Going out for shopping to the busy markets of Lajpat Nagar and Sarojini Nagar was always a special deal for me. I used to go out with my mother and bear the sweltering heat of Delhi only on one condition i.e. I would be treated to a nice teekha plate of chaat papdi in the end. That was the kind of motivation and love I had for chaat and continue to do so. So much so, that when the pandemic took place and we couldn’t step out of our homes to relish our favourite street food by the roadside stalls, my mother got together all the ingredients at home to make us one. 

India’s Encounter With Chaat 

Legend has it that the concept of chaat was introduced to us during the Mughal era. The fifth Mughal emperor in line, Shahjahan has always been known for his creation of the Taj Mahal but did you know he should be credited for our chaat too? Yes, that is true. Under his reign, a cholera outbreak took place in the 16th century. It was realized that the Yamuna water was contaminated and not fit for direct consumption, leading to several water-borne diseases. It was the royal physician Hakim Ali who suggested mixing the water with spices like tamarind, coriander, mint and red chilies to kill the bacteria. 

Composition Of The Chaat And Its Origins

Given the tangy taste of the chaat, it came to be known as chatpati. The vada and papdi which form the main elements of chaat today, along with dahi (curd) and tamarind chutney date back to the Vedas and Mahabharata. For instance, the dahi vadas find mention in the Sutras which are 500 years old. This is further validated in food historian, KT Acharya’s book ‘A Historical Dictionary Of Indian Food’. Here, the description of how the curd-soaked vadas were turned into a chaat is proof. 

The fried crisp papdis of today totally resemble the purikas mentioned in the Manasollasa of the 12th century which add a crunchy element to the chaat. In fact, spices like black salt and tamarind water used in pani puri or golgappas also find mention in texts like the Mahabharata. They were treated as chapattis, made on a griddle. 

Can’t resist the urge for a plate of chaat? Here are some lip-smacking chaat recipes for you! 

1. Aloo Chaat 

A spicy chaat made with boiled potatoes, spices like turmeric, cumin along with lime juice are sprinkled on it and topped with anardana. 

2.  Chana Chaat 

Spruce up your chickpeas with finely chopped onions, tomatoes, green chilies, coriander and some lime juice. 

3. Fruit Chaat 

Dice your boring fruits into bite-sized pieces. Take apples, bananas, grapes and whichever fruits you like. Sprinkle some black salt and chaat masala and toss them nicely.