The train came to a sudden halt, waking me up. Rubbing my eyes I look out of the window to figure out where we were. A smallish station with busy vendors. Steaming cups of tea, pre packed snacks exchanging hands. A fruit seller with bananas and oranges at a distance, a thick scarf covering his ears and head.
We were making the four hour train journey from Howrah to Tatanagar in India. With the schools closed for December holidays there were lots of families with young children travelling. The fleeting landscape outside was different shades of green. Green grass, green trees with climbers wrapped around, green fields, even the lakes and ponds which were so abundant had green plants covering the surface.
A steady stream of hawkers made their rounds. Newspapers, magazines with special deals, incense sticks with promises of one of a kind fragrance. Mobile shoe shine, a blind man with outstretched arm seeking pennies, his melodious voice reminding us how good deeds in life are always paid back tenfold by the almighty. His other arm resting on the shoulder of a barefooted little girl .The song definitely had an impact for I heard the clinking of the coins against his tin can.
The train had left the station and was slowly moving out. A spicy aroma was followed by a skinny man with a big wicker basket hanging around his neck. A red cloth covered the snacks, with an assortment of small tin containers neatly arranged around the periphery of the basket. It was hard not to give in. The family sitting right across, enquired the price. There was a brief conversation accusing the vendor of his cut throat prices . The vegetable prices had skyrocketed he mumbled in his defence. The deal did go through with my fellow passengers carefully balancing the ‘Chawps’ on a bowl made from dried leaves.
We were not allowed food from these vendors with questionable hygiene. Looking away was not helping as the overwhelming aroma and the sound of crunchy onions or peanuts was causing my mouth to water. I still made a feeble attempt and looked at Baba. He nodded his head to reinforce what I already knew. Ma however promised that she would make it for us when we reached home. And she did ! With a hot cup of tea these ‘ vegetable chawps’, are to die for. With the abundance of root vegetables during the winter months this snack was a regular in our house.
It is not winter here in the Prairies yet. September brought some snow though, would you believe? It didn’t last, but prompted me to get my hand shaping these ‘Chawps’
What are your favourite snacks while travelling. I’d love to hear from you. Do drop me a line.
Beetroots Two large.
Peanuts One Tbsp
Raisins One Tbsp
Ginger One inch grated.
All purpose flour Two Tbsp
Breadcrumbs One packet. I used Panko.
Canola oil Two cups for frying.
Onion One cut in thin julienne.
Salt To taste
Cumin seeds One and half tsp
Fennel seeds One and half tsp
Red chilli powder One tsp
Put the potatoes and beetroots in a pressure cooker skin on, wait for two whistles, turn the gas off. Let it cool down. Skin the vegetables. Mash the potatoes, grate the beetroots. Skin the raw carrots and grate them. Keep them aside.
Dry roast the ones listed under Spices, grind and set aside.
Take a pan with one Tbsp of canola oil on high heat and throw the peanuts in. Fry for a few minutes till they get some colour then add the raisins. Add the vegetables soon after. Bring the heat to medium now. Saute for a few minutes, add the ground spices and salt. It is done when the mixture is all dry or all the moisture is gone. Put the gas off and let it cool down.
Make a slurry with the flour and water. Spread the breadcrumbs on a newspaper sheet. Take a handful of the above mixture and form an inch and half cylinder with your hand. Dip these first in the flour slurry then in the breadcrumbs so they are coated evenly. Dip in the slurry and breadcrumbs a second time.
Take a frying pan with one inch deep oil in it on high heat. Gently lower the croquets and lower the gas to medium. Fry to a nice brown colour turning them carefully so that it is done from all sides. Collect them on a tissue paper.
To serve sprinkle some “Chat masala’ on the ‘Chawps’. A few slices of onions on the side and Tomato ketchup to dip in.
When frying the veggies and spice mixture, taste to make changes. We like it spicy. You can titrate it to your taste.
Chaat Masala is available in Indian grocery stores.
Makes about 12-15 depending on the size.
Baba is the Bengali word for Dad.