Chai, Chaat & Chutney: A Street Food Journey Through India

Cover of Chai, Chaat & Chutney by Chetna Makan

Chai, Chaat & Chutney: A Street Food Journey Through India
Chetna Makan
Octopus Publishing/Hachette, 2017

Since her time in the tent on the Great British Bake-Off, Chetna Makan has been busy, writing two books and running a popular YouTube channel. Her second book, Chai, Chaat & Chutney is a lovely ode to the street food of India.

Travelling through the major cities of Indian, specifically Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Delhi, Makan explores street markets, visits food vendors, and outlines the specific types of food each city specializes in. For instance, dosa in the south, thalis in Bangladeshi-influenced snacks in Kolkata, and Chinese-influenced dishes in Delhi.

Recipes range from super-traditional (pav, samosas) to modern, like the chocolate toasted sandwich found in Mumbai. Makan has reworked many of the dishes to be healthier and less greasy than their deep-fried counterparts found on the street, but many of these dishes are snack foods first and foremost. And while most recipes are accessible to a home cook with access to a comprehensive spice shop, some dishes such as dosa do require a couple of days preparation, or an additional chutney or sauce to be added, recipes for which Makan includes in a chapter at the back.

Photos by Nassima Rothacker (studio) and Keith James (location) are vivid and gorgeous. Rothacker makes every one of Makan’s dishes look amazingly mouthwatering, while James captures the energy and vibrancy of the streets and markets of India. From the displays of produce to the panwalla with his wares ready to wrap and roll, the reader can see, and almost hear and smell, the street food vendors preparing and hawking their dishes.

Headnotes here are short and sweet; Makan succinctly explains the dish, its origins, and any changes or variations she’s made to the traditional recipe, letting the dish speak for itself. This is the book that will make you ashamed oft he stash of frozen samosa and paratha in your freezer and will inspire you to make your own from scratch.

Usability: Excellent. Fonts are clear and readable, directions are broken into steps by line breaks. Measurements are offered in both metric and imperial.