Sometimes, I feel a little hesitant about posting the simple stuff, afraid that everyone will think,
“Oh, well, everyone knows how to make that!”
But then I hear about another little novice cook or a new bride who finds herself in the kitchen for the first time in her life, with the responsibility to conjure up meals for the family without the faintest idea of where to start, and then she thanks Zabiha Bites for saving the day.
That encourages me to do these posts because when it comes to making anything, even the simplest of things, well… you don’t know until you know. I did learn them from someone or somewhere, and it’s just as important to pass them on.
Fruit chaat is, of course, a Ramadan staple, for everyone who is fortunate enough…
There are at least half as many ways of making it as there are fruits that you can put in it. Different people prefer different flavors, and it calls to mind the fruit chaat of Bano Bazaar in Anarkali, Lahore. The entire street smells like fruit because of the chaat and juice shop that is there, with their famous fruit chaat that also has chickpeas in it.
As for me, there is only one thing that I want a fruit to be:
Now, I grew up in the Punjab, where people do have more of a taste for spice and tang. Fruit chaat is made to be tart and tangy, and/or with lots of chaat masala and chillies. I’ve had those and enjoyed them, but my fruit chaat is sweet. That’s how I like it, that’s how I make it, and it has been well received enough that I have never felt the need to venture outside my comfort zone and experiment with other flavors.
Now, you might prefer a more ‘hot’ chaat. In that case, this recipe is not for you. But if you like it sweet (don’t worry- it’s not meant to be overwhelmingly sweet; nothing should be! ;)) or if you’re not sure where you stand, then this is a good starting point until you find your own flavor.
For me, apples, oranges, grapes and bananas are all I need to make the fruit chaat of my dreams. In my secondary picks, I would add strawberries, blueberries, pomegranates, and in the third, everything else like peaches, plums, kiwis, etc. Due to some personal reasons, pears wouldn’t make the list.
Amrood or guavas are a staple in Lahori chaat. I think it is unimaginable to make chaat without them. Of course, we don’t have them here in the US, well, actually we do, but they are… not… what guavas… are meant… to taste like… no offense. Its creamy texture could be compared to an avocado, but like every fruit, it has its own unique aroma and sweetness. The best part is when you get ones that are pink on the inside! Love those.
I went to Pakistan after 7 years in March, and was fortunate enough to enjoy guavas there.
I also loved showing the kids the impeccably arranged fruit shops and thoroughly enjoyed the fragrance of produce that you can find there.
There are countless fruits that can go in a fruit chaat. But.. there are some that I stay away from:
Canned fruits: No, thank you.
Watermelon: In a fruit chaat, it just seems weird to me. It’s texture is too watery compared to the rest of the pulpy, fleshy fruits.
Melons and mangoes: Their flavor is too overpowering and takes over the entire chaat.
Pineapples: I don’t think they blend in well with the desi chaat.
Just to clarify, I would use all the fresh fruits I listed above in a western style fruit salad. Because basically, that just consists of fruits lying next to each other in the same bowl. Each stands independently as an individual. But in a fruit chaat, the flavors have to blend together, marry and compliment each other. That’s why I’m a bit more selective.
However, you might like all of the above in your chaat. Do what makes you happy.
My latest thing is turbinado sugar. This sugar is minimally processed, so I believe it’s better for you… It’s golden brown in color but it’s not brown sugar. White sugar is extremely refined, and bone char made of animal bones is also used in whitening the sugar which is why vegans don’t use… ok… admittedly, I’ve never lost sleep over that, but it is less processed, hence better for you.
I don’t know how I have space in my mommy brain to think about such things.
In case you’re wondering, this is the brand that I use, conveniently available at your local Walmart.
This recipe is enough to fill about a quart sized bowl, which is about 4 servings. Feel free to substitute with your favorite fruits.
Fruit Chaat Recipe
- 1 apple, chopped into small pieces (I use Fuji or Honeycrisp)
- 1 peach, chopped
- 1 plum, chopped
- Handful grapes (cut in half)
- Handful blueberries
- 4-5 strawberries, chopped
- 1 banana, sliced
- juice of half a lemon/lime/orange
- 2-3 tbsp sugar
- just over ⅛ tsp salt
- just over ⅛ tsp pepper (adjust according to your taste)
Mix all the fruits except the banana in a medium bowl.
Add the sugar, citrus juice, salt and pepper. Mix lightly with a spoon.
Now cover the bowl with a plate, hold the plate down firmly with your hands and shake the bowl up and down like crazy to toss the fruit together, about 10 times. Swish it around a bit. Now shake it up and down again a couple more times.
Carefully remove the plate and clean it with a rubber spatula. Now, you will see the beautiful syrup that is made with the salt, sugar and fruit juices.
Add the banana and carefully fold it in. I add it right at the end so it retains its shape and doesn’t get slimy with all the crazy tossing around.
Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and chill until ready to serve.
Note: The lemons in Pakistan are tiny compared to the ones here; you will need about 1.5-2 tbsp of citrus juice.
The tossing and shaking in the beginning, and then letting the chaat rest for a while helps in marrying all the flavors together.
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