Street food dinner party - chana chaat, tangy apple lemonade, paav bhaji and banana custard with walnuts and chocolate

Last week, I invited some friends over for a casual dinner. It was a chaat inspired menu. We started with a chana chaat and a drink I just doctored up with apple and lemon juice and some ginger ale and spices. We then moved on to paav bhaji. We ended the evening with custard topped with bananas, walnuts, and chocolate.

Tangy Apple Lemonade (without sugar)

I was planning to make an Indian style lemonade (nimbu sherbat). But then I thought I should try to make a drink without adding any sugar. I had an unopened jug of apple juice sitting around and frankly, we were never going to drink it straight. I thought of using the apple juice as a sweetner. It worked out great. The drink was very tangy. The salt and the spices made it taste a bit like jal jeera. It was a perfect match for the chaat menu. We mixed our drinks with ginger ale to add the fizz and sweetness.

  • Mix 2 cups of apple juice with 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Add 1/4 tsp each of salt, kala namak (pink colored salt) and cumin powder. Mix. Pour in a glass and top with ginger ale.
  • The drink is very customizable. Add some sugar or more salt if it is too tangy. Add more lemon juice if you want more tang.

Chana Chaat

  • Soak 1 cup of kala chana (black chickpeas) for about 5 hours and pressure cook with 1 tsp salt and a pinch of hing. It takes about 20 minutes on medium heat.
  • Mix the cooked and cooled chana with 1 onion, 2 tomatoes, 1/2 of a cucumber and 1/2 of a mango; all of them chopped in about equal sizes.
  • Add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and 1 tsp lemon juice.
  • Add 1 tsp chaat masala, 1/2 tsp cumin powder and 1/4 tsp kala namak.
  • Add 1 tablespoon each of tamarind chutney and green cilantro chutney. Mix everything up.
  • Ladle into bowls. Top with sev, boondi and crushed papdi.

  • Regular chickpeas can be used in place of kala chana. A mix of both kala and regular chickpeas can also be used.
  • I used the regular Mexican mangoes. They are ripe but not very sweet. Green (unripe) mangoes can also be used, but the lemon juice might have to be skipped in that case.
  • Kala namak is optional.
  • Top with whatever crunchies you have at hand. I used sev, boondi and papdi.

  • Paav Bhaji

    Paav bhaji is one of the first dishes I remember cooking as a kid. It was not so much cooking, but more of, helping Mom cook. I hate to say it but I am a bit of a paav bhaji snob. Very few paav bhajis have met my approval. Not that I have eaten a ton of paav bhaji outside because I tend to avoid ordering it. I fear it will not meet my standard and I go for something else rather than be disappointed. Heres my homemade version which I absolutely love. It is also healthier with more variety of vegetables.

    serves 6

    1 medium cauliflower
    1 large russet potato
    2 carrots
    1/4 of a large beetroot
    1/4 cup chopped green beans
    1/4 cup broccoli florets
    1/4 cup chana dal
    1 small onion
    1 small bell pepper
    1 tbsp minced ginger
    1 tbsp minced garlic
    3 oz (half of a small can) tomato paste
    1/4 tsp chilli powder
    3 tsp salt
    5 tsp paav bhaji masala
    1 tsp garam masala
    1/3 cup frozen peas
    • Soak the chana dal for about an hour. Pressure cook all the vegetables (cauliflower, potato, carrot, beet, green beans, broccoli) and the chana dal for about 2 whistles or 15 minutes.
    • Once cooked, puree the vegetables in the blender. I got 6 cups of puree.
    • Heat 1 tbsp oil and add finely chopped onion, bell pepper and minced ginger and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes till the onion is translucent and bell peppers soften a bit.
    • Add the tomato paste and chilli powder and cook for 10 minutes. This helps to cook our the canned flavor of tomato paste.
    • Add the pureed vegetables and 1/3 cup of frozen peas; along with salt, paav bhaji masala and garam masala.
    • Cook for about 15 minutes. The bhaji will boil and bubble so be careful.
    • Serve topped with a pat of butter, lots of raw, chopped onions and cilantro and a slice of lemon. Not to forget paav toasted on a griddle with butter. The paav bhaji does taste even better the next day. So plan on leftovers :)

  • Although the actual vegetables used are customizable, I do not mess with this combination. If you use nothing else, do not skip cauliflower, potatoes and carrots for the puree along with the chopped vegetables (onions, bell pepper, ginger, garlic). Do not watery vegetables like cabbage or bottle gourd for the puree.
  • I always use russet potatoes because they mash up well and are dry.
  • I puree the vegetables in the blender instead of mashing them. It is easier and we also like the smooth texture of the base. Some texture is added by the sauteed bell peppers and onions. Peas add the visual contrast of green to the bhaji.
  • I do not see recipes using chana dal but I add it because it adds more creaminess and flavor to the bhaji while adding some protein content.
  • 2 cups of tomato puree can be used in place of tomato paste. In that case, cook the puree longer till it gets cooked down to half in volume. It should look like a thick paste at the end of cooking. I find that adding tomato paste instead of puree, cuts down cooking time significantly.
  • The hallmarks of a good bhaji are a great tang from the tomatoes, balanced with the spiciness of the masalas and aromatics.
  • The experience is not complete without the topping of butter, onions, cilantro and lemon. The flavor of paav bhaji reaches addictive levels so be warned. :)

  • Chunky Monkey pudding

    Just the other week, we had the chunky monkey icecream at Ben and Jerrys in Myrtle Beach. I loved the combination of banana, walnut and chocolate. I decided to use that flavor combination in pudding or custard. I wanted a quick dessert so I used Instant Vanilla pudding mix but the custard can certainly be made from scratch and will be much better that way.

    I added a couple more cups of milk to the pudding mix than what was suggested on the package to get a slightly thinner pudding. I left it to chill in the fridge. To serve, I ladled the pudding into bowls and topped with chopped bananas (1/2 a banana per bowl), a handful of chopped, toasted walnuts and a combination of dark and semi-sweet chocolate chopped into bits. It was the perfect lighter dessert after the bold flavors of chaat and paav bhaji.


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