The channa chaat is made up of three components: the chickpea salad, chaat masala and date and tamarind sauce.
As Roopa Gulati says herself about the channa chaat, this snack (chaat) is a salad of lemon-drenched chickpeas, mixed with diced red onions, tomatoes and potatoes.
The chickpea salad (channa chaat) is showered with ruby-red pomegranate seeds and seasoned with chaat masala, which features mango powder and nutty-tasting toasted cumin as its star players.
While the masala is cornucopia of spices is crammed with big flavours. Here, the sulphurous aromas of quarried black salt and asafoetida contrast the sour fruitiness of mango powder and the lingering warmth of black pepper, chillies and cumin. Carom seeds bring pungency and boast a flavour that straddles lovage and thyme.
This sweet and tangy date and tamarind sauce (known as sonth) comes from Gujarat in western India. It’s a great match with creamy yoghurt and is often drizzled over salads and served with samosas and pakoras.
Although Roopa is a fan of cooking chickpeas from scratch, this recipe does stand up well using the canned variety – you just remember to rinse the brine off them before using.
This is a simple salad to assemble and its big bold character makes it great choice for entertaining a crowd.
Roopa Gulati is a chef, author and broadcaster. Her new cookery book, India The World Vegetarian came out in April 2020 and includes a great range of recipes focused on regional flavours. For more great dishes from the book, you can also have a look at this recipe for crisp-fried okra or this one for peas and paneer.
- 400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 red onion, finely diced
- 2 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
- 175g new potatoes, boiled until tender and diced
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground roasted cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
- 2 teaspoons chaat masala (see below)
- 3 tablespoons chopped coriander
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
- ½ quantity date and tamarind sauce
- For the mint yoghurt:
- 125g full-fat Greek yoghurt
- ½ teaspoon caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- Salt, if needed
- For the chat masala:
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)
- 1½ tablespoons dried mint leaves
- small pinch of ground asafoetida (heeng)
- ¾ tablespoon ground black salt
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons mango powder (amchoor)
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
- For the date and tamarind sauce:
- 150g wet tamarind block
- 125g pitted dates
- 175g jaggery or light brown soft sugar, plus extra to taste if needed
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds
For the chickpea salad: Mix the chickpeas with the red onion, tomatoes and potatoes. Add the lemon juice, chopped chillies, ground cumin, chilli powder and chaat masala. Gently fold everything together and leave to one side for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle.
Meanwhile, make the mint yoghurt. Combine the yoghurt, sugar, mint and garlic and taste for seasoning, adding a little salt if necessary. Set aside until you’re ready to serve.
For the chaat masala: Roast the cumin, peppercorns and carom seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat for 1 minute, until the spices are fragrant. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the dried mint and asafoetida.
Use a mortar and pestle or an electric grinder to pound everything to a powder, then add both salts, along with the mango powder, ground ginger, grated nutmeg and chilli powder. Store in an airtight jar. It’ll keep at room temperature for 2–3 months, or for 6 months in the freezer.
For the date and tamarind sauce: Break up the tamarind and dates and put them in a pan with the jaggery or sugar and enough water to cover – about 500ml. Place over a medium-low heat and bring the chutney to a simmer. Cook for about 20–30 minutes, adding extra water to the pan if the chutney looks like catching, until the tamarind and dates are really soft and pulpy.
Remove the pan from the heat and push the sauce through a sieve to remove any fibres. Stir in the ginger, garam masala and cumin. Taste the sauce – it should have a sweet-and-sour flavour. Add more jaggery or sugar if it isn’t sweet enough. Serve chilled. It will keep for 2–3 days in the fridge, or 2 months in the freezer.
When you’re ready to serve the chaat, add the chopped coriander and pomegranate seeds, then spoon over the mint yoghurt and drizzle with the date and tamarind sauce.