If you’re not familiar with papdi chaat, I’d like to put it forth as the ideal snack food, and one of my hands-down favourite things to eat. Chaat is a blanket term used to describe a wide range of snacky, savoury Indian street foods, and papdi (or papri) are the crisp fried crackers used as a base for (or served alongside) diced potatoes and chickpeas tossed with chaat masala (a spice blend customized specifically for this purpose, which you can make yourself or buy pre-mixed), minced onion, fresh mint-cilantro chutney, and a drizzle of sweet-tart tamarind chutney and cool spiced yogurt. Papdi chaat is everything you want in a snack—salty, sweet, sour, tangy, crunchy, spicy and soft. Layers of interesting colours, flavours and textures. It’s all served in one bowl, and you can eat it with your fingers.
It’s typically something I order at a restaurant, or have had friends make for me, but I’ve been meaning to give it a go myself for years, and I’m glad I finally did.
You can start with store-bough papdi, and often they’re made with a simple wheat dough, rolled thin and fried. I referred to the latest from Noorbanu Nimji, to see what she had to say on the subject, and she recommended cutting flour tortillas into short, wide strips and frying them until crisp in a thin pool of canola oil. This worked beautifully, and the tortillas puffed somewhat in the middle, like the best papdi. Sev are crunchy fried bits, made with extruded chickpea batter, which can be bought by the bag, like chips, in most grocery stores. Bombay mix works well here too, with its interesting spicy assortment of crispy fried bits – sometimes puffed rice or spiced peas, fried lentils and peanuts.
The ingredient list might look daunting, but once you have the hang of it—and the ingredients on hand in your fridge or pantry—it’s quick to assemble. Serve it quick, so the papdi don’t soften, and eat it all with your fingers. It’s OK to use canned chickpeas here, but if you ever simmer dried chickpeas, which results in a slightly more toothsome texture, this is the perfect use for them.