Chaat masala is a dry spice mix from the Indian subcontinent. It is a common masala in Indian, Pakistani and Bangladesh cuisines.
Many different chaat masalas exist. Common ingredients are dried ginger, cumin, coriander, amchoor, black pepper, asafoetida, chili powder, and salt. The prefered salt is kala namak.
Chaat masala is used in cooking and also commonly sprinkled on top of fresh vegetables, fruits and salads.
In some spice markets, you can find a special version of chaat masala called fruit chaat masala. In this version, the chili pepper, amchoor, asafoetida and kala namak salt dominates the flavour.
What is amchoor?
Amchoor is a spice powder made from dried unripe green mango. The taste is sour-fruity and is used to add acidity and a certain fruitiness to dishes. It can also be used to tenderize meat.
What is kala namak?
Kala namak is a kiln-fired rock salt with a sulphurous, pungent smell. It is manufactured from salts obtained from regions surrounding the Himalayas, and is therefore also sold as Himalayan black salt.
Just like other salts, kala namak is chiefly comprised of sodium chloride, but there are also several other compounds present, including Greigite, an iron sulfide mineral. The Greigite is responsible for the brownish pink to dark violet look of kala namak chunks. When kala namak is ground into a powder it become more pink than violet.
The traditional method for producing kala namak is to mine the raw material in the Himalayas or harvest it from the North Indian salt lakes Sambhar and Didwana. The salt, which is comparatively colourless in its natural form, is then put through a process that makes some of the naturally occuring sodium sulfate turn into hydrogen sulfide and sodium sulfide. This process involves firing the salt with charcoal in a kiln for 24 hours inside a sealed ceramic jar. Typically, small amounts of babul bark, bahera, ambla, harad seeds or natron are also put inside the jar. The salt is then cooled and allowed to age before being sold.
Recipe for chaat masala
As mentioned above, they are many different chaat masalas and this is just one of a multitude of recipes. It is not uncommon for street vendors in Indian cities and towns to each blend their own chaat masala, using their own personal recipe. Don´t be afraid to experiment with the recipe below and adjust it according to your preferences.
The recipe below yields rughly 1 cup of chaat masala. Store in an air-tight container in a dry, cool place.
- 3 tablespoons cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 4 tablespoons amchur powder
- 3 tablespoons powdered salt of the kala namak type
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon asafetida powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon dried, powdered mint
- 1 1/2 teaspoons carom seeds
- Heat a flat griddle on medium heat.
- Pour the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds on the medium hot griddle and dry roast them, while stirring frequently, until the seeds have turned a bit darker. They will give off noticeable aromas during this process.
- Remove the seeds from the griddle and spread them over a plate to cool.
- Mix the cool seeds with the other ingredients.
- Use a mortal and pestle to grind all the ingredients to a spice mix. (You can also use a coffee grinder.) The end result should be a smooth powder.
- Store the garam masala in a dry and dark place, inside an air-tight container.