'Authentic' is a word that has become commonly (ab)used in cooking terminology across India. Most cuisines when brought to another city/country tend to absorb the flavours of the local palate into their preparations, so much so, that it is very difficult to get people to appreciate the original and (yes, let's say it), authentic taste across the board.
Sathyam Cinemas' range of multiplexes are popular in the city not just for the latest movies that run in their theatres, but equally or probably even more for their food ventures. One of the first to bring in French desserts for the connoisseur at Ecstacy, and the spiced seasonings and flavourings for popcorn (Cajun, chilli barbecue, cheese, caramel and so on) that are extremely popular among all ages, it is now time to bring in street-style Indian chaat, all the way from Delhi.
Around 13 chaat varieties are available with two dessert options. Having sampled a plate of Golgappas/Paani Pooris, Dahi Poori, and Frontier Samosa Chhole, I will definitely be going back for more. The plateful of crisp jalebis in a puddle of sweet rabdi is a visual, sensory and olfactory delight.
The Golgappas are of two varieties - the usual 'atta', and now available at a few other outlets, 'sooji'. You can pick and choose as per your preference. There are also SIX varieties of paanis available - kala khatta, jal jeera, kali mirch, pudina, hing and classic. Again, you get to taste each of the paani varieties or you choose whichever you prefer. I personally found jal jeera refreshing given the summer heat that's already warmed it's way into February.
Thoroughly enjoyed the Samosa Chhole. The filling has aloo and green peas, spiced with both 'teekha' and 'meetha' chutneys, along with hot chhole. All the flavours blended in beautifully.
Dahi Poori is a mix of the atta and sooji pooris, sprinkled with finely chopped onions that provide the perfect crunch, topped with 'hara' and date chutneys, and yogurt with pomegranates and sliced green grapes, adding a tangy yet sweet freshness to the whole dish.
A young group of local Tamilian boys and a girl who was being teased by her friends to pay the bill with her credit card, opted for just one plate of Hari Mirchi Pakodas, which they all shared. The Bajji is a popular street snack here, which is probably why they chose that one among the rest. The Bajji of the South is totally different from the Mirchi Vada or Pakoda of the North. The filling and chutneys have nothing in common. Ajnabee, a well-known chain of restaurants owned by a Gujarati family here offering short eats and chaats, has a very spicy mirchi vada on its menu, although the size of the pakoda is half of what is available at Sathyam.
I chanced upon the colourful poster with the Indian lorry-style title while booking tickets for the first day, first show of the movie, Roy. Except for the casting, scenic locales and the song with the musical whistle, I'm glad there was something outside the theatre to look forward to for a change. This counter is only at Sathyam Cinemas' Royapettah location now, at the counter facing the front entrance steps.
I can have chaat any time of the day or night, and after having grown up in Bombay, Calcutta and eating expeditions in Delhi, one is practically starved for chaat in the South.
Abhijit Berde, a food consultant from Mumbai who has worked as a chef with the ITC and The Oberoi groups and with flight kitchens like Kingfisher earlier, is testing the waters here for just three days. If this takes off, he says he would help bring in more options like a Rajdhani-style thali with South Indian non-veg dishes, and a high-end chaat resto where the street food favourites are all prettily plated up.
Abhijit says if it does well Sathyam would probably change the branding. I like it the way it is even right now. For the moment, check out the 'Chaat OK Please' counter at Sathyam Cinemas this weekend.
The Chaat Festival is on only from the 13th to 15th of Feb, 11am to 11pm.
Go get your chaat fix on!