Monday, March 15, 2010

Date Tamarind Chutney and Aloo Tikki Chana Chaat

Whew, that's a mouthful of a post title. But a tasty mouthful, I promise you.

Over my decade-long stint as a home cook, there are several things for which I have made the journey from home-made to store-bought and back full circle to home-made. The sweet and tangy date-tamarind chutney is one of these. It is one of the first things I learned to make from scratch, in Bombay. Once I was running my own kitchen in NYC, bottled store-bought date tamarind chutney had a permanent place in my fridge door. Then in the last couple of years, I was annoyed at buying something that is so simple to make at home, and I'm back to making my own. 

This tamarind chutney is a minimalist version calling for, count 'em, all of 4 ingredients: dates, tamarind, jaggery (unrefined sugar) and cumin-coriander powder. OK, salt and water too. 

In the recipe below, I have written down approximate quantities for each ingredient but the truth is that dates, tamarind and jaggery are all ingredients with unique personalities. One brand of tamarind may have a different degree of sourness than another brand, and so on. These ingredients are also not easy to measure. Try wrestling nuggets of jaggery into a measuring cup or scooping out exact quantities of sticky tamarind. The solution is to just use approximate quantities of the ingredients and rejoice in the fact that every batch of chutney you make will also have a unique personality.

All the ingredients are available wherever Indian groceries are sold. In the Middle Eastern aisle, I discovered something called "baking dates", which is nothing but pitted dates packed into a rectangular cake and ready to be used as date pulp. It is very convenient to keep on hand and I like using it for this chutney.

The chutney does need to be strained to get rid of the stringy tamarind fibers. I would suggest using a sieve with large pores (like the one below) to avoid spending a frustrating amount of time doing this. 

Date Tamarind Chutney

1. Mix together
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup soft pitted dates or 12 pack of pitted baking dates
  • 14 cup jaggery
  • 14 cup tamarind
  • Salt to taste
2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Use a spatula or potato masher to press down on the tamarind and dates and extract as much of the pulp as possible. Stir well to dissolve all the ingredients. Taste and add more of tamarind or jaggery or salt to get the sweet/tangy/salty balance you like best.

3. Pass the mixture through a large-pored sieve to remove the fibers. Chutney that is too thick may be difficult to strain so dilute it with filtered water if necessary. Add cumin-coriander powder and cayenne pepper to taste. Refrigerate.

Update (Nov 2013): If you use bottled/jarred tamarind extract, you can simply blend the simmered ingredients and not have to sieve them, making this recipe even easier.

Pour on anything and everything and pretend you are enjoying chaat from your favorite vendor. I made this chutney specifically for some Aloo Tikki Chana Chaat. It is the North Indian cousin of the ragda patties. I don't know if what follows is a particularly authentic recipe; it is just my way of making it.

Chana for Aloo Tikki Chana Chaat

1. Soak 1.5 cups chickpeas overnight. Rinse them well and pressure cook them until tender.

2. Heat 1 tbsp. oil and fry 2 minced onions until lightly browned.

3. Add the following and saute until fragrant:
  • Ginger garlic paste
  • Turmeric powder
  • Red chilli powder
  • Coriander-cumin powder
  • Chana masala (chhole masala), the best you can find or make
  • Amchur powder
  • Salt to taste
4. Add 3-4 chopped tomatoes and fry for a few minutes.

5. Add cooked chickpeas and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Mash in some of the chickpeas to thicken the curry. 

To assemble the chaat, layer the following in a bowl: 
  • Aloo tikkis: I make them very simply, nothing but boiled mashed potato and salt (and sometimes bread as a filler) formed into patties and shallow-fried, as shown in this recipe. You can add spices to the tikkis if desired.
  • Chana 
  • Minced raw onion
  • Minced cilantro
  • Sev
  • Date tamarind chutney
  • Whipped yogurt (optional)
There you have it, chaat that feels like a special treat but packs in plenty of nutrition among the layers of flavor. 


  1. You are making this a Monday worth remembering. Will make the date tam chutney. I will be lazy and use tam concentrate. I hope I don't need to strain

  2. just back from a kiddy birthday party where the chaat stand almost got knocked down by the mob!! i've only made the khajur imli chutney once, that too with no particular recipe... how long can this be stored in the fridge??

  3. I use store bought chutney. May be I should try this next time.

  4. the date tamarind chutney looks superb..exactly like the one we eat at Haldirams. will soon make this.

  5. I love aloo chaat ,these are so tempting :)..
    hugs and smiles

  6. Love the sheen on that one. no chili powder? As for the chaat a trip to St.Louis is in order.

  7. This is something I make it exact way as yours. i totally love the tangy tamarind chutney, but i use very little amount of tamarind b'se I've heard that it's causes and can be worsen your joints problems.

    I never buy any kinda chutney or anything. I always prefer to make it home and it's so easy to prepare. no? And i love Aloo tikki with chhole to Ragda pettis. :)
    Your tamarind chutney and chaat looks so lip-smacking! :)

  8. never have the patience to make these chutneys..always buy from outside. Should make some and store in the freezer, considering how easy they are to make!!

  9. Oh this chutney is perfect for all types of chaat !
    I make aloo tiki chaat very rarely ( I make stuffed tikkis)
    Love the chaat!

  10. thank for sharing this type of chutney!interesting one..

  11. Hi Nupur,

    Your recipes are great! It will be good if you can post larger, zoomed out, pictures of the end result.

  12. I always make the tamarind chutney but without the dates and refrigerate it. The aloo tikki chaat looks simply delicious... I love it:)

  13. what are you doing to me, Nupur :), at 11:30 in the night I check out this recipe for date tamarind chutney and the picture of this delicious chaat, and what do you think would happen - that I am having a night craving for some street food now! love the chana chaat.

  14. I follow almost the same recipe..:).I make this chutney for Bhelpuri and Pani puri.It freezes well too.

  15. Bong Mom- Oh yes, tam concentrate would work just fine. And yes, you could skip the straining step if the dates have been peeled before-hand, making it a recipe where you just boil things together!

    Nithya- Thanks!

    arundati- How can I get invites to birthday parties involving chaat stands??
    Nothing in my home lasts for more than 4 days no matter because we eat it up :) I think this would last 6-7 days but I have not tried it for myself.

    uvr- Yes, it is really really simple to make at home.

    sayantani- Ooh, the Haldiram's chutney is superb, I think that is a lot sweeter, has fennel maybe and some red chillies? Awesome stuff.

    Jaya- Thanks!

    indosungod- No, I avoid chilli powder to keep it strictly sweet for people who are sensitive to spicy food. But sure, that would be a great addition!
    Please do make a trip to St. Louis, I'll feed ya all the chaat you can eat :)

    Sonia- I've never heard of tamarind causing joint problems, where did you hear that and is there any scientific evidence?
    Good to know you make it the same way :)

    Superchef- When you get down to it, this takes mere minutes to make :)

    Rekha shoban- Thanks

    Manasi- Oh stuffed tikkis are awesome. In my case, I just am to lazy so the chana only goes on the outside.

    Milli- Thanks

    Rachana Kothari- I love adding the dates because they add so much fiber, iron and great nutrition to the chutney.

    PJ- I know the feeling, right after posting this I got so hungry and all the chaat was over- arrgh! Chaat pictures just kill me :)

    Divya Kudua- Yes, it is a very versatile chutney.

  16. Thanks, Nupur! That's a great post. My mother firmly believes that tamarind worsens arthritis too...I have a question: is there a substitute for sev that you can buy in a regular grocery store? Thanks again. :-)

  17. That mouthful made my mouth water for sure! :)
    What an inviting, exciting bowl of chaat. And I have been wanting to make date chutney since I bought some beautiful dates recently. Yours looks fabulous-- thanks for the recipe!

  18. this looks delicious! i love channa and the recipes i have are just not quite right. i will try yours with the tamarind, thanks!

  19. the tamarind chutney looks awesome !!, And I usually do just what u suggest pour it on anything n everything ;)
    instead of fighting with the pulp to get strained I just puree the whole thing first and then strain it, and then boil it again to the right consistency, works out better n faster for me.
    Actually my MIL keeps telling me too the same thing not to add tamarind to make fish curry and not to eat any tamarind as one gets joint pain,(she would have scorned if she saw me eating the bottle of tamarind chutney :)) but I do not see any cause and affect here as we Goans eat tamarind on daily basis and none get any significant joint pain(touchwood).

  20. Oh, the tamarind chutney is that simple? Thanks for the direction, Nupur. You are an inspiration.

  21. The Chana Chaat looks so good, it made my mouth water! I have always used store brought bottled tamrind chutney, partly because I'm lazy and partly I couldn't make a good enough chutney. Your recipe for the chutney is so good, I think I can definitely make it! Thanks.

    And Gudi Padva wishes to you and your family, Happy New Year!!!

  22. Chaat remains my all-time favorite food! And yours looks absolutely enticing with that chutney!

  23. this was monday morning's breakfast!

  24. Barash- But is there is a reason for the belief about tamarind and arthritis?
    Anyway, about sev, no I can't really think of a suitable substitute in regular store (I normally save my sev-needing recipes until I make a trip to the Indian/international store once every 4-6 weeks). But I use crushed kettle-cooked potato chips or tortilla chips for a crunchy topping for chaat in an "emergency".

    Vaishali- Oh if you have plump dates on hand, and if they survive the snacks and nibbling, this would be a perfect way to use them :)

    cinderelly- Getting the taste of perfect chana can take a bit of experimentation, but please keep trying!

    Mayuri- In this case, pureeing it was not necessary, it was a thick puree to begin with, mashing it was enough the get it all nice and thick. But yes, I have seen lots of people pureeing it.
    What is the evidence behind this tamarind-join pain connection, I wonder. I agree with you, some regions like Konkan and Goa eat tamarind in almost every dish, we use it a lot in Maharashtra too, and incidence of joint pain is not much higher then elsewhere, is it?

    Anh- Yes, it is super simple :)

    Namita- Happy New Year to you and your family too!!

    Radhika- It is my all-time favorite too, I could eat it every day :)

    Raaga- Chaat for breakfast, eh? Perfect!

  25. Hi Nupur, re Tamarind and joint problems: I don't have any scientific proof or evidence. but my mother and all family members, relatives are firmly believes that the tamarind is not very nice. But wait..I'll confirm with my mother abt it again and let you know.
    Sorry for any confusion!

  26. a chaat very close to my heart and A's too. I have the date tam chutney already made... now should I go for the tikkis? YUMMY!

  27. Nupur,

    My mother is into Ayurvedic and other holistic medicine. She believes (I think it's an Ayurvedic belief) that Tamarind and other sour - acidic- foods worsen joint pains. There is no basis in Allopathic medicine for this.

  28. New Punjabi neighbour provided chhole... bag of frozen tikkis came out from the freezer... Kitchens of India date tamarind chutney... Sev from Anand Bhavan... and I toiled and toiled and chopped an onion. ;-)

    Good lazy breakfast... I took Mon-Tue off for the new year. Happy new year!

  29. Wow! now this is a chaat i can make! I always found chaat recipes asking for 2-3 kinds of chutney. 1 chutney + chole + tikki is definitely doable. for now, I am just salivating over the pics. Thanks, Nupur

  30. Soma- Yes, it is very very close to my heart too :)

    Sonia- No confusion at all, I was just curious about why this belief exists.

    notyet100- mine too

    Barash- Thanks, good to know!

    Raaga- Whoa, good way to start a vacation day for sure.

    A- Chaat recipes are infinitely adaptable, in this case the chana was spicy enough that a spicy chutney was not needed, and the cilantro provided a touch of fresh green. You can make chaat simple or complicated depending on the time on hand.

  31. hi Nupur, I tried your dates and tamarind chutney for my dahi papdi chaat and it was awesome! Thanks for sharing this recipe :) Ive posted about it on my blog as well :)

  32. Thanks Nupur for the recipe. I truly enjoy it. Also love the tamarind paste tip but I have totally stopped buying it because of the color. :))


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