A Way of Life-Chaat

You guys, our libraries are OPEN. I must say the book pick-up process has been pretty user friendly for the past year but I was so excited when I pulled up and saw the “we are open!” sign.

There was quite the wait list for Maneet Chauhan’s lastest cookbook Chaat, so when I finally got it, I couldn’t wait to dig in. After choosing a few recipes to try, then came the hunt for the ingredients. Not wanting to go to all of the stores looking for a few key ingredients, I improvised.

But first. Gouda turned 3 years old on July 4th. Part sweetheart part asshole, she didn’t even say thank meow.

Back to Chaat. I didn’t even know what chaat was, I just knew that there were different varieties out there, such as Paneer chaat and Aloo chaat. I found that the word describes a way of Indian life, more than just street food snacks. After more reading I learned that there are many regional variations of chaat but all of them have one thing in common. Each recipe of chaat has a combo of five essential components; the base, the sauce, the crunch, the vegetables and the umami. After that, the creative mashup is up to you.

We chose to make the Tabakh Maaz (twice-cooked caramelized ribs) and the Gajar ka Halwa (carrot pudding with pistachios and saffron). And obviously I would also make the cilantro-mint chutney because that is always a must at every Indian meal.

Back to the ingredient hunting. You guys, we have international markets on every corner but I could not find Paneer and I could not find lamb ribs. Turns out that paneer is easy enough to make and pork ribs would be a quick pinch substitute that would end in an abundance of food moaning.

I took an entire afternoon to make this meal, dipping into the sun every so often.

First up, make the cheese. Paneer, a farmer’s cheese made with milk, lemon and salt. That’s it, that’s the recipe.

Next was the carrot pudding, although the final product tasted amazing, the end result did not turn out how the cookbook promised. And no, it was not user error. Somehow grated carrot boiled in saffron, cardamom and milk was supposed to turn into a velvety pudding consistency. This did not happen and I even let it simmer for a lot longer than suggested. This picture is what I had after the recommended 30 minutes.

Nothing like pudding. I even used the emersion blender at the end but still no avail. This recipe just didn’t work, although it sure did taste good.

The cilantro-mint chutney came together in under five minutes, however I didn’t seed all five of the serrano’s because I like to live on the edge of pain.

Then we have the ribs. You guys, these are ridiculous. Once I got over the fact that I wasn’t making lamb, sigh, I went in open minded. These ribs are simmered in water with the addition of milk with a handful of spices; cardamom’s, cinnamon, tumeric, fennel seeds and of course garlic. Once they were “fall off the bone” tender. I let them rest until I admitted to myself that the carrot pudding was not going to in fact be “pudding”.

I heated a cast iron pan, added some ghee, and lightly sprinkled some cane sugar over the ribs (not in the recipe) and fried them until perfectly caramelized.

And then……

So now I have a new way of cooking ribs. I can’t wait to make this for friends and family, it’s that good. Next time I would like to make pork and lamb side by side. And the chutney, just smother it on the ribs or eat it by the spoonful.

This is a cookbook that I could definitely cook my way through, so many good looking recipes, even if the carrot pudding recipe was a lie. Ha!

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