You know I’m a lover of all things food, especially in Norfolk. I love to support local independent businesses, munching my way through anything new and original.
Especially if its Asian! That’s my speciality too – –
I’ve seen Phil Mitchell (I’m saying nothing!), known as Chaat Man at fayres and food events with his pop up food stall serving up delicious made to order Chaats. That’s now developed in to authentic desi-style curries, regularly seen & sold at Farmers markets in Beccles, Letheringsett, Lopham, Rickinghall and Sandringham.
I’m feeling at this point I need to explain a bit about Asian Chaats for all those who haven’t come across this cold South Indian street food snack. It’s loosely – fried noodles, crisp bread, rice krispies (puffed rice) and raw onion in spicy sauce – – – it’s a bit like explaining sushi as cold rice with raw fish wrapped in seaweed – it is, but it isn’t and it really doesn’t do it justice.
Let’s get more technical – – Chaat comes in different forms a bit like cereal, all the same base ingredients just put together in different combination with additional additions.
But it doesn’t stop there Chaat is the name for all sorts of Chaat which aren’t even named Chaat – – a bit like saying soup, you know there’s different sorts and you have it as a starter.
The most usual and a base for other Chaats is –
Bhel Puri – puffed rice, sev (fried thin noodle strands made from chickpea flour), onions, tomatoes, boiled potato, chaat masala (the actual spice blend used in some chaats (mango powder, cumin, coriander, ginger, chilli, salt & pepper) plus chutney sometimes the brown one made with tamarind sometimes the green chutney one, finished with a touch of lemon juice.
Local Indian women will ‘knock a load of this up’ in the morning and sell it on the road side or from stalls. A paper cone full will cost around 20p – – the perfect cheap and filling snack. Sold all over India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
It is without doubt an incredible taste sensation – it’s like crunchy, spicy, sour, sweet, moist and tangy, it hits all the senses all at the same time – a bloomin gorgeous #foodgasum – trust me I’m a chef!
But also under the Chaat umbrella is –
Aloo Chaat –(fried diced potato with chutney & the usual’s)
Bedmi – (fried dhal stuffed puri bread without the usual’s)
Aloo Tika – (a pan-fried spiced mashed potato cake, without the usual’s)
Dahi Puri– now these are small puffed up puree crisp breads (the size of a small apricot) – you poke a hole in the top and fill with mashed potatoes or chickpeas, chutney (some usual’s) and may be garnished with sev and coriander leaf. But then there is Dahi Vada – like the above but soaked in thick yogurt. But there is also Sev Puri– which is a variation on the above Puri – I’m getting confused now!!!
Masala Puri– like Bhel Puri but with a gravy like curry sauce soaked in.
Chaana Chat– like Bhel Puri but more of a chickpea salad with a few of the usual’s.
Papri Chaatis Bhel Puri on fried mini flat breads (puri). With a creamy yogurt on top.
But there is sooooo many more all a variation on a theme, too many to list – like Samosa Chaat – – with a squashed samosa under a pile of Bhel Puri – – making that a Chaat.
BUT it is always mixed and served fresh – – or you’ll end up with soggy cereal!!! and soggy Chaat is a no no!
It’s taken me 20 years just to get to this point of knowledge – – too much to chaat about.
So, back to Chaat Man Phil the English bloke whose passions have lead him to make authentic curries for Indian wedding parties and beyond. Because if you need curries for a party he’s the one to call. Or if you just fancy a taste of what he offers then book yourself on to one of Phil’s super clubs, which have been running since 2014.
– – which leads me to the one I attended.
So Chaat man put on a pop up in his home town of Long Stratton and we booked in superfast. A Saturday night with Chaat Man was not to be missed.
Phil gained his enthusiasm for cooking by watching Keith Floyd on the box (I cooked for Keith once upon a time, of course he was much more interested in the veno). But it was when he travelled to Kerala & Tamil Nadu in India that his passion for that cuisine grew. He got taught lots of dishes, took notes and toured around different restaurants.
Then when he got back home he reached out to the local Indian community and leant even more attending Hindu festivals, eating around Indian friends and becoming slightly obsessed with making chaats.
He then started selling variations of Bhel Puri around the country at food fayres as well as running his other business as a window cleaner.
Eventually the food business took over and Phil started to add curries to the mix.
All his curries are made from scratch using seasonal, local when possible and fresh ingredients. Starting from the curry base up and cooked authentically. He has had high praise from the Indian community for their authenticity. As he says ‘I’m a white guy cooking like a ‘Desi Indian’, he has no interest in British food or opening a restaurant – he does it because he absolutely loves it. A bit like me and teaching cookery – it’s a deep passion you just want to share.
So, there we were in the Savannah café awaiting a feast.
He got a little Chatty (see what I did there) with Violet the owner of the Café (used to be ‘Sugar Brown Café’ just at the back of the Co-op in the car park area) and she agreed to open it for his Indian Street Food evenings.
Violet’s a character in herself – South African, mainly in the kitchen doing the cooking, so she was pushed outside her comfort zone having to serve and accommodate all our drinking needs. The café is an all-day breakfast kind of CAF GAF it ain’t no Roger Hickmans. Accommodating up to 20 inside with a little outside seating area.
A quirky space. Try it for breakfast if your passing, I might go back for the ‘Boerewors’ South African sausage or some classic British lunch. They’ve even got a slush machine – I’m guessing the cafe accommodates the local community of Long Stratton for all their breakfast, lunch, cake and drink needs.
SO – We were treated to 7 tastes of India –
- Bhel Puri– the classic mix of zesty, fresh crunchiness.
- Papri Chaat– the one on crispy fried bread crackers and lathered in creamy cold yogurt.
- Bombay Masala Toast– a toasty of spiced green chutney and fresh tomatoes and onions with Indian cheese.
- Keralan Chicken – a green chilli paste base spicy slow cooked chicken curry.
- Makhanawala– a creamy light milk vegetarian curry with coconut.
- Keralan Rice – fluffy white rice.
- Rice Pasayam– A chilled rice pudding dessert to finish made with Old Hall Farm raw cow’s milk, making it refreshingly cold and creamy. Nuts to add texture and plump raisins to add sweet fruitiness.
I was by this time slightly comatose but happy with a full belly (not a Deli-Belly), a tingle still on my taste buds and a comforting thought that I could curl up in bed very soon and have some Chaat-ie dreams.
Other Chaats are available.
When I was working as a chef in London one of my favourite areas to eat was Drummond Street, a street at the top of Tottenham Court Road with several South Indian restaurants serving the most amazing vegetarian foods. We (boyfriend now hubby) especially loved the starters – The bhels, the chaats, and the Dahi Vada (spiced ground white lentil donut cakes with yogurt / Vada means fried savoury snack). That’s a lentil cake donut, served cold with a cooling yogurt and tamarind sauce with sprinkles of freshly chopped coriander. We would just order all the starters and share them like tapas. And on Sundays ‘Chutney Marys’ used to do a £5 buffet – – – Chaat-ed out we were.
So, when I discovered ‘Namaste’ in their original shop down Magdalene Street, Norwich I was over joyed. I took Bhel & Dahi Puri home for Nick (that’s him) as a surprise. (some people take flowers, some people offer gold, some people gift sweets – – we surprise each other with strange worldly food treats).
Namaste now have a restaurant on Opie Street with their larger branch on Queens street, also offering accommodation, cookery classes and occasional buffets – like all you can eat Chaat for £10 on some Sundays.
But be warned their Chaat blows ya bleedin head off.
If that’s not enough Chaat – – – try making this easy version (don’t tell Phil)
Cheats Bhel Puri Chaat Recipe –
Grab some Bombay mix (that will serve as the puffed rice and sev)
- add some or all of the following – roasted peanuts, small diced cooked potatoes, cooked chickpeas, small chopped red peppers, small chopped tomato, small chopped red onion, chopped fresh coriander, a touch of fresh lemon juice and some tamarind sauce.
- Plus Green chutney if you fancy – see below
- Toss and serve.
Basic Green Chutney –
1 small bunch coriander, stem and leaf, 2 cloves plump garlic, 2 – 3 fresh green chillis (stem off – seeds in or out!!!), ½ lemon juice, 1 inch grated ginger, 1 level teaspoon chaat masala (powder – see above) and a pinch salt.
- Blend until smooth adding enough cold water to make it in to a smooth dipping sauce consistency.
Now you know your Dahi from your Bhels. I’ll leave you all – salivating.
Contacts and Links –
Phil on 07494 904057
by Zena Leech-Calton ©
for all things food in Norwich & Norfolk