Saturday, January 9, 2016

tamatar chaat trail in Banaras and recreating the recipe of tamatar chaat

I have made tamatar chaat earlier and have been wanting to make it again and again. Tamatar chaat or tamatari is a delicious chaat from Banaras that is said to be a secret recipe. The reality is that all the chaat walas of the city have their own versions and most of them taste great, although all of them are slightly different from each other. Isn't that interesting?

I had been planning to make my own version of tamatari for ages, it is after the tamatari trail in Banaras that I came back and made it at home too.

I have also been dreaming of a chaat party as we used to have in Banaras. A chaat party is an apt alternative to high tea in Banaras. Almost all chaat walas are into catering and most people have their own favourites too.

The chaat parties of Banaras would mean a couple of chaat walas doing the catering, cooking live chaats and serving gol gappas street style. There would be counters of tamatari, chiwda matar, dahi bade, tikki chaat and gol gappas and a few unique chaats the hosts would arrange for. Tokri chaat, chhole bhatoorey, samosa chaat, kachori subzi etc used to be the usual add ons. Mung ka halwa, gajar halwa, hot gulab jamuns and jalebis would be the standard 'live' desserts being churned out.

Oh now I am seriously craving for a chaat party.

The best alternative to a chaat party is to go on a chaat trail in banaras. And if you are like me you would go trailing one type of chaat in a day, cover as many destinations as possible, take notes and conclude the one you like the best. This is what we did last time we were in Banaras.

The first Tamatari joint we raided was the Banarasi Chat Bhandar at Sankatmochan turning. Incidentally this was the place where I had first tasted the Tamatari 2 decades ago. I know how he used to make the Tamatari in those days but he has adapted the recipe now to make it quicker to serve to the waiting customers.

Earlier he use to crush some ready alu tikkis with some red tomatoes lined up around the periphery of the huge tawa and mix a few more chutneys and spices to churn out a tangy hot and sweet tamatari. Now he brings a ready mix of tomatoes and potatoes with some peas and even cubes of paneer which he pours on the griddle and bhunoes it till the tomato mixture gets nicely caramelised.

Then he adds a rich rassa to the reduced tomato mix which has makhanas and nuts, a sprinkling of chopped onions, coriander leaves etc and it is ready to be relished. But mind you, this earthen kulhad of tangy sweet and hot concoction comes to you after a good deal of waiting as by the time he makes tamatari there is a sizable crowd around his cart.

This would be my favourite tamatar chaat for 2 reasons. One the tamatar chaat has a dominant taste of tomatoes and the tomatoes are so well caramelised. There are other places where the tamatari is tasty but the tomato drowns among the other ingredients used. The second reason for liking this tamatari is that you get to stand in open air and eat the chaat, the cart is in an open space and they have a shop just behind the cart where you can sit and eat too.

Waiting for tables and sitting in claustrophobic chaat shops can be tolerated ONLY when the chaat is superlative. The good thing is that there are superlative chaats in those chaat bhandars of Banaras of course.

The next Tamatari we tasted was at Kashi Chat Bhandar and it was a bit more spicy though quite delicious. A father and son sharing table with us had two serving of tamatari there along with a variety of other chaats. The chiwda matar and alu tikki at Kashi Chaat Bhandar is great but the tamatari needs a little more balance of flavours and a little more tomatoes in it.

We found Deena Chaat Bhandar's Tamatari quite nice. It was more tangy, the kind of tangy that comes from using desi tomatoes and the flavours were really well balanced. I am told Deena used to make better Tamatari a decade ago. I can understand that as even the Banarasi at Sankatmochan turning also used to make much better tamatari when I had eaten from his cart. Deena's tamatari is still one of the best.

All these places used to crush a few alu tikkis, then caramalise a few ripe tomatoes and mix a few more things on the go to make tamatari back then. Now they have just made it more convenient for themselves as a ready mix is easy and quick to serve.

Most of them have started adding small cubes of paneer, peas, more nuts and even dry yellow peas to the tamatari to make it more attractive. All of them have their signature versions of the tamatari chaat.

I miss the version we used to get earlier and guess what? I had a leisurely chat with the original owner of the Banarasi Chaat Bhandar at Sankatmochan turning and he told he can make the original version on order. You just tell him a day in advance and the next day he will make it for you. Now that is something I am going to do next time.

But then, after having all these tamatari versions I had to make it at home too. The recipe of tamatari has been shared earlier but here it is once again. Use desi tomatoes for best taste I recommend. Or mix a few varieties of tomatoes to get the best of of them.

Ingredients, recipe and instructions of tamatari or tamatar chaat can be seen here.

The final outcome is always delicious. At home I make it less oily but the taste is great anyways.

Have it hot.

And have it for a meal. All the nuts, ghee and khoya in the tamatari chaat makes it quite heavy and when you are cooking it at home you must enjoy a large portion. So keep the Tamatar chaat for dinner menus or smaller portions for chaat parties where you serve more chaats.

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