City Food – Aloo Chaat, Around Town
Beyond the french fries.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Delhi’s roadside version of French fries is not eaten with the fingers. Cut into cubes and fried to a crisp, the potatoes in the aloo chaat come coated with spicy masalas and chutney, so it is best to pick them up daintily with a toothpick and place them gingerly in your mouth.
While it is available at every respectable street food corner, aloo chaat can especially be found near bus stops.
Since potatoes have hardly any gastronomic virtues of their own, aloo chaat’s sensuousness lies in its dressing. A few chaat walla bhayyas play coy by refusing to share their recipes for the masala mix. They try to create an aura of romantic mystery, when there is probably no garnish except for salt and garam masala. But if there’s a crowd around a cart, it must have a clever combination of spices.
In Paharganj Main Bazaar, chaotic streets are lined with vendors serving the most delicious fried potatoes. Spices such as black salt, cumin, coriander, cardamom and ajwain clash and combine to create a rainbow of subtle flavours that are bold but not fiery. The signature sweet-sourness of the dish is thanks to the final churning of the potato cubes in two chutneys – dhaniya-pudina and sweet amchoor.
A generous squeeze of lime adds the finishing touch. As you start popping the aloos into your mouth, you may want to cry Shakespeare’s famous line out loud, “Let the sky rain potatoes.”
We all are Irish