|April 07, 2023


"Chaat" is a term that every Indian loves. A different version of chaat is invented in almost every district and state. It's proof of its growing demand. This is a selection of essential street food snacks in India. 

Some are these chaat foods are so unique that you won't find them anywhere else. You'll need to travel to the place of its origin, where they have been perfected over generations.

Most chaat items are universal, though. Yet, over the years, chaat food has evolved to suit the taste buds of different cities and cultures. For instance:

  • Gol Gappas (called in North India)
  • Paani Puri (West India)
  • Puchkas (called in East and North-East India)
  • Masala Puri

The basic construct of the dish remains the same. Deep-fried, fluffed-up bites are first filled with yogurt/flavored water. Then vendors add other ingredients and condiments. Finally, they're then garnished with herbs and digestive spices. 

The word "Chaat" in Hindi means "to lick." It's simply irresistible, and it's almost a crime not to taste one in India! We assume that the different notes of complex flavors (spicy-tangy-sweet-savory) packed in one dish give chaats their true meaning.

Chaat masala is a lip-smacking spice mixture widely used in Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi cuisine. It often consists of the following:

Chaat masala has an unusual aroma (primarily due to the presence of black salt). People love it for its complexity and perfect flavors. It's said that the flavors of chaat masala are best the day after preparation. The masala stays fresh for up to 3 months in airtight containers. 

Indian street food vendors use Chaat masala to sprinkle different Indian snacks. These are chaats, such as:

  • Papri chaat
  • Masala puri
  • Dahi puri and
  • Sev puri

But it's also worth trying it over items like:

  • Vegetables
  • Salads
  • Curries
  • Dals, and
  • Fruits

Chaat can consist of a range of spicy, tangy fried foods. They include potatoes and dough. The ingredients are seasoned with a masala blend that includes certain spices. The spice blends the vendors use for making chaat are called chaat masala.

Origin of Chaat Masala

chat masala

The origins of Chaat Masala are somewhat obscure. Generally, it's thought that the first chaat spice blend was invented in the 17th century. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's kitchen staff invented chaat masala. The story goes that the emperor fell ill and was instructed to consume only light foods. His royal kitchen staff developed chaat to meet that need.

The origins of chaat food are still considered a mystery. Some people say it originated in Bengal. Others maintain that it all started in Delhi. Generally, the best-known story of its beginnings states that it originated in Agra. Agra is in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The dish would eventually go on to become wildly popular throughout India. It influenced the creation of various other dishes with similar flavor profiles. They include samosas, kachoris, sev puris, etc.

Chaat masala flavor profile

chaat masala ingredients

Chaat masala contains a diverse range of spices, including:

  • Mango powder
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Black salt
  • Chili powder
  • Black peppercorn, and
  • Asafetida 

Vendors include extra spices and blends, depending on their preferences.

As with any spice blend, there is no universal recipe for making chaat masala. Instead, it varies from one maker to another. The result is a blend with a distinct tangy and sour note. It's mainly due to the following ingredients:

  • Black salt
  • Asafetida, and
  • Mango powder (Aamchoor)

Chaat Masala is sweet, hot, and acidic.

Health benefits of chaat masala

The spices that constitute chaat masala are highly nutritious. They give you nutrients such as:

  • Minerals- Cumin, Asafetida, and Mango powder are popular chaat masala ingredients. They are also excellent sources of calcium and iron. Cumin is also a rich source of these minerals. Chaat Masala contains magnesium as well.
  • Vitamins- The dried chili peppers in chaat masala contain Vitamin A. Cumin also has vitamin A. Asafetida contains riboflavin and niacin. Riboflavin and niacin are both B vitamins. Coriander seeds give you a modest but significant amount of vitamin C.
  • Antioxidants- The antioxidants in chaat masala spices are ferulic acid, which comes from the inclusion of Asafetida. Then there's Ginger, which contains various essential oils, including gingerol. Vitamins A and C in spices are known to be antioxidants.

The multitude of spices in chaat masala may also be able to treat or prevent ailments like:

  • High blood pressure - Coriander seeds are effective for lowering blood pressure. High blood pressure can eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes.
  • Diabetes - Research has suggested that cumin can be a promising treatment for diabetes. The chemical components in cumin can mitigate some of the effects of high blood sugar.
  • Digestive issues - Coriander, black peppercorns, and Ginger are already well known for their digestive benefits. This includes their ability to reduce flatulence and bloating.

Typical uses of chaat masala

Chaat masala

You can use Chaat masala to flavor different types of chaat food items. These include:

  • Aloo tikki
  • Papdi chaat and
  • Pani puri.

Fruits are another food group that is commonly seasoned with this spice blend. When using chaat masala on fruit, you can use the traditional blend. But there is an alternate spice blend called the fruit chaat masala. Fruit chaat masala has fewer flavor notes compared to regular chaat masala. Instead, it contains more flavors from chili powder and Asafetida. Other typical uses include sprinkling it on vegetable salads. Apart from its traditional applications, you can use the chaat masala blend in several other dishes. The masala can be added either before cooking or sprinkled over food after cooking. 


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