Tamatar ki chaat as the name suggests is essentially a chatpata chaat with tomato at the helm. Though the tamatar ki chaat sold in Prayagraj and Lucknow is amazing, the Banarasi tamatar ki chaat is in a class of its own. The explosion of flavours – spicy, sweet, sour, tangy and crunchy in each bite is pure heaven.
Locals swear that all gastronomical roads for the authentic Banarasi tamatar ki chaat leads to the famous Keshari Deenanath Chaat Bhandar in Chowk. In the 1960s, Deenanathji was selling his kachoris and this unique creation that became a big hit with his customers. Soon, people began to line up to savour his flavoursome signature chaats and Deenanathji set up his own stall.
He and his family have established two outlets in the city which are frequented by visitors and locals who come to sample their delicious aloo tikki, palak patta chaat, gulab jamuns, palak pakodas, golgappe and others.
Though several vendors now sell Banarasi tamatar ki chaat with slight variations, the original recipe is a well-guarded secret. Any vendor will only reveal the basic preparation and ingredients and one can only try to pinpoint what makes this chaat so spectacular!
A generous dollop of desi ghee is poured onto the hot tawa. Hing, finely chopped fresh ginger and green chillies are added and fried in the ghee. Freshly roasted and powdered spices like jeera, dhania, turmeric, black pepper, garam masala, red chilli, amchoor and finally, a sprinkle of kala namak is added to this mixture.
On one side of the tawa, mashed potatoes and white peas are seen simmering while in the centre freshly chopped local tomatoes along with tomato puree is added to the spices and cooked till it becomes pulpy. Poppy seeds paste, dried fruits, tamarind chutney and some secret spices are also added.
A portion of the potatoes and white peas in mixed into the hot tomato mixture and cooked with a little water for a few minutes. It is scooped up and served in a kulhad. A spoonful of ghee is added along with the surprise package of this chaat – sugar syrup that has a dash of jeera powder, red chilli powder and chaat masala!
Finely chopped coriander leaves is sprinkled over each kulhad with a squeeze of lemon juice. It is garnished with sev or namak pare.
This marvellous creation of Banaras is now vying for the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) recognition. The Uttar Pradesh government plans to celebrate this traditional dish and local tomatoes by hosting a Tomato Fair in the month of March. This should bring in more revenue for the vendors of Old Banaras and farmers of Varanasi district.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)