Everybody likes snacks and every culture on the planet has them. Street food, finger food, the quick and dirty, sweet and greasy, salty and spicy, they're sold from pushcarts and stands, baskets in hands, and also in bazaars, bodegas and supermarkets all over the planet.
These are the foods that mom always told you would spoil your dinner, they are also the most fun.
India has some of the best, most interesting quick foods anywhere, and if you've never had some of the common street snacks sold all over the subcontinent you've really missed out. One of the best is called Chaat and it starts with puffed rice.
Before I had Chaat, the closest I'd come to puffed rice as a snack involved marshmallows. Chaat is a very adaptable snack, maybe the closest western thing I'd compare it to is Party Mix...but not.
We had company this last week, sort of a warm up for the people and events that will flow through the house during the next several months up to the New Year, much cheese, will be served, beverages poured, and definitely much Chaat made. So, here's a fast and easy way to whip up a batch of this delicious treat from my adaptation of a recipe from Lord Krishna's Cuisine by Yamuna Devi
In a skillet melt 2 Tbs of unsalted butter and 2 Tbs of vegetable oil.
When it's hot toss in 1/3 of a cup of raw peanuts.
Stir them around until they are lightly browned then scoop them out and drain them on a paper towel.
Now add 1/3 of a cup of raw cashew pieces, do the same as with the peanuts and then remove them to the paper towel to drain.
Add 1/2 Tbs of finely chopped fresh ginger
1 or 2 fresh green chilies. Take out the seeds and chop them finely.
1/2 tsp of turmeric
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp. of coriander
Put the ginger chili and spice mix in the hot pan and sizzle it up for a few seconds. Then add:
3/4 cup of peas..fresh or frozen..(if frozen defrost them first) Turn the heat up and stir fry it all together for about 2 minutes.
Put the nuts back in the pan and mix them in along with:
1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of brown sugar or jaggery if you have it.
Sample it, and play with the salt and sugar to your taste.
I can't tell you how addictive this stuff is...and there are others too, made with raisins, different nuts. fried noodles, fruit, you name it anything the imagination can devise. Sweet, hot, spicy salty, either way it's a great alternative to the same old same old.