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8/27/2009

Dining > On The Side

Chaat rooms

 

I spent many a childhood Sunday sitting in front of the console watching Godzilla flicks and eating bowl after bowl of chana batata – a curried mix of chickpeas and potatoes blended with black-eyed-pea bhajis, sprinkled with chevdo (a mix of spicy dried chickpeas, peanuts, rice puffs, wheat crisps and potato chips) and animated with tamarind and red-hot chutneys. It was a bracing snack, or chaat, that offered midday sustenance through the evening hours.

On the streets of Mumbai, chaat takes on variegated textures, consistencies and flavors that are nothing short of extravagant, not to mention filling. Like tacos al pastor in Mexico City, bahn mi in Saigon and rotis in Port of Spain, bhel puri is the quintessence of street food in Mumbai. The infernal mélange of puffed rice and sev (fried strings made of chickpea flour) crunched further with tangy kachumber (think Indian pico de gallo) and tamarind chutney keeps the city humming.

The strip of OBT from Oak Ridge Road to Whisper Lakes Boulevard is Orlando’s equivalent to Mumbai’s Chowpatty Beach, sans the sand and sea breeze, with several Indian joints lining the Curry Corridor. Woodlands, Bombay Café, Ahmed Restaurant and Chaat House each serve up their own renditions of the snack food, with varying levels of heat. After a couple of spoonfuls, you may find yourself shooting fire out of your yap like a giant mutant dinosaur.

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