“Chaat” refers to a plate of savory snacks that typically includes a mixture of potato pieces (aloo chaat) and various chutneys. At Tulsi, the Nouveau Indian Hemant Mathur opened earlier this year, the chef’s version is kicked up with a spicy tomatillo sauce. He shares the recipe for it here.
“We use potatoes, yams, and cassava — also known as yucca — as the three starchy root vegetables in this chaat,” explains Mathur. “Each ingredient brings texture, color and of course a unique flavor to the whole. The cassava gives a somewhat delicate flavor and is ‘meaty,’ the yam brings sweetness and color to the dish, and the russet potato introduces more color and a heartier texture. … Our chaat is not traditional in that ginger is used more in traditional chutneys, not garlic. But we like the way the garlic opens up the tamarind taste in this street-food variation.”
Three Roots Chaat
by Hemant Mathur of Tulsi
For the tomatillo sauce:
6 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves
3 green chiles, washed and stemmed
1 tablespoon sugar
salt, to taste
In a pot of water over high heat, bring water to boil, and add the tomatillos. Keep water boiling until tomatillos turn a shade lighter and the inside is cooked (test with a knife), 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes with a slotted spoon into an ice bath. Once cool, drain the water, add tomatillos to a blender, and set aside.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the garlic and green chiles. Turn the heat to low and cook until the garlic and chiles are golden brown. Transfer to a blender; add the sugar and salt. Puree, and adjust salt, if needed. Let cool, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
For the tamarind chutney:
4-ounce piece of tamarind from a pliable block
4 dates, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
a pinch asafetida
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
In a bowl, cover the tamarind with 4 cups of hot water and let soak overnight. Wearing a pair of food-safe gloves, mash the tamarind well by hand to separate the seeds and pulp. Place the mashed mixture, along with any remaining liquid, in a pot. Add another 4 cups of water, the dates, ginger powder, and red chili powder. Boil until half the mixture remains, about 30 minutes.
Strain the mixture and transfer to a clean pot. Mash the pulp using the back of a spoon, add the sugar, and continue to cook the tamarind over medium heat.
Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the asafetida, give it a quick stir, and immediately add cumin seeds and fennel seeds. Cook until the seeds start crackling and turn a light golden color. Immediately pour the spices into the boiling tamarind mixture.
Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring the chutney constantly. Add salt to taste, and cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.
For the chaat:
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)
1 large cassava (about 1 pound)
1 medium Idaho potato, boiled and diced (about 1/2 pound)
4 cups canola oil
kosher salt, to taste
toasted cumin powder, to taste
3 tablespoons tomatillo sauce
2 tablespoons tamarind chutney
In an oven preheated to 450°F, bake the sweet potatoes and cassava until they open slightly and the flesh gives to slight pressure, about 1 hour. Cool completely, then peel and cut into small cubes (the same size as the diced Idaho potatoes). Reserve the three types of root vegetables in three separate bowls. Lower the oven to 250°F.
In a large pot over medium heat, heat the canola oil until it reads between 325°F and 350°F on a thermometer. Working with one type of root vegetable at a time, place into the hot oil and fry, carefully stirring and turning the potatoes with a slotted spoon, until they are blistered and browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside, or keep them warm on another baking sheet in the hot oven. Allow the oil to return to 325°F to 350°F before frying each batch.
When all the root vegetables are fried, transfer them to a bowl, and toss with a few pinches of kosher salt and toasted cumin powder and the tomatillo sauce and tamarind chutney. Taste and adjust with additional spices or chutney, and serve immediately.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 25, 2011