So it's finger food, she asked. Or a canape?
Neither, I said. Chaat comes on a plate because its dunked in sauces and its messy. And it's so spicy it makes your eyes water. But it's the best food there is.
By now, my friend sported such a bewildered look that I gave up. You don't explain chaat. You experience it. And preferably, because a little plate of food requires so much work, you don't cook it at home. In fact, chaat always tastes better when eaten off a street cart.
My favorite chaat experiences are dunking puffed golgappas in chilli and tamarind water. And eating that plate of coin sized papdis and dahi vadas drowning in chutneys and yogurt, aptly called bhalla papdi chaat back home.
Then in Mumbai, I made a new favorite. The Dahi Puri - the puffed golgappa filled with spicy mashed potatoes, some sprouted lentils and topped with tamarind chutney that's sweet and savory and spicy at the same time. Also with the extremely spicy cilantro and chilli chutney. Laced with yogurt. And finally garnished with fried gramflour strings as thin as rice vermicelli. Some fresh cilantro too, just for effect. You can't explain the dish, you have to experience it!