I've never met an Indian who doesn't like street food. There's got to be something ridiculously good about those spicy-savory-sour-sweet dishes for a country of billions to be crazy about! Street food is a different class of cuisine altogether and call me crazy, but I'll pick that over a 5-star restaurant any day! You can pretty much get anything from sandwiches to noodles on a little streetside cart in India, but what gets me really drooling is the broad category of Chaats. Yum! Bhel, shev-puri, paani-puri, ragada chaat and all those tasty concoctions of tangy tamarind and hot chili-cilantro chutneys, crunchy-thin chickpea flour noodles called Sev, finely diced onion and tomatoes over potatoes or white peas, puffed rice or crispy puris.
I remember my mom or sister taking me a few lanes down from our house to the park, where a dozen or so vendors with their fully equipped carts used to crowd the corner. We were not allowed to eat there too often for 'questionable' cleanliness to put it in mild words. But it was one of those guilty pleasures that felt better than going to the candy store! The chaat-wallah used every inch of the space creatively. A flat pan of ragda boiling away over a kerosene stove in one corner, every shelf stacked with enough ingredients for the week, containers of chutneys and spices, plates and drinking(?) water, all in one crammed cart. All this left a small cutting-board sized space where he would dice the veggies at the speed of light.
It wasn't until I visited Mumbai, then Bombay, though that I experienced the culture of street food! Mumbai is the Mecca for street food lovers. It's a potpourri of cultures and people from all around the country have contributed to the numerous food carts that have become the lifeline of students, workers, rishkshaw or taxi drivers and every other person who stops by for a quick snack. My cousin, who I used to visit during the holidays, had her favorite designated cart for every item. She was the one who first introduced me to the awesomeness called 'Dabeli'! Ahh - how I fell in love with this delicious 'burger' that was too small for my liking. The Kacchi Gujarati community has made Dabeli a popular item on street carts in Mumbai. And like all other Gujarati dishes, they have managed to bring a sweet element into this yummy chaat item.
|Spicy Roasted Peanuts|
'Dabeli' literally means pressed in Gajarati. It is a delicious burger with spiced mashed potatoes, spicy roasted peanuts, pomegranate seeds, sev and tamarind-date chutney all sandwiched between a bun, graciously lathered with Amul butter! The butter is applied in such generous amounts that the bread literally melts in your mouth. Dabeli has been one of my favorite street foods all these years. I make sure to visit my cousin's favorite Dabeli-wallah at the time during my busy trips to India.
I love making Dabeli for dinner once in a while for a change of taste. I have made it from scratch many times before, but this time I took advantage of having all the components available at the grocery store. It's a quick fix meal on a week night. The Dabeli Masala I brought from India was a time saver as well, although it's a simple combination of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chili, cloves and cinnamon roasted and ground to a fine powder.
|Everything you need for the best bite ever!|
|Ready to be 'dabeli' - pressed.|
2 Teaspoons Dabeli Masala
1/4 Teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 Cup peanuts
1/2 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1/2 - 1 Teaspoon red chili powder
Salt to taste
2 Tablespoons oil
1 Small onion finely chopped
1 Pomegranate seeds
Bareek sev (fine sev) for garnishing
Boil potatoes, peel and mash. Add dabeli masala and salt to taste to the potatoes and mix well.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and let them splutter, add in the mashed potatoes and cook everything for a couple of minutes. You can add a little bit of water if the potatoes become too dry.
Heat a teaspoon of oil in a sautee pan, add peanuts, sprinkle cumin-coriander, red chili powder and salt to taste and let them roast, stirring occasionally.
Toast bread with a generous application of butter.
Make a small patty of the mashed potato and put it on the slice of bread. Top it with some tamarind-date chutney, then onions, peanuts, pomegrante seeds and lastly sev.
Press the other slice of bread on top. You can toast the burger on a pan again or just enjoy it!
Spicy potatoes, crunchy peanuts and sev, tangy-sour chutney and sweet pomegranate to balance it all create the most perrrfect bite ever!!!
Dabeli is a great snack for entertaining too. You can make a little assembly of all the ingredients and let your guests make their own. Or you can make a 'cake' with layers of mashed potatoes and all the other ingredients and let your guest cut a piece for their burger.
Grapes cut in half make a great substitute for pomegranates, providing the same sweetness, crunch and juicy pop in the mouth.