Photo: Ajna Jai / Contributor
Smack in the middle of a hot summer, satisfying snackable meals that do not require cooking are wonderful to have around. This summer, fruit chaat has become my go-to snack. Chaat, which simply means ‘to lick’ is a family of finger-licking roadside savory, crunchy and slightly sweet snacks that stretch from India to the Caribbean. They can range from a complex chaat with a dozen components like lentil fritters or potato cakes with yogurt and herb chutneys to the simplicity of a plate of fruit sprinkled with a few key spices.
In New Delhi, for almost a decade, there resides a sweet fruit chaat vendor tucked away near the famous Janpath street market. Depending on the time of year, his choice of fruits and vegetables varies. He rides his bike every morning with a fresh load of fruits and vegetables, hands out fruit chaat all day until his stock is over. Mango, melons, cucumber, papaya, pineapple, apples, or bananas are cubed and laid out on a banana leaf plate and sprinkled with chaat masala. Sometimes, strawberries will show up in the mix. A squeeze of lime and he hands it to you with a smile.
If it can be eaten raw, any vegetable or fruit is fair game for fruit chaat. Usually, chaat masala is a combination of toasted ground cumin, chile powder, amchur (dried mango), salt and more. Black salt, a sulfurous rock salt native to India, is a common but not essential component of chaat masala. It’s an explosion of flavors – give it a try this summer with the fruits and vegetables at hand!