Chaat refers to a dish that can consist of a range of fried foods, including potatoes and dough seasoned with a blend that includes certain spices. That spice blend is called chaat masala.
The origin of chaat is steeped in mystery. Some say it comes from Bengal, while others say Delhi; however, the best-known story of its beginnings states that it originated in Agra. Agra is in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is said that chaat came from the royal kitchen of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The story is that he fell ill and was instructed to consume only lighter foods. His cooks invented chaat to meet that need.
The dish would eventually become popular throughout India and influence the creation of a variety of other dishes with similar flavor profiles including samosas and chandni chowk.
Chaat masala flavor profile
Chaat masala contains a range of spices including mango powder, coriander, and cumin. Other spices like black salt, chili powder, black peppercorn, and asafoetida may also be included. As with any spice blend, there is no universal recipe. Instead, it varies from maker to maker. The result is usually a blend with a distinctive note, largely due to the asafoetida and the mango powder it contains. It is sweet, hot, and acidic.
Health benefits of chaat masala
The spices that make up chaat masala are each highly nutritious and deliver nutrients such as:
- Minerals: Mango powder, asafoetida, and cumin are all popular ingredients in chaat masala and are also good sources of iron and calcium. Cumin is another good source of those minerals and contains magnesium as well.
- Vitamins: The dried chili peppers in chaat masala contain a significant amount of vitamin A. Cumin also has vitamin A, while asafoetida contains riboflavin and niacin. Riboflavin and niacin are both B vitamins. Coriander seeds provide a modest but still significant amount of vitamin C.
- Antioxidants: The antioxidants in chaat masala spices include ferulic acid, which comes from asafoetida. Ginger contains a variety of essential oils including gingerol. Vitamins A and C are also known to be antioxidants.
The spices in chaat masala may also be able to treat or prevent ailments like:
- Digestive issues: Ginger, black peppercorns, and coriander are each well known for their digestive benefits which include their ability to reduce flatulence and bloating.
- Diabetes: Studies have shown cumin to be a promising treatment for diabetes. Certain chemical components of cumin mitigate some of the effects of high blood sugar.
- High blood pressure: Coriander seeds are believed to be very effective for lowering blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Common uses of chaat masala
Chaat masala is used to flavor the different varieties of chaat. These include aloo tiki, papdi chaat, and pani puri. Other traditional applications include sprinkling it on salads. Fruit is another food group that is commonly seasoned with this spice blend. When it comes to using these spices on fruit, the traditional blend can be used but there is an alternate blend called fruit chaat masala. Fruit chaat masala has fewer of the flavor notes from cumin and ginger, but more of those from chili powder and asafoetida. Aside from the traditional applications, the chaat masala blend can be used in many other dishes and may be added before cooking or sprinkled on food after cooking.