When Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco approached me about developing a chaat masala blend, I was pleased but not at all surprised.
Originally from northern India and now found — and devoured — throughout the subcontinent, chaat (from the Hindi for “to lick”) masala (“blend”) is all about mouthwatering vegetarian food, just like Rainbow.
Chaat masala is typically used for finishing dishes or sprinkling on salads and fried or roasted salty snacks. That’s probably where the name originated: After eating chaat masala snacks — like the gluten-free, dairy-free, protein- and fiber-packed recipe below — you definitely will be licking your fingers!
This distinctive blend is mixed from spices that south Asian vegetarians have enjoyed since ancient times. There’s nothing quite like some of them in Western cuisine:
Amchur, which is powdered dried green mango, adds a tart and slightly sour flavor to many Indian dishes. It has a sour-sweet, warm and slightly resinous aroma.
Asafoetida boosts food’s flavor the same way onions and garlic do, but without giving you bad breath. This powerful, resinous spice is used in the Ayurvedic system of healing foods, mostly to assist with digestion, and is called for in countless traditional Indian recipes.
Black salt — it’s actually pinkish gray — has a strong sulfurous component that mimics the smell of eggs, giving food a cholesterol-free egg aroma. It’s pungent, but just like that stinky Thai fish sauce, it miraculously enhances the flavor of your food. And it brings a nutrition bonus: Black salt is rich in iron and other minerals.
Cumin, chili and mint help round out the flavor profile, which creates the essential taste of authentic chaat masala: a deep, complex, faintly earthy background that works wonders to boost the flavors of all kinds of foods.
To discover why chaat masala is so widely popular, treat yourself and your loved ones to this healthy chickpea snack, paired with your favorite beer (or wine, of course). It only takes a few minutes to prepare, and it really is finger-licking good.
Get the recipe »» Garbanzo Chaat Masala »»