I always root for the underdog. When a team is losing to the point of embarrassment, I’ll be the one cheering it jubilantly; when someone is making a less-than-convincing argument, I’ll probably back them up, and maybe that’s why, when it comes to the classic food fight: the battle of the potatoes, I pick my favourite, the aloo chaat.
Most of you would probably not even have heard of the lesser-known street food item. In the overflowing array of street food that lines Delhi’s corners, aloo chaat is underrepresented. It sits, slowly sizzling amidst the warm aloo tikki rounds, and close to the steaming piles of the duo, namely chole and kulche. It is neighbors with the triangular samosas bursting with flavour and filling, and just around the corner from the most popular gol gappe.
The dish in itself is simple: evenly cut squares of boiled potatoes and first fried in a deep sea of oil. After resting it out for a while, it is then mixed with green coriander chutney, lemon juice, dusted with spices--salt, red chilly powder and chaat masala--and if one has a sweet tooth, even a little tamarind chutney.This humble combination is then scooped out into a small plate, pierced with a toothpick and served: buon appetit!
It needs no extra airs for showing off, no elaborate preparation, no extra frills on top.
At home, we add extra imly chutney and green chillies to the combination, making a dish that is definitely not for the faint-hearted, or mild-tongued.
This isn’t the only kind of street food you get. Versatile, the aloo chaat changes its avatar according to the season. In the winter, for instance, pick the sweet potato variant, also known as shakargandi. You get it at most street corners, where the sweet potato is roasted slowly over coal, peel and then served with extra smatterings of rock salt and chaat masala.
For those who think that potatoes are all bad (or all starch), think again. You could have a non-fried version of the aloo chaat too, with boiled potatoes mixed up with lemon juice, raw onions, tomatoes and green chillies and topped with some of that delicious masala.
During the course of this piece, I visit local street food shop near the office, purely for research's sake, of course. The man doling out platefuls looks up from busy service to ask me: Aloo tikki or aloo chaat? I trust that by now you know which one I chose.