Cooling Spice Blend with Black Salt
In Hindi, chaat means “lick” and this finger-licking blend has a salty, addictive edge to it. The sulfurlike aroma and the flavor reminiscent of hard-cooked eggs are thanks to the black salt (not a true salt but a mineral in crystal form, found in mines). Mango powder and dried pomegranate seeds contribute tartness, while the heat from black peppercorns balances out the blend. Nutty cumin, in addition to its obvious flavor when toasted, helps the digestion, as does black salt. Put them all together, and you have a mélange that sprinkles its way into many of Mumbai’s and Delhi’s street foods, all now popularized under the catchy name chaat.
Dried pomegranate seeds can be a hard nut to crack (sorry, grind), and your spice grinder may not be able to pulverize them to the right consistency. Often, once I run the seeds through the grinder, I transfer them to a mortar and then pound and grind them to a finer texture.
Boxes of chaat masala, already blended for your convenience, are found in the spice aisle of every Indian grocery store. Purchase it in a heartbeat, but if you wish to make your own, try my version. Its flavor is exactly the same—no, it’s better!
Total Timeunder 15 minutes
Make Ahead RecipeYes
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturesavory, spiced, tart
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried pomegranate seeds (see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon mango powder
- 2 teaspoons black salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
Preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the cumin seeds into the hot pan and toast, shaking the skillet every few seconds, until they start to crackle, turn reddish brown, and are highly fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the toasted cumin to a spice grinder or coffee grinder, and allow it to cool completely.
Add the pomegranate seeds and peppercorns to the cumin, and grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper.
Transfer the ground spices to a small bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients; the blend will be light brown in color. Store in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat, and humidity, for up to 2 months. (In my opinion, refrigerating the blend adversely affects its flavors.)
2008 Raghavan Iyer