Archives for posts with tag: masala

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I am a clean freak.  Honestly, I have a problem.  I cannot tolerate any dishes in the sink, any sort of mess.  I get grossed out way too easily.  It’s funny because as I’m getting older the less tolerance I have for uncleanliness.  The reason I mention this is because it is getting increasingly difficult for me to eat street food.  My husband and I went to Thailand and I couldn’t bring myself to eat ANY of the street food.  I look at photos of Thai street food and it looks so delicious.  But in the moment I failed myself!  This is such a pity because I love street food and hole in the wall places wherever they are in the world (as long as they are clean).

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In Toronto we have a small section of the city called Little India.  I have not been too much, because Pakistani or Indian food is something I can eat at home.  But there is a whole experience to going and sitting on a plastic chair or a picnic table and eating foods like papri chaat, gol guppay, tikkas, and naan.  My husband and I ventured to Little India to get some chaat a few years ago and I really think we went on a bad day because the places we found were not very good.  I’ve heard good things from friends about some places there so I don’t want to be a meanie and bash any place in particular.  🙂

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After that trip, I decided to make chaat at home.  The ingredients are readily available and it’s actually quite easy to make.  I’ve also made chaat at my inlaws’ house many times when they have guests over and not to boast, but it’s always a hit. I like to make it fresh (otherwise it gets soggy) so I make it in batches and people have no patience to wait for me to finish the next tray of chaat.  While I am making a new batch they start reaching into the serving dish.  In situations like this I just zip my lips. But despite this slight annoyance I should take this as a compliment.  My chaat is just THAT delicious.  😉

IMG_2804Papri Chaat

Ingredients

(this is a loose recipe and can be adapted to your taste)

Papri (can be found in South Asian grocery stores)

Bhel Puri (can be found in South Asian grocery stores)

1 cup cooked chickpeas

boiled potato, peeled and cut into small cubes, about 1 cup

Tamarind Chutney*

Green Chutney**

Yogurt***

Chaat Masala (can be found in South Asian grocery stores)

chopped red onions

chopped tomatoes, optional

chopped green chilies

chopped cilantro

chopped mint, optional

Method

*Tamarind Chutney is made by heating 3/4 cup of tamarind pulp, 6 pitted Medjool dates, 2 tablespoons chaat masala, 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste), 3/4 teaspoon, 1/4 cup sugar on medium heat for 15 minutes and then reducing the heat to low for 45 minutes.  Allow it to cool and then blend in a blender until the consistency is smooth.  Serve chilled.

**Green Chutney is made by placing 1 cup cilantro leaves and stems, 15 mint leaves, 1 long green chilli, 2 tablespoons water, salt, and black pepper in a blender until very finely chopped.  This should resemble a pesto.

***For the Yogurt, take 1 cup of plain yogurt and thin it out with 1/2 cup of water.  Add 1 teaspoon chaat masala and salt to taste.  Whisk until it looks like thick cream.

To assemble the chaat:  Place the papri (wafers) on a serving dish and top with chickpeas, potatoes, yogurt, tamarind chutney, green chutney, red onion, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, mint, green chilies, and sprinkle the dish with chaat masala.  Finally, top with some bhel puri.  It is best to serve this right away.  You can prepare everything in advance and assemble before serving.

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Pakistani street-foods are the ultimate in sweet, salty, and sour deliciousness.  I am a huge fan of chaat and when I miss the taste of chaat I usually opt for this version with potatoes and chickpeas.  In these hot summer months, it’s the perfect light snack.  The temperature is scorching hot and I feel so very lethargic that I just want to  make something easy.  I no longer have the patience to stand in front of the stove and sweat, even in air conditioning.

I last went to Pakistan for my wedding shopping, I haven’t been back since due to schedules and the like.  But, the thing I miss most, besides family, of course, is the street food.  My mom, my aunt, and I went crazy during my wedding shopping, getting my bridal dresses, jewelry, and the various other outfits.  Despite all the rush and chaos, we could calm down with a bowl of chaat practically everyday.  Sitting on a rickety chair with an even ricketier table at a street vendor, we would just relax with our chaat.  The scorching sun in the market, the pollution from traffic and rickshaws, the fan that was blowing around hot air didn’t even phase us.  It was our time to unwind.  Let me tell you, wedding preparations are stressful.

Now that I’m way beyond my newlywed days and back to reality, I have the responsibility of making the chaat.  As we have established before my husband is good for nothing in the kitchen.  Thankfully, chaat is simple and pantry-friendly.  I always have potatoes and chickpeas on hand.  I don’t think my household would run without them.  The tamarind chutney adds the right amount of tang.  I love tamarind, I love tamarind candies coated in chaat masala.  I am salivating just thinking about them.  (You can get similar candies in Mexican/Latin American grocery stores).  My chutney recipe isn’t 100% authentic because I make mine in 5 minutes.  The real version is slowly simmered on a stove all day and I haven’t learned how to make it yet.  My shortcut chutney is just fine for the time being.  Chaat is a nice departure from usual summer fare and could also be considered a salad of sorts.  You don’t even need to go to Pakistan to try it, but I must admit, even though mine is pretty tasty, it is not even close to Pakistani chaat.

Potato and Chickpea “Chaat” with Tamarind Chutney

Serves 3

Ingredients

2 cups cooked chickpeas

1-2 medium-sized potatoes, boiled until tender and then peeled and cut into a small dice

1/2 a medium-sized red onion, finely chopped

1 long green chili, finely chopped (seeds and ribs removed for less spicy)

1 tomato, finely chopped, optional

1/4 bunch of cilantro chopped (use as much as you like)

a few mint leaves, optional

chaat masala, (as much as you like, I like to add a lot, about 1 tablespoon, you can find it in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores, I use Shan brand)

for the Tamarind Chutney:

2 heaping teaspoons of tamarind paste

juice of 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon chaat masala

1/4 teaspoon red chili powder (as much as you like)

1 tablespoon raw sugar

Method

First, make the chutney by combining all the ingredients for the chutney in a small saucepan on medium heat and melt the tamarind until it becomes liquidy, about 5 minutes.  If your chutney is thick, thin it out with some water.  Chill for an hour.

Next, combine all the ingredients for the chaat; the chickpeas, potatoes, red onion, green chili, tomatoes (optional), cilantro,  mint (optional), and chaat masala.  Check for salt.  I don’t add salt because the chaat masala already has it in it.  I got ahead of myself and mixed in the tamarind chutney with the chickpeas, usually I just drizzle some on top of the chickpeas.  If you would like you can mix the chutney in with the chickpeas as I did here.  Chill the chaat for an hour in the refrigerator.  Some people like to drizzle on thinned out yogurt on top as well.  Garnish with cilantro leaves and a sprinkling of chaat masala.

Chickpeas

My husband always requests this dish.  He has his set in stone favorites and maybe it is a good thing that he knows what he likes.   Chickpeas stew (channay ka salan) is a favorite of his.  My sister and I tease him with the nickname, “woohoo, channay.”  Okay, you might think we are completely bonkers, but there is a reason why we call him that.  About 3 years ago, at his sister’s wedding, my sister, my husband, and I were at the dinner buffet and my husband spotted this dish in the lineup and exclaimed, “woohoo, channay!!!”  My sister and I looked at each other in utter amazement.  Out of all the dishes, he was most excited about the chickpeas.  I was drooling over the biryani and the haleem.  The chickpeas were an afterthought to me.  Partially, because this dish is something I can easily prepare at home with almost no effort.

You could say it is good for me that he likes this dish so much.  It is so easy to prepare, much like many Pakistani dishes.  I do not post too many Pakistani dishes (although, I do cook them frequently), because a lot of them have the same ingredients with a different protein and/or vegetable combination.  I am not that adept at making some of the more difficult ones, yet.  Any Pakistanis reading this might also be unimpressed because this is a basic home-cooking recipe that xyz million people can make blindfolded.  It is also very hard to get these items to look pretty, because most dishes are stewed.  Hopefully, this one appeals to your senses!

My husband says I never give him credit for helping me choose dishes to make, so here I am giving him full credit.  Hopefully, he will be happy with this.  He will probably mock me and say, “out of all your entries, you give me a tribute in your chickpeas post!”  To this I will respond, “you were the one who ‘woohoo-ed’ over them.”

In my family, this dish is usually served for brunch, but it is also great for dinner!  Enjoy!

Spicy  Stewed Chickpeas

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

vegetable oil

3 cups of cooked chickpeas (soaked then boiled in water with a pinch of baking soda until tender)

1 medium-sized red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped finely (optional and not necessary)

1 large tomato, chopped (I prefer to purée the tomato, but chopped is fine)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

3/4 teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder, homemade is best

salt to taste

water

long green chilies (available at Indian/Pakistani grocery store and even at regular grocery stores, they are usually about 3 inches long and thin).

handful of cilantro, chopped

a few slices of red onion, for garnish

a little extra garam masala, for garnish

Method

Heat some oil (about 2-3 tablespoons) on medium heat in a medium-sized pot.  Add in the onions and cook until light brown, about 7 minutes.  Make sure they are not too brown, just about to turn light brown.  Add in the garlic, if you re using it and allow it to melt in with the onions.  Next add the chopped tomatoes and fry for a minute or so.  Add all the spices and allow the raw taste to cook out of the spices, about 2 minutes.  Add in the chickpeas and mix around so that everything is distributed.  Add in some water, the amount is up to you, the water will evaporate.  You can add more water as it is cooking if you do not like the consistency.  I would start with 2 cups.  Cook on medium-low heat until you do not see any individual pieces of tomatoes or onion.  The gravy should be uniform.  This will take 30-45 minutes.  About 10 minutes before it is ready I like to throw in a whole green chili for some extra flavor.  Garnish with chopped green chilies, cilantro, sliced red onion, and a sprinkling of garam masala.  Serve with fresh naans or roti.  If you are feeling decadent then try paratha or poori.

Chicken tikka is ubiquitous with South Asian cuisine.  It is a popular takeout item, but is just as easily prepared at home.  Making this dish in a tandoori oven would be ideal but my apartment kitchen could not handle such advanced apparatus.  I actually prefer my homemade version to *some* restaurant versions because in many restaurants I have been to, the chicken is practically dyed an ungodly red color.  That food coloring or whatever it is that they use, really turned me off chicken tikka for a while.  To me, this look is as unappealing as an over peroxidized bleached blond.  (I do not have anything against bleached blondes, just a comparison in dying methods ;). )

Another issue I had with chicken tikka was that I became dependent on Shan Masalas in order to prepare it.  If you do not know of Shan masalas (there are many other brands that produce similar spice mixes) are prepared spice mixes for any Pakistani dish you could dream of.  When I say any, I MEAN any.  They are 99 cent wonders for some.  Throw in some onions, ginger, and garlic and your xyz Pakistani dish is made.  Though, there is a convenience factor to these masalas, there is the inevitable fact that everyone’s food started tasting the same.  The authenticity of the cuisine was gone.  For a while I couldn’t tell you what went into Biryani, it was all in the Shan Masala for me, why would I need to know?  Now, I steer clear of  these prepared masalas as much possible.

Oh no, I made them sound like the most evil thing on earth didn’t I?  They’re not that bad (though they are laden with sodium, but that’s another issue.) At least, they encourage people who wouldn’t normally cook, to actually go into the kitchen.  Also, I must admit, I do add just a bit of the prepared chicken tikka mix because of the nice color it adds.  (Not the unnatural mutated red color as previously mentioned.)

Chicken tikka is so easy to prepare and yields delicious results.  I freshly grind all my spices to produce even more flavor, but if you don’t have a spice grinder, powdered ones will work great.  Also, I have noticed that South Asian spices in regular markets can be exorbitantly expensive.  Do check out Indian/Pakistani groceries where the same spices will be of better quality and at lower prices.  South Asians have reached all corners of the globe, so I’m sure there will be an Indian/Pakistani grocer somewhere near you.  I’m originally from Rhode Island aka the smallest state, and we have at least 3 South Asian grocers there.  Enjoy this dish, it’s definitely a crowd pleaser and great for large gatherings!

Chicken Tikka

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

4 chicken leg quarters skin removed and separated into leg and thigh portions, and using your knife make 3 slits on each piece of chicken so that the marinade can penetrate into the meat, (if you get your chicken directly from a butcher ask him or her to remove the kidneys as well)

7-8 cloves of garlic mashed in a mortar and pestle with 1/4 cup of water

1/2 inch piece of ginger mashed on a mortar and pestle (mixed with the garlic)

juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoons laal mirch powder, I believe this is similar to cayenne pepper but in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores it is called red chili powder.  I do not like to say chili powder because some may get confused with Tex-Mex Chili.  I prefer using Mehran brand red chili powder.

1 tablespoon cumin powder

1 tablespoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 pinch of ajwain (carom) seeds

1 teaspoon Shan Chicken Tikka Masala

1 teaspoon salt

1 heaping tablespoon of yogurt

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

sliced onions, limes, green chilies, and tomatoes, cilantro, for garnish

Method

Put the chicken into a large bowl.  Mix all the spices together and add the lime juice, ginger/garlic paste made in the mortar and pestle, oil, and, yogurt (I forgot to add my yogurt until the end that is why you can see it separately in my pictures, but it really does not make a difference.)  Combine these ingredients until they form a paste.  Slather this paste over the chicken and rub it into the slits.  Marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours, if you are pressed for time, at least 1 hour.  After marination place the chicken on an oiled baking tray and bake at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the chicken in cooked through.  Then, turn the oven to broil and allow to broil for about 5 minutes or until the chicken gets a little charred.  Serve with hot naan and the garnishes.

*This chicken is also wonderful on the grill in the summertime!