That ‘Paneer cube’ in my Chaat!

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This one is a pure confession story. From being a weekly or even a biweekly ‘chaat eater’ since I have developed proper tastebuds and a dependable memory to now being an yearly ‘chaat eater’…yes this one is about chaat, the favourite food, an addiction, a passion, whatever you want to call it. And why not? Can any connoisseur tell about a food which tantalises the tastebuds more than what a chaat does…

A perfectly made chaat gives a smorgasbord of flavours enough to satiate the buds, the heart and the soul but not the appetite. Just the right proportion and combination of the spices in various components that make the chaat, the potpourri of the versatile and flavourful chutneys, golden fried potato patty, more dearly known as aloo tikki, crispy and crunchy papadi, soft and melt-in-mouth lentil vadas submerged in sweet salty smooth curd. Mind you, the curd has to have just the right balance of sugar and salt, otherwise the entire experience goes for a toss!

And yes that’s how I am particular about my chaat. That’s what I have grown up on and find myself absolutely fortunate to have grown in an era where eating out meant savouring these mouthwatering flavourful delicacies served in the most eco-friendly dried banana leaf platters with not even a trace of junk or dreadful plastic!

Chaat which finds its orgin in Uttar Pradesh has progressively adapted to various demographies. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. Even in Uttar Pradesh, there are variants with Benarasi chaat having its own unique flavour and ingredients. Lucknowi chaat is what I grew upon and my taste buds declare it to be the best and most flavourful of the lot! Not even going more towards east where flavours and even names get a new avatar..

Having lived in Delhi for years now, I confess that I have not accepted the ‘twisted’ chaat that we get here with generous dollops of chole and pure white paneer cubes taking a pride in being there.  ‘Dilli ki chaat’ is world famous but for me it doesn’t work! No wonder I have become a rare chaat eater now. Recently, however, when the craving became too much and I ordered chaat with specific instructions of only Dahi-chutney tikki. The wait and excitement till my order was being prepared had brought the widest grin on the face which disappeared soon when I was called out for my order…there was pure white paneer and generous dollops of chole on top. All my lucknawi tehzeeb had gone for a toss with fierce anger taking over and in the rudest possible manner I asked the poor counter guy about why he had put these two magic ingredients. He replied matter-of-factly, ” Tikki mein toh ye daalte hi hain na”. Ya Right! Taste buds are just not adapting to this version of chaat!!

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