Archive for the ‘Chaat’ Category

Chaat Month – at an end!?

You may have been wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. Truth be told, I was diagnosed last Friday with acid reflux at the emergency room. I’ve been suffering the last three weeks from stomach ailments, some so bad that I’ve stayed home (thinking I had food poisoning). Hah! Anyway, last Friday the pain was just too much, and I was so nauseous, I decided enough was enough. So, after being diagnosed with acid reflux, I heard some dreaded words – change in diet. Change in diet meaning no spicy, fatty, fried, chocolate, caffeine (tea included), and soda. I later learned from reading online that people with acid reflux should also stay away from garlic, onion, cheese, citrus fruits, and tomatoes. Seriously? These are _all_ things that I eat. Might as well throw me a couple loaves of whole wheat bread and call it a day.

So, chaat month has come to an abrupt and quick end. I don’t know yet which foods I will focus on for this month (I was thinking pancakes, but how many pancakes can you possibly eat?), but for now, if you’re bored and looking for content, check out my cooking/baking at http://kertong.com/katfood/katcook

Stay tuned, I will conquer this stomach ailment!

Here’s a picture of my dinner from this evening. I went to Angelica’s Bistro in Redwood City with Roo and we ordered sandwiches (I know, it’s not sandwich month – but who can resist a portabello mushroom and brie grilled panini?)

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Chaat House

Today Miss Ro and I went on a long lunch adventure that culminated in chaat. We were supposed to go to chaat originally. But then things got sidetracked and I had to go order 8 dozen donuts at Stan’s. So after an hour of placing the donut order and then getting gas since my gas light went on without my noticing, we finally made our way to Chaat House. It’s a local chain situated around certain parts of the South Bay like Sunnyvale, and it’s very easy to find on El Camino. Miss Ro likes the pani puri here, and so I wanted to go try it!

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The cafe smells overwhelmingly good (and fried!) as soon as you walk in. There was a fairly brisk lunch crowd (mostly Indian people) which was a good sign. Every table had a giant carafe of water, even for tables of one, which made me laugh.

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The menu has a fairly good selection for a ‘fast food’ type restaurant. There is a normal long list of chaat, and you can order more robust dishes like curry or thalis. We opted for the pani puri, the aloo tikki channa, and the bhel puri.

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The pani puri comes with potato and chick pea fillings, along with the dark sauce and a different type of dunking water. It’s not quite like the green mint water, it was darker in color and flavor. Since the flavor was more distinct than what I’m used to with the green mint water, I didn’t know what I thought of the flavor! The aloo tikki was my fave dish of the three – hot, mashed but well flavored potatoes covered in thick channa with chick peas that are cooked just right – delicious! The bhel puri was decent, but not as refreshing as the one at Chaat Paradise. I have to say, I think my favorite bhel puri is still hands down Chaat Paradise.

So far the winner of the month is still Chaat Paradise! Is this going to be another Ike’s but for chaat??

By the way, all this Indian food is giving me severe heartburn. Another friend suggested I should chill out on the Indian and try something benign like sushi. But oh, taste buds!

Chaat House
939 W El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087

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Vik’s Chaat Corner

Vik’s, how I love thee. Your greasy snacks had me hooked at hello (or the bellowing man’s voice). This was the first place I ever had chaat (without knowing what chaat was) and Kyung was the one who introduced it to me! Apparently in college he used to love coming here with his roommates on a weekly basis. And neither him or I knew it was such a famous place until we checked Yelp and saw it had a ton of reviews (nearing 600) and 4.5 stars out of 5!

Vik’s started as a wholesaler of ingredients for Indian food, but then they started a little cafe on the side to make their savory creations. Over time people started coming here and realizing just how superior the food is. We make the drive from San Jose to Berkeley without a second thought when we’re craving Vik’s and/or chaat. It’s just that good!

The cafe is a pretty large sized affair now, and it’s always constantly packed. The registers are always opening and closing, people are always looking at the large chalkboard discussing their choices, and the lines are long. People have to fight for tables, but the good thing about snack food is that once someone is done you can swoop in and sit down.

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There are so many people and the cafe is so bustling that there’s a man who stands with a microphone and yells your name when your food is ready. The food doesn’t come out at once, it’s a game of musical chairs. You hear ‘NAME!’, you gather yourself to go up to the counter through the crowds, grab your bhatura cholle, hustle back to your seat, take one bite, then hear ‘NAME!’ and you have to get back up. Makes life exciting I guess =)

There is a pretty extensive menu of yummies to choose from. My personal favorites are the aloo tikki cholle, the bhatura cholle, pani puri, the lamb roti (ok, this isn’t REALLY chaat), and the masala dosa (again, not really chaat either). I’ve tried a few other things that I didn’t like quite so much – the bhel puri, which is not as crispy as the one at Chaat Paradise, and the biryani rice.

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Behold the pani puri, bhel puri, and aloo tikki. The pani puri here is decent, with the crispy shells and a mixture of chopped and seasoned potato and onion to place inside. You dunk it all in the mint water, of course. While the flavor is good, this pani puri is not quite as flavorful as the one at Chaat Paradise – you have less variety of fillings, and the mint water is not as tangy. The bhel puri is pretty flat here. It’s refreshing, but not crispy. It’s also not as zesty as I’d like.

I love the aloo tikki here – mealy and mashed potatoes covered in a wonderfully flavored cholle. The garbanzo beans, mint chutney, and diced onions go so well with the hot potatoes. Mm.

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This place has the best bhatura cholle I’ve ever had – giant hot puff that’s greasy and chewy and yet crispy and it sops up the cholle like bread and butter. Wow.

Vik’s is a nostalgic and greasy favorite of mine, but I have to say that for my sanity and waistline, Chaat Paradise is equally good. The food is just as delicious (and in some cases more so), and it’s not drowning in oil. And it’s closer to home. And I can eat it anytime!

By the way, I’ve just had Indian food for four days in a row.

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Chaat Paradise

I forgot my camera today, so I don’t have great photos – only ones taken with an iPhone. But, I did get to eat some amazing chaat! I’ve always loved Chaat Paradise since the first time I went there and the staff recommended I try the sprout bhel. YUM! This is a local favorite and is one of the best rated chaat places in the Silicon Valley area according to Yelp.

Today was especially rad because yesterday at lunch I attempted to eat chaat at Passage to India’s Bakery. However, the cafe part of the bakery is not open during the weekdays, so the only chaat there were the ones pre-prepared and waiting under those warm heat lamps (think samosas and the like). And since there was no where to sit, my friend and I left. Before we left, the guy behind the counter recommended we go to Passage to India’s restaurant and they said there would be chaat in the buffet. They were wrong. And when we asked the staff there, they said they also only serve chaat on the weekend. What the heck! Indian buffet does not equal chaat.

Today a large group of us made the trek over to the strip mall at the corner of El Camino and Grant Road in Mountain View. Mia and V were there, along with a group of other fun people. The parking lot was packed, and we had to park decently far. This strip mall has everything from a Walgreens to a golf store. It also has a Nijiya, and the remains of a comic book store. One stop for..everything? Including Burger King!

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Upon entering, we were met with a huge rush of people. Wow, I never realized just how busy this place could get! What’s even better, is that the place is always full of Indian people. You know what they say about ethnic restaurants not being full of the same type of ethnicity people.

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As soon as we were seated, we attacked the menu and ordered to our hearts’ content. We held nothing back! I can’t even remember all the dishes we ordered. In terms of chaat, we ordered two servings of pani puri, two servings of aloo tikki, channa bhature, bhel puri, and sprout bhel. We also ordered rotis, parathas, some eggplant and potato dish, another creamy potato dish, palak paneer, the list goes on.

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I love the pani puri here. The crispy outer deep fried shell, the multiple fillings of mung bean, potato, onion, and the final dunking in the spicy mint water. So deliciously crispy!

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Another favorite of mine is the sprout bhel. I have to say, this is the dish that single handedly made me a fan of Chaat Paradise. It seems simple, but the refreshing combination of all the fresh ingredients make this a delightfully light, healthy, and crunchy snack!

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Finally, my second favorite aloo tikki ever. The potato is mashed and then formed into a round ball that’s deep fried, and the potato is well seasoned and tastes wonderful with the mint chutney and the channa. Served hot and gooey. Mmm.

I didn’t get a picture of the channa bhature, but this is one of my fave places for the bhature too. Airy deep fried puff that is not too greasy and has a very satisfyingly junky taste.

Chaat Paradise is a definite winner, everytime. I’ve been here many times and never been disappointed once. When out of towners are around, I like to recommend this place too!

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Amber Cafe

Hello September! As promised, I have a new theme – chaat! Chaat is something near and dear to my heart because I didn’t try proper chaat until I met Kyung. It has now spiraled into a full blown obsession. Just say mung bean or bhel puri and my ears perk up and I start drooling.

Before I move onto the first chaat review, I need to recap August. The winner of best sandwich shop is…*drum roll* – Ike’s Place! And no, it’s not because it was on Man vs. Food a few weeks ago. This place makes the best sandwiches hands down – junky or healthy, there is no limit to creativity when it comes to what you want on your sandwich. Feeling healthy? Get a veggie sandwich (there’s like 75 different variations). Feeling junky? Get any number of fat, savory, oozing meaty sandwiches like the Hot Date or the Pride of Castro.

Here’s the final order of what I prefer (top to bottom!)

Ike’s Place
Country Deli
Willow Glen Meats and Smokehouse
Ace of Sandwiches
California Sourdough
La Baguette
Amato’s Cheesesteaks
Tommy’s Joynt
Los Altos Taqueria
Roger’s Deli
Cam Hung
Huong Lan Sandwich #4

Alright, and now onto the chaat now that sandwiches have been given a proper goodbye!

Today Mia, V, Teal and I went to Amber Cafe Bits n Bites. We’re all fans of Amber India the restaurant, so we figured we should check out the chaat here too. Located on El Camino in Mountain View, the menu is small but they have other things besides chaat.

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The cafe is very clean, cute, and busy with MV lunchers. The staff isn’t terribly friendly though, we got a rather apathetic and disdaining ‘are you ready’ when we were at the counter looking at the menu. The counter is full of pre-prepared plastic cups of things like mango lassi and plastic to go boxes of indian sweets. You order at the counter and you’re given a number, and then you sit down anywhere you’d like and the food is brought out to your table.

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After some debate, I ordered the Bombay Bhel. I love a good bhel puri! The rest of the table ordered another Bombay Bhel, the veggie wrap, aloo tikki, and kathi roll.

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The bhel puri was very crunchy, refreshing, and spicy! The mung bean with the bits of puri, cilantro, mint chutney, potato, and onion was delightful. I ate my plate and was very satisfied with it.

I didn’t try the veggie wrap but the salad it came with (corn, green beans, kidney beans, etc) was very good!

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The aloo tikki was a bit of a disappointment. It came with yogurt on it! I do not like raita or any kind of yogurt with any dish. The potatoes weren’t soft and mealy, the cholle it came with was hard and crumbly, and not very flavorful. It’s hard to mess up aloo tikki in my opinion, so this was kind of sad. The chicken kathi roll that Mia ordered was decent, but lacked the pizazz that the roti rolls in NY had. Not as junky and not as thick!

Overall, not one of the best chaat places I’ve been to, but semi decent. Probably wouldn’t come back here if given other options though.

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A September preview

I’ve been debating what I should focus on for the month of September. Now that August is winding to an end, it’s that time! I briefly thought about pizza for September, but then I thought, well, chaat would be great as well, so after discussing with Kyung, chaat it is. We will likely do pizza for part of October. Why part of October? You’ll see.

Thinking about chaat in September has me excited! Some places we’re definitely going to hit up:

Chaat Paradise
Chaat House
Vik’s
Amber Cafe

If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears =)