GoodTaste: Can we chaat?
Chaat, for too long, has been a footnote in the appetizer section of most Americanized Indian restaurants.
But this street-food sensation from the subcontinent is finally coming into its Philly moment - and Hasan Bukhari of Mood Cafe on Baltimore Avenue is its Baskin Robbins, conjuring up more variations than I thought possible.
Essentially a salad with a crunchy base of various bean and lentil crackers topped with a kaleidoscope of swirling sauces, diced potatoes, and chickpeas, a great chaat is a monsoon of contrasting flavors and textures.
Cooling drizzles of yogurt, spicy green mint, and sweet-sour brown tamarind chutneys dusted with chili powder rev the taste buds, while crackers made from lentils, chickpeas, or puffed rice ("I've got 15 crunches to choose from!") crackle and pop.
Bukhari adds dates, radish, and juicy mango to his basic mix, but that's where the add-in madness begins. Chicken tikka chaat? "Greek" chaat with feta? Ramp up to a "Kashmiri" chaat with extra-spicy crunchies? Wash it down with a sip of exotic rose-petal lassi ("I've got 60 different flavors!" says Bukhari) and call it a snack.
- Craig LaBan
Papri chaat, $5.99-$6.99, Mood Cafe, 4618 Baltimore Ave., 215-222-1037.