloo chaat is a delicious combination of fried potatoes tossed in spices and chutney, along with herbs and some crunchy sev to garnish. It's a classic Indian street food that's a delicious combination of tangy and spice flavors that makes a great snack.
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There are a few countries that are known for their street food, and India is definitely one of them. Some stalls sell a few things, others only one, but in any major place you'll find all kinds of drinks and sweet and savory bites in no time.
This dish is one you'll find variations of in different places but it's particularly from North India. While it is often considered a street food, you'll also find it served at home, in restaurants and for special events. And it's so tasty, it's easy to see why.
What is chaat?
"Aloo" means potato and "chaat" literally means to lick or taste, but is more generally recognized as a group of foods. Chaat dishes are typically savory appetizers that combine base ingredients with spices and usually chutney and other toppings.
While the combinations can be endless, the general sense is similar. In each bite, you get a delicious mix of flavors that has some tanginess, some spice and often a little sweet, too. You'll typically have some different textures, despite only a few ingredients as well.
The origins of chaat are from the Uttar Pradesh region of Northern India, but beyond that, it's a little vague. One popular theory is that it was invented by the royal kitchen to Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 16th century. The general theme of the story is that the first chaat dish was created because of disease. But some versions say it was to vary the diet due to poor drinking water while others suggest it was to try to fight off cholera.
Whatever the exact origins, it's an idea that is not popular across India and beyond. And it's easy to see why once you try some, and this is a great place to start (or continue!)
Core ingredients and variations
As with many recipes, you will find variations in the exact ingredients. But for this dish, a few things are core:
- potatoes (it wouldn't be aloo chaat otherwise!)
- dry spices (at least cumin, chili and chaat masala)
- fresh herbs (cilantro is pretty core, even if just a little)
- tamarind chutney (this adds the main tangy element).
Beyond these, you will find some versions also add green chutney, others add some yogurt. Along with cilantro, you might add mint and lemon is common, too, for extra tang. Many top the dish with some sev for a bit of crunch and/or pomegranate for both pops of flavor and color.
While some of these ingredients might at first not be familiar, I will give a bit more detail below. You will find most of these in an Indian supermarket, or online, if they are not in your local store. As a bonus, many of the less familiar ingredients will last and appear in other types of chaat, like papdi chaat. So if you like the idea, you will have a good base to make other dishes, too.
About the ingredients used here
While you use a few ingredients, everything comes together quickly. The different ingredients just each add to the vibrant flavor profile.
- Potatoes - you can use a range of varieties for this, just bear in mind you want a variety that works well to fry. So I would suggest not a waxy potato, but most others should work well.
- Cumin - ready ground cumin is fine for this.
- Chili powder - ideally, you want to use Kashmiri chili powder for this which is a little milder and has a more smokey flavor. If you don't have any, then you can use a mix of paprika (ideally smoked) and either regular chili powder or cayenne.
- Chaat masala - this is a blend of spices (as all masalas are) that you'll find in pretty much all chaat recipes, as well as some others that may be less classic chaat like paneer tikka. It includes spices like black salt and dried mango that give a mix of salty and tangy flavors. You can find it in Indian supermarkets and also buy chaat masala online. It will keep a while to use other times, so I do recommend hunting down as it really adds to the flavor.
- Dried mango powder (amchur) - this is one of the ingredients in chaat masala, but worth adding some more of. It, too, is available in Indian supermarkets or online. You can skip this if not easily available.
- Lemon juice - use freshly squeezed.
- Fresh cilantro (coriander) and optionally mint - while I like adding both, if you want to not have two part bunches left, cilantro is the one to go for.
- Tamarind chutney - this is a classic Indian chutney made from tamarind, sweetened with jaggary. It has a great tangy flavor with some sweetness too - exactly how sweet varies. Sometimes date tamarind chutney is easier to find, which would also work but is typically a little sweeter. You can make your own pretty easily, too - I used this tamarind chutney recipe from Dassana's veg recipes.
- Green chutney (cilantro mint chutney) - you can skip this and just use a little more tamarind chutney if you like, but I like the freshness it adds. You can buy it, but I always make my own - see my cilantro mint chutney recipe, it comes together quickly and easily.
- Sev - this is a kind of crunchy fried noodle, generally made from gram flour (chickpea). It comes in both thick and thin versions, and also seasoned. Here I suggest the relatively plain, thin version, often called nylon sev. As with other ingredients above, you can get in Indian supermarkets or online.
- Pomegranate - you can skip these if you like, or if not available, but they add a lovely pop of color. The little bursts of juice are nice in there, too.
As long as your sev does not contain wheat, this is a gluten-free snack. If you are looking for other easy gluten free snacks from around the world, why not try socca flatbread (made with chickpea flour) or Thai corn fritters.
Variations for cooking the potatoes
While I describe par-boiling and shallow frying here, you do have a few options. At the end of the day, you are looking for crisp chunks, so how you get there is less relevant.
Traditionally, and at street vendors, you fry them in a tava which is a shallow skillet/frying pan like dish. At home, a regular skillet or a wok also work well. You can deep fry them, too, or use an air fryer to be that bit healthier. You could also roast the potatoes if you prefer.
This dish could be made with leftover roast or fried potatoes, too. I'd suggest you re-heat them, either by warming in the oven on a baking sheet or frying. Frying is better in many ways to get them crisper, but maybe not best if they could become over-cooked. You could also use an air fryer to re-heat.
After cooking the potatoes, the rest is all straightforward and the same.
Top tip: prepare other ingredients ahead
It's worth adding the chutneys and spices relatively quickly as they coat better when the potatoes are warm. So, have things prepared and ready. Then, have the toppings ready to add on top.
You can serve this warm or room temperature, though I think it works best enjoyed soon after making it. The toppings are best added just before serving so they are fresh and, for the sev, crisp.
Aloo chaat is such a tasty combination of flavors, it's no wonder it's so popular. With plenty of tang, spice, and different textures, it's so easy to enjoy. And being easy to make, you can easily enjoy it again soon.
Try these other savory snack ideas:
- Cheese scones (soft, cheesy and oh so tasty)
- Chickpea fatteh (a Middle Eastern dish combining crisped pita, savory seasoned yogurt, chickpeas, pine nuts and herbs. Simple and so tasty)
- Yuca fries (crisp and tasty, and perfect dipped in Peruvian green sauce)
- Cauliflower pakora (another classic Indian snack, that's also easy to make)
- Plus get more Indian recipes and snack recipes, both savory and sweet, in the archives.
To cook potatoes
- 2 potatoes medium (2 potatoes total weight approx 9oz/255g)
- 1 ½ tablespoon vegetable oil or a little more as needed
- ½ green chili optional (see notes)
- ½ teaspoon garlic finely chopped, optional (see notes)
- ½ teaspoon ginger finely chopped, optional (see notes)
To mix in
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon chaat masala
- ½ teaspoon kashmiri chili powder or less, to taste
- ½ teaspoon dried mango powder amchur (omit if not available)
- 1 pinch salt or a little more, to taste
- 1 pinch pepper or a little more, to taste
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon tamarind chutney
- 1 tablespoon cilantro mint chutney green chutney, can add extra tamarind chutney if you prefer
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro coriander
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint
- 2 tablespoon pomegranate arils
- 2 tablespoon nylon sev (ie the fine sev)
- Peel the potatoes and cut into a relatively small dice. Place them in a small pot and cover with cold water, put lid on then place over a medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat slightly so you have a simmer then cook for a couple more minutes until the potatoes are just cooked (al dente). Drain the potatoes and leave, uncovered, to cool slightly and dry out a little. Meanwhile prepare other ingredients - gather spices, chutneys and chop herbs.
- Warm the oil in a medium skillet/frying pan over a medium high heat - you want to be able to have the potatoes in a single layer, ideally with some space. Once warm, add the potatoes. Cook, turning only occasionally so that they get slightly crisp and gently brown on each side (don't stir or turn too often or the potatoes may break up). If using, add the chili, garlic and ginger towards the end so they can gently cook.
- Once the potatoes are crisp all over, either transfer to a bowl or drain off any excess oil. Add the cumin, chaat masala, chili powder, dry mango powder, salt, pepper and lemon juice and stir through to coat the potatoes, being careful not to break them up. Add the tamarind chutney and cilantro mint (green) chutney and mix through.
- If not in bowl you will serve in, transfer to serving bowl/dish the add the cilantro and mint. You can either leave on top or mix through slightly. Top with the pomegranate and sev then serve.
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