Chaat: Of Course It’s Kid Friendly!
See why your kids will love this no-rules, customizable, Indian snack-tivity.
I had the amazing opportunity to chat about chaat with Chef Maneet Chauhan. Chaat is a category of snack foods but it’s so much more than that—“it’s a way of life”. By definition, chaat has something for everyone. Because you build your own bowl as you go, chaat can be little bit crunchy, a little sour, some spice and a whole lot of flavor. Now let's dig in!
I looked forward to after school snacks with great anticipation, no matter where I had them. But some were certainly more thrilling than others. When I’d go to Mumu aunty’s house after school, I never knew what we’d get—one time it was artichokes and drawn butter. Sometimes it was the widest array of dumplings I’d ever seen. But every now and again it was my favorite snack + activity of all time—a chaat party. Pani puri, pav bhaji, bhel puri, and bowls and bowls of options for building our own bowls of crunchy/spicy/sour/sweet snack-time bliss—no matter how bad a day I had at school, walking in to her kitchen and seeing this colorful spread and feeling her genuine excitement to put this together for us felt celebratory, and so fun. It could definitely turn any mood right around.
What is chaat?
As Chef Maneet explains it, the word Chaat comes from the Hindi and Urdu verb meaning “to lick”—as in, it’s so crave-able you’re going to lick the bowl afterwards. It’s a category of snack foods but it’s so much more than any one preparation—“it’s a way of life”. There are few rules, other than to include every flavor and every texture in every bite. Fun, right? Loosely speaking, you want sweet, sour, savory, hot/spicy, pungent, crunchy, smooth, hot and cold in your bowl. It’s a sensory explosion with every bite.
Why is it kid friendly?
- It’s endlessly customizable: every choice and every addition is a Food Adventure unique to each person’s bowl.
- It’s a feast for the eyes: so many ingredients create a dazzling array of colors and definitely feeds into the feeling of festivity.
- It’s a really great way to insert kids into the process of mealtime: we know kids are more likely to try something if they’ve had a hand in making it in some way!
It is not subtle: and that’s the point! We know that kids love extreme flavors in their snacks. Think extreme salt and cheese in chips and sour/sweet flavors in candy—kids love punches of flavors in their snacks already, and this is a way to highlight all of these flavorful, delicious extremes in their own bowls. For the same reason that kids eat fistfuls of Doritos, they’ll like crispy crunchy salty sev. They like sour patch kids? Sprinkle some amchur on the fruit in the bowl. Even if this combination of ingredients is unfamiliar to you or your kids, there is familiarity in the flavor profiles!
How can we do it at home?
You can find the ingredients for chaat in any grocery store. The reason is, again, there aren’t really rules—it’s more of a formula to follow. If you want to use specific spices and blends like amchur and chaat masala and can’t find them in your local grocery, try an Indian store, or look online! There are amazing recipes for mint, tamarind, and cilantro chutneys online, but you can also buy them jarred in Indian stores. Pretty much anything can be delivered to your door these days. Below you’ll find some examples of ingredients you can source for your own chaat party, but don’t feel limited! Anything fitting into these categories is fair game.
- Crunchy: Any crunchy base will do. We used to use bhel, which is puffed rice, but you can use any crackers, flavored or not, potato, tortilla, or tapioca chips, sev, Chex, puffed corn snacks—anything!
- Sweet: berries, fresh or roasted corn kernels, pomegranate seeds, cubed sweet potatoes, ripe pineapple, mango, tamarind chutney
- Sour: lime, lemon, starfruit, green mango, tamarind chutney
- Spicy: finely chopped ginger, thinly sliced green or red chili, chili powder or favorite spice blend
- Pungent: chaat masala, finely chopped onion, chopped radish, mint chutney, cilantro
- Savory: coarsely chopped boiled potato, coarsely chopped tomato, roasted peanuts, roasted cashews, roasted pistachios, cilantro chutney
- Hot: any of the above cooked ingredients
- Cold: any of the above mentioned chutneys, yogurt, raita, chopped cucumber
I can’t think of the word ‘chaat’ without the word ‘party’. Every single opportunity to enjoy it was a celebration—of food, of family and friends, of fireworks of flavor. I hope you and your family enjoy your chaat parties as much as I do! Send us a photo or a note about your favorite combinations—let’s chaat about it!
Watch myself and Taste Bud Maneet Chauhan talk about how fun a chaat party can be, and download our free Chaat Creator activity below!