I recently had the pleasure of dining at Rasika, a very popular DC Indian restaurant, and trying their famous palak chaat. This dish is an amazing medley of textures and flavors, with crispy spinach playing off a sour-sweet chutney and sweetened yogurt, and I knew almost immediately that I had to try my best to recreate it. I’ve dedicated this week to a series of posts on recreating all the pieces of Rasika’s palak chaat. This post is the first in a series of three. See post 2: Date Tamarind Chutney and post 3: Palak Chaat.
Chaat masala is a classic Indian spice mix with some unusual ingredients. Along with the more familiar coriander and cumin, black salt features prominently in the mix, adding an interesting mineral taste, while amchur, a powder made from dried unripe mangoes, imparts a tartness. The resulting mix is sour, spicy, and very flavorful. It is great on nuts or fried chickpeas, mixed into yogurt, on a salad, or over fresh fruit.
Chaat Masala (adapted from Vegeyum)
Yield: 1/2 cup
- 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 Tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp cardamom seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp ajwain seeds (optional)
- 1 – 2 whole red dried (or fresh) hot peppers*
- 1/2 – 1 inch stick cinnamon, broken up
- a pinch asafoetida powder
- 1 Tbsp garam masala
- 1 Tbsp mango powder (amchur)
- 1/2 Tbsp black salt
- 1/2 Tbsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- a pinch ground cloves
*If using fresh peppers, slit them a few times so that air can escape.
- Heat a small pan over medium heat, then, one at a time, dry roast 1 Tbsp cumin seeds, 1 Tbsp coriander seeds, 1/2 Tbsp black peppercorns, 1 tsp cardamom seeds, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp ajwain seeds, 1 – 2 whole red dried (or fresh) chillies, 1/2 – 1 inch stick cinnamon broken up, and a pinch asafoetida powder. Each should take about a minute (only roast the asafoetida powder for 30 seconds); you will know a spice is done when it becomes fragrant. I simply move each spice to my mortar and pestle as I finish roasting it (you can, of course, use a spice grinder if you prefer).
- Add 1 Tbsp garam masala, 1 Tbsp mango powder (amchur), 1/2 Tbsp black salt, 1/2 Tbsp sea salt, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp powdered nutmeg, 1/2 tsp powdered ginger, and a pinch powdered cloves to the roasted spices.
- Grind the spices together until they form a uniform powder. Store in a jar; this masala will keep well for a year although its strength will decline over time.