Strawberry Chaat Is the Best Place to Put the Season’s First Berries

This strawberry chaat is my attempt to recreate the delicious fruit chaat I wanted to eat as a child. Although the taste was similar to my grandmother’s chaat, the one in Anarkali had a few extra ingredients – that creamy yogurt, the crunch of fried papdi. Plus this spicy tamarind chutney that I was never allowed to enjoy as a child. (“You get a sore throat,” she would say protectively.) After a full day of fasting, my version is a welcome treat and contains a bit of protein in addition to chickpeas. Some chaats have a crispy, crunchy component. In my version, you can add seven crispy pieces of fried chickpea flour batter or papdi, both of which can be found in Pakistani or Indian grocery stores. If you can’t find either of these, use this trick I learned from my Aunt Bhupinder: buy small tortillas, cut them into 1-inch strips, and fry them flat until crispy. They are a substitute for papdi and act like a dream when served up chaat.

How to do it: A chaat is all about set up and assembly. Set aside first 1 cup papdi or sev. Then hit the road with the sweet and sour components. Start with the chutney. Traditionally, the chutney for Chaat is made with tamarind. Some like to balance the sour component with dates (my mom’s favorite ingredient); others use jaggery. My mother and aunts introduced me to this delicacy Tamarind and date chutneythat you can find in Pakistani and Indian grocery stores. If you don’t have a tamarind on hand, you can use my method to create a similar flavor profile: whisk the whisk in a small bowl Juice of 2 limes (¼ cup of juice), 1 teaspoon. kosher salt, 3 TBSP. dark brown sugar, and ½ tsp. Cayenne pepper until the sugar has dissolved. This is your spicy lime and brown sugar syrup.

Next, you’ll want to get the basic ingredients ready. Drain and rinse a 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas and put in a large bowl. Chop finely 2-3 shallots (You’re looking for ⅓ cup yield). Hull and quarter 1 pint (¾ lb.) strawberries. Add shallots and strawberries to the bowl. To take 1 red Thai chilliand use your kitchen scissors to chop half of it straight into the bowl (you can add more if you prefer more heat, but half a red Thai chilli is very hot to my taste buds). Add 1 teaspoon. kosher salt, ½ tsp. Cayenne pepperand the juice of 1 lime (about 2 tbsp). Mix gently to combine. Whisk in a medium bowl ¾ Cup of full-fat natural yogurt with 2 tbsp. Ice water.

We’re almost there, I promise! Chop coarsely ½ bunch of coriander (Leaves and delicate stems). Cut the pomegranate crown with a paring knife and remove it. Make 4–6 vertical shallow cuts along the side of the pomegranate and pry the sections open with your fingers. Carefully extract the arilles from the shell and membranes. You need ½ cup of pomegranate arils for the chaat (reserve the rest for someone else recipe).

Now comes the fun part: time to put it all together! Distribute the chickpea, shallot and strawberry mixture evenly on 4 bowls. Drizzle each bowl with a few tablespoons of yogurt, followed by hot lime and brown sugar syrup. Add a generous sprinkling of papdi or sev, pomegranate arils, and chopped coriander.

I’ve often thought about getting a tea trolley like the one from my grandmother’s house in Lahore for my home here in Toronto. I can only imagine an iftar festival on starched linen. I know that I have to pull out my tea comfortably, because although the spread is a little different, one thing remains the same: fruit chaat goes best with a hot cup of tea.

Shayma Owaise Saadat is a Toronto-based writer, food stylist, photographer, and recipe developer whose work is focused on food, culture, and identity.

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