Monday, June 28, 2021

Tokri (Basket/ Katori) Chaat : Indian Street Food

 Summer vacation is finally here and I'm back, after a very long break. The last year and a half has been crazy! 

From the isolation, the crazy, desperate search  for disinfectants, the pick-up grocery, the zoom calls where we would pull on a formal shirt over PJ's and hastily brush hair or just keep the camera off, the vaccination and the side-effects of it to finally venturing out without masks.  

The hardest part was and still is the travel ban. Those of us, away from our homeland have been anxious of our family member back home. Old parents, now without the comforts of their maids / cook coming and helping or the unavailability of Doctors (who refuse to make house calls now, even for geriatric patients). 
I cannot wait for the time when it is safe to travel, oh! I know people are traveling even now, but those on a visa have to reconsider their options, or the bigger fear is, what if you take home the virus! 
Here's hoping and praying that there is a respite soon and I get to see my parents.

After a year of almost not entertaining, I finally could hold back no longer. So during Sankranti (that is when I made these and the post has been languishing in the drafts for so long) , I invited my friends over for haldi-kumkum. I was very excited and made plans, all of which included planning a menu. 
The choice was clear, chaat. My friends and I are chaat fanatics, like most of you. This seemed to be the best opportunity to make and stuff ourselves with all the yumminess (it's a word). 

Lets talk about the amazing Tokri chaat baskets I made. 
These bowl shaped edible baskets can be stuffed with boiled cubed potato, sprouted and steamed whole moong beans, boiled garbanzo beans and spiced up to make a lip smacking snack. 

These tokris (baskets) can be made in advance. They keep well in an airtight container for up to a week, not that they will last that long once you start eating! 
*This needs a little pre-planning and preparation. It cannot be done in one day. 
Here is what needs to be done :
  • Make the edible bowls
  • Reconstitute the beans (I use mung bean sprouts and garbanzo beans) by soaking them in water
  • Sprouting the mung / moong beans 
  • Cooking the beans, separately
  • Make chutneys (Cilantro- mint aka the green spicy chutney and Date- tamarind chutney aka the sweet chutney)
  • Buy or make plain yogurt 
I looked up several recipes and they all look the same, so I used one that I liked best. Just search on YouTube for 'katori chaat' and you will get may options.

Here is my adaptation.

To make the tokri bowl, start with  making the dough.

Mix together 1 1/2  cups of All Purpose Flour / Maida and 1/2 cup of fine Sooji / Rava.

To this add 2  hefty pinches of Ajwain/ Carom seed and 1/2 tsp Salt.

Drizzle in 4 Tbsp Oil. 

Now mix this so the oil is incorporated in the flour and it looks sandy. Grab a fistful and press it firmly in your palm, if the flour holds shape when clumped up, it's perfect. 

Now slowly add water to make a semi soft dough.

Now cover and set the dough aside for 15-30 mins. This helps the sooji absorb the water. 

In a wok, pour oil ( sufficient to cover the dough bowls) and heat it over medium heat.
Now, knead the dough a little, so it becomes smooth. Pinch off small lime sized balls. Roll it into a circular shape, taco sized. Prick the dough all over with a fork. This will prevent the 'bowl' from  ballooning up.

Pick a katori (I used a stainless steel water tumbler /cup) and lightly grease it. Next, place your rolled dough on it and press on the sides to form the bowl shape. Like in the picture below. 
The tumbler is a safe choice. It is easier to place in the hot oil and also to hold in place with tongs as you splash oil on the dough and get it to separate from the steel. 

Edible tokri chaat

Depending on the size of your wok, gently place the cups in the hot oil. As the dough gets deep fried, it loosens and with a small nudge, comes off the steel tumbler. Splash some hot oil into the bowl so that it cooks on all sides. Do not rush this. as the dough cooks in the hot oil, it will naturally separate, but sometimes a little prying is needed. Use the back end of a spoon or spatula to do this and be very careful. 
Using tongs, lift the katori/ tumbler and pull it out and place on a tissue to cool off (I used a small salad plate lined with tissue to place my hot tumblers). 

      Tokri chaat, Basket chaat


The bowls should be a light golden brown. This will make them flaky and crisp. 
I also flipped the bowls in oil and let them fry upside down. 
Drain the oil and place on a tray lined with tissue paper. 
I used six tumblers, two at a time. This allowed the hot tumblers to cool off between rounds of frying. 

At this point, you can cool them and store them to use over the next few days.

Tokri, basket chaat

To make Tokri Chaat, do the prep work.

You can buy a can of Garbanzo beans to skip one step.

If you plan to use dry beans, then follow the steps below. 

If you plan on using mung /moong bean sprouts and garbanzo beans, begin by soaking them overnight or at least 8 hours. 

The next day, drain the soaking water and rinse the beans.
I used my Electric Pressure Cooker (like the Instant Pot) to cook the garbanzo beans.
* Add water to the steel inner pot, place your insert on the trivet. 
Put the Garbanzo beans in a cooker insert, use anything that is like the stackable inserts, add water to the beans - the water level must be just a little above the beans-  some salt  and I simply cook them on the 'Beans' mode. Natural pressure release. Cool and store in the fridge till it's time to use them. 

The mung / moong beans need to be sprouted. This is a longer process. Drain the water that the beans were soaked in. Rinse the beans once. Now, take a clean (lint free) towel or cheesecloth and place the beans in it. Make a bundle of it by pulling up the sides and loosely tie it. Cover and place this bundle in a warm place to sprout. You can also use the Yogurt mode in your Instant Pot. This may take between 8-12 hours.

To cook the mung sprouts, rinse the sprouts. Place them in a steel insert. Sprinkle some salt.
I used my regular pressure cooker for this, pour water in the base of the cooker. Place a trivet. Place the insert with the sprouts in it. Close the cooker and on high heat (on a scale of 1-10, turn the knob at 8) cook for one whistle. Switch off the heat and let the pressure subside naturally. 
 To cook in the IP, use PIP method and cook on Manual / pressure cook mode for 1 minute. NPR.

To cook on the stove top, place the bean sprouts in a deep saucepan. Add sufficient water so that all the beans are submerged and sprinkle in some salt. On high heat, let the water come to a boil.  Cook until the beans are tender but not mushy. I rarely cook them on stove top, so I cannot give you an exact time, but these cook relatively faster than any other beans. Just ensure that they are cooked and retain their shape. They should not be mushy. 

Boil potatoes. I boiled 2 large russet potatoes for 6 people. 
Boil, peel and cube the potatoes and set aside. Just before serving, you can spice up these potatoes by adding a dash of chaat masala, a couple of pinches of white and black salt each and mixing well to coat the cubed potato.

To serve: 
I set up an assembly line. Just start at the edible bowls and follow the steps given below.
  1. Katori / edible bowls
  2. Boiled and cubed potatoes 
  3. Steamed moong / mung sprouts
  4. Garbanzo beans
  5. Finely chopped onion
  6. Green chutney (recipe below)
  7. Sweet date and tamarind chutney (recipe below)
  8. Yogurt ( beat yogurt until smooth and add salt and a hefty pinch of sugar and mix well)
  9. Thin Sev noodles
  10. Finley chopped cilantro to garnish
  11. Chaat masala , Salt and paprika in small bowls for anyone who needs an extra dash of spice
Katori chaat, basket chaat

You (and your guests) can simply go down the assembly line and and make their own Katori chaat or arrange it on your table and make these for them. 

chaat party
The chaat party had Tokri chaat, Pani-Puri, Mini Mutter Kachori and Chai

Either way, you and your guests are sure to love them! 

Green Cilantro and Mint chutney

1 bunch Fresh Cilantro ( I use tender stems as well)
1 bunch Mint ( use only leaves)
2-3  Green Chilies (adjust the number to as mild or hot as you want)
1 inch piece of Ginger
2 Pinches Cumin seeds
1 pinch Asafetida / Hing
Salt to taste
1 Lime

Wash the cilantro and mint. My preference is 1 bunch of cilantro and half bunch mint. I am not too fond of a strong minty flavor. 
Wash and peel the ginger and slice or just roughly chop it. Wash the green chilies and chop into 2-3 pieces each.
Place all the ingredients (except the lime)  in the blender jar add 2-3tbsp water initially and blend to a smooth paste. Use extra water, one table spoon at a time as needed to make the chutney. You do not want a runny chutney. 
Transfer to a lidded container, squeeze lime juice and mix it in the chutney. Store in the fridge. 
*You can also use an ice-cube to grind the chutney instead of adding water.

Date-Tamarind Chutney

I usually eyeball the ingredients and make this. 
In a saucepan, add 2 Tsp Tamarind concentrate, 6-7 pitted Dates and a cup of water.
Bring this to a boil and add jaggery, I estimate and add about 3-4 times the quantity of the tamarind. 
Add 1/2 scant tsp of Kashmiri Red chilies powder or crushed red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp of Ginger powder and Jeera powder EACH. 
Add Salt to taste and 1/2 tsp of Black Salt. 
Turn off the heat as soon as the jaggery melts. taste and adjust flavors. the chutney should be sweet and sour. The sour must not be pronounced. It leans more towards the sweet side. 
Use an immersion blender to make a smooth chutney or let it cool and then blend to a smooth consistency. 
*You can also use tamarind and soak it in warm water for about 15 mins and then extract the pulp (discard the solids) and use it in place of the concentrate. Use a lime sized ball. 

It never fails, but if you are a newbie, here is a link that has a detailed recipe.

  • Make the edible bowls in advance.
  • Do not use large tumblers/ katori. A big edible bowl makes it difficult to eat and is very filling too. 
  • You can use a katori, but be careful when frying. The separating the dough and the steel bowl part can be tricky.
  • You can make this with just one filling or all. If sprouting moong beans is not possible or you do not  have time or beans, just use garbanzo beans.
  • Use canned garbanzo beans to cut one step out of the process.
  • The date and tamarind chutney can be stored in the fridge for a long time, a month at least. You can also buy this chutney in any Indian store.
  • Thin Sev, the crispy noodle topping is easily available in any Indian store.

Here's hoping everyone has a safe and wonderful summer! 
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