Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Super Bowl junk food: Papadi Chaat?

I'm not really an NFL fan (college football is infinitely more fun) but I do appreciate the occasional delight of excess at a tailgate party or a Superbowl party. Since everybody in the free world watches the game it seems, a lot of people are wanting something to eat for some Superbowl party or another. The trouble is, most food at these things are about the same, really. Somebody will have chicken wings. Somebody has pigs in a blanket. Somebody has chips or nachos or something. There's probably ten pizzas at least, and some dead animal is on a grill that people are crazy enough to attend in the dead of winter. It's kind of been done before over and over, hasn't it? So, making something that stands out, but is still shamefully junky in a way is a good way to change some things, and still feel like you're at a party.

A friend of mine has recently gone full-tilt into an Indian food kick, and that's a perfect option for interesting junk food. Of course, the obvious answers are yummy fried things like puri, bhajji, and pakora that most people know. Hey, it's fried dough or a fried veggie and you put chutney on it, so it's fattening, and you're going to enjoy eating it at a social event where other activities include drinking beer and burping, right?

I thought about another option for him, and it was good enough to share. Papadi chaat:

My wife asks me to make this on a pretty regular basis, and I crank it out because it's tasty as hell and it takes almost zero effort of any kind, which is good for a cook who likes to impress people with the least amount of work. It's basically the Indian version of nachos supreme or something, but it kicks way more ass than any boring nachos you'll eat at a party.

Now, I've watched a lot of Indian cooking podcasts and such, and they show how to actually make the papadi from scratch, which isn't hard at all, but is another thing that takes time. The only time I'd ever suggest making the dough and rolling it all out yourself is if you plan on adding crushed ajwain seeds. These are tasty as hell, but it's also good without them.

The way I cook papadi chaat is the way I learned from the folks who run the Indian grocer I shop at every week. I'll often come in with the notion that I'm just gonna buy some goat or some chutney and I end up staying an hour just talking about food. Anyway, the way they make it, and the way I learned is to just use soft wheat flour tortillas to make the papadi. What you do is to spread a tortilla on your cutting board and bang on it repeatedly with the tines of a fork to make holes. This keeps the stuff from puffing up when frying, and lets you have a flat surface to pile toppings onto. After making holes, take a sharp knife and cut little two-inch squares in the stuff. You'll have little triangles at the edges and that's okay, use those too.

Once you have as many squares as you want (for a party, go ahead and crank out an entire dozen I guess), start frying them in some oil, a handful at a time. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and gently apply a little salt as they rest on paper towels, and keep going to make the whole batch.

From that point, take about three cans of channa (chicpeas), and spoon over about two or three tablespoons of cilantro (coriander) chutney. Partially mix and mash the chicpeas and chutney together so it's semi-loose, semi lumpy mash. You want mostly-whole chicpeas in there.

When you're arranging papadi on a plate, spoon enough chicpea mix on each to cover most of it. On top of that, spoon a little yogurt over each piece, and on top of that, spoon a little tamarind & date chutney. You can go one more level and add mint chutney also, but I haven't done this yet. On top of that, sprinkle each papadi with a pinch of red chili flakes.

Now, you can also make these with aloo (potato) medallions, and many recipes do. I haven't yet, because I never have potato on hand when I get the urge, and it takes a little longer anyway. If you do, cut some potato into little thin discs, about half an inch thick at most. You can either bake these or you can toss them into the fry oil after the papadi. Either way, just cook the things fully, and before you arrange the chicpeas and all that jazz on top, slide a slice onto each papadi, then top it. It's not necessary at all, but then again, Super Bowl parties aren't about moderation are they?


Anarcho said...

Dammit this made my mouth water

Chuck said...

I'll go the whole nine yards later on with the aloo, hand-made papadi & ajwain, and so forth. These are lazy because when the urge hits for chaat, it's really convenient to just run in the kitchen for about ten minutes and come out with food.