Crispy, tangy, sweet & spicy, addictive, complexity of flavours, versatile – all this is what makes this particular street food dish a very exciting one. The best part about Indian street food dishes is that they can be easily adjusted to cater to individual palates. The vendors organize everything mise en place (pronounced- meez en plas) and just before serving, throw in everything together to create a dish in seconds. The seasonings and sauces/dressings are adjusted as per the individual’s preference – spicy or mild, dry or moist, less or more of a chutney or dressing, salty or bland, onions or sans it, etc,etc.Paalak Patta Chaat comprises of spinach leaves coated with a gluten free batter, fried and arranged on a plate; preferably in a heap. The crispy fritter leaves are then drizzled with smooth beaten spiced yogurt, sweet tamarind chutney, green chutney, sprinkled with condiments and finally decked up with coriander or mint leaves, pomegranate seeds and julienned ginger...phew! You can even add a few boiled chick peas or diced boiled potatoes and some sev. Aahsome! Isn’t it!!?
I used the following measurements.
For Spinach Fritters:½ cup Rice flour¼ cup Besan (Gram flour)
¼ tsp red chili powder
¼ tsp Carrom seeds
Salt to taste
½ cup scant, Water
20 leaves Spinach (preferably large sized)
Oil for frying
To serve:Tamarind Sauce
Yogurt -3 cups
1 tsp ground roasted Cumin
1 tsp Chaat masala
¼ tsp ground Black pepper
¼ tsp dry Mint powder
Salt to taste
Half a cup (+/-)pomegranate seeds
Mint leaves to garnish
Keep ready the tamarind sauce and the green chutney. Both can be prepared a day in advance.
Beat the yogurt till smooth. Mix in the ground cumin, chaat masala, ground black pepper and mint powder. Stir and keep aside.
For the batter, mix together the rice flour, besan, red chili powder, carrom seeds and salt. Add water and make a smooth paste. Keep it aside.
Meanwhile, remove the stalks from the spinach and keep the leaves. Wash them and pat dry them on a kitchen towel ensuring that the leaves do not get bruised.
Heat oil in a wok. Reduce the flame. Take one leaf and dip it in the batter. Coat it all over and then gently remove any excess (I use the edges of the container in which I keep the batter for this job) leaving just a nice thin coating of the batter on the leaf. Gently tip the leaf in the oil and fry on medium heat till both sides are golden brown and crisp. Remove on a absorbent paper. Fry all the leaves, one at a time, in the similar manner.
To serve, arrange 4-5 leaves (depending on the size of the spinach leaves) on individual serving plates. Drizzle with yogurt, green chutney, tamarind chutney and garnish with mint leaves or cilantro leaves and pomegranate seeds. You can even give an additional sprinkle of a little chaat masala and cumin powder. Serve immediately.
Note: Make this chaat fun by keeping the fried leaves, spiced yogurt, chutneys and condiments at the serving table and letting your family/ guests make their own plate.
Note: Adding rice flour ensures that the fritters remain crisp...a tip I got from my mother-in-law when she makes the bachka (bihari style vegetable fritters)
Serves 4 - 5