Sunday, May 9, 2010

Desi Chaat House

501 S. 42nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 386-1999

I drove past the Desi Chaat House a couple of weeks ago, and I new I had to try it. When I found myself in West Philly again this weekend, it was time to give it a go. Chaat is an Indian street food that consists of crunchy crackerish pieces of fried dough mixed with a variety of sauces and proteins. The Chaat House has multiple bins lining their shelves, each containing a different selection of delicious crunchy bits. The bin they use is dependent on which Chaat you order. I am going to let you in on a little secret, you can't go wrong. Everything I ate was incredible. Bursting with fresh exotic flavors, and profiles my taste buds had never before experienced.

I ordered the lamb chaat, which was marinated strips of lamb, ground spices, barbecued in a clay oven served with chaat. They tailor each order to the spiciness the customer prefers. I like it really spicy, and they delivered. It wasn't "can't eat it because it is SO hot," but it actually provided a great blend of heat and spice. The yogurt really helped to cut the fire. The flavor was packed in these containers. I mean packed. I marveled at just how good it was. Some of the best Indian food I have had. The owner is really nice, and he loves to talk about his food. They have a great variety of sauces, and each one lends a VERY distinctive flavor. There are pockets of creamy yogurt that inadvertently become mixed with the tamarind, chili and other flavored sauces to create a masterpiece. Between two of us, we tried three dishes and even ordered a fourth to take home for later after we had already eaten the first three!

Below is the samosa chaat. When I saw samosa on the menu, I expected traditional samosas with dipping sauce. But THIS was samosa chaat. A samosa was stuck in the corner, and surrounded with beans, boiled potato chunks, sauces and chaat. There were so many contrasting flavors and textures that it was unlike anything I had ever eaten. It was fantastic.

The Dahi Ballay consisted of white lentil balls in yogurt, with potatoes, chick peas and chutney. A bit on the sweeter side, this dish was still both spicy and cooling thanks to the hot chutney and creamy yogurt sauce on top - it was quite delicious. Every single dish tasted completely different, which was a pleasant surprise.

Here is a shot of the menu and two of the workers.

Here is the rest of the menu. If you look below it, there are all of the Chaat containers.

Here is the Dahi Ballay.

So, while eating, I noticed someone outside had little puffy dough balls that they were cracking, and filling with a creamy mixture and pouring some kind of liquid in with it. It looked amazing. I asked the owner what that was, and he informed me it was Pani Puri. Pani Puri consists of crisp semolina puris filled with mixed sweet and sour filling served with spicy water that is flavored with date and tamarind. They are a perfect snack food, and I loved the spicy water. I may have liked these best of all (I also have a weakness for crunchy fried snack food). I was thoroughly impressed by all of the offerings at Desi Chaat House, and as I told the owner, I only had one qualm. Why isn't there one in South Philly? To my delight, he reassured me he was currently scouting a second location down this way. Amazing. I can't wait to go back, and I will consider that my go-to place for Indian in the city now. I mean, when it comes down to it, I am a street-food person above all else, so my Indian cravings just met their match.

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