Garam Masala Tuesdays: Tokri/Katori Chaat Station

by Shumaila

So, I had an awesome 4th of July weekend. We went to the Grand Canyon. Spent the night in Sedona. Had a day trip to Flagstaff. Watched a Bollywood movie and thoroughly enjoyed it. Saw Transformers: Dark Side of the moon. Weren’t too impressed by it. On our way back home, got caught in a major dust storm and thunder showers. Overall, a tiring but fun weekend.

The weekend started with a night out with my girlfriends.

Now, the thing about me is that I just can’t hold my alcohol. My drinking capacity on most days is just a glass of wine. On certain days its a little more. But, most of the days its just one glass. When my body is a little brave, I can hold in 2-3 glasses. But, some god-forsaken days, I try to be braver than usual. And those days are followed the next day by a very horrible, sickening feeling called a hangover! The girls’ night out was one such day- where not only was I braver than usual, I was trying to be smart as well and mixed my drinks! Now, mixing drinks is a no-no especially if you want to avoid really bad hangovers. But, that night I tried to act too smart with my alcohol. And like anyone who tries to act too smart but actually isn’t- I fell down real bad the next day.

We were to leave early the next day, have lunch at Phoenix and reach Sedona early evening, giving us time to relax and enjoy Sedona. We did get up early. I was able to get dressed. And then it happened. The hangover hit me. I won’t go into details- someone recently pointed out I am too grotesque with my details and this IS a food blog. I will tell you that a bathroom was involved. No further details will be divulged.

V suggested I sleep for a little while. I took V on his suggestion. After an hour’s rest I was better and we decided to leave. Once in the car, I still wasn’t feeling too well. V was concerned. He asked me whether I was sure I was up for the trip. I was like “Oh! Yeah, sure!” And then I got the “hangover” feeling again.

This time, though, there was a poly bag involved.

V looked at me, and I told him this was me getting better.

I slept again in the car.

After a greasy McDonald’s burger and fries- I was fine and singing loudly. V was sure I was good to go now!

I thought V would be like all upset- and who is this girl I am stuck with. Why can she not behave lady like. Why does she have to go spoil the whole Grand Canyon experience. Why is she burping like a guy. Why does she have to drink so much when she knows she just can’t hold it in.

But, he wasn’t anything like that. He was calm, concerned and pretty sweet about it. He is the most patient man I know and unfortunately he is stuck with a girl who at every turn tries his patience! Sorry, V! But thank you for being all that you are!

Now, before leaving for the long weekend, I hosted coffee at my place for my coffee group girls. For a long time I have had this urge to have this savory snack food served by roadside vendors in north India, called Tokri Chaat.

Tokri (pronounced “tow”-k-ree) is actually Hindi of the english word- bowl. In hindi, a bowl can also be referred to by the word “katori” (pronounced: “cut”-o-ree). So sometimes this type of chaat is also called Katori chaat. In tokri chaat- the tokri refers to an edible bowl. It can be made from semolina, from flour, or like in this case, from potatoes.

Chaat, an Indian word which literally means lick, is used to describe a range of snacks and fast food dishes in India- especially the ones served by roadside vendors. These dishes are a combination of spice and tanginess.

This version of Tokri chaat is typical to Punjab- a state in the northern part of India. Before my grandparents shifted to Chandigarh, they were staying in this town called Jalandhar (famous for its sporting goods industry). The main market in Jalandhar- Model Town- used to be walking distance from our house. In the evening, the market would be chock-a-block full. We would regularly visit this bakery on the corner of the market and buy all kinds of junk food from there. Now, on the same side where this bakery, was this guy who would sell different kind of roadside food- aloo tikki chaat, indian chowmein and of course, the reason why this post is up today- tokri chaat.

Now, for days, this guy’s tokri chaat was haunting me. So when I offered to host coffee, I knew this is what I would be making- a CHAAT STATION!

I want my friends to know more about my country’s food and culture and think coffee is the best way to introduce Indian food to them. Everyone at coffee loved them or so I was told (but I could see it in their faces and with the speed with which the baskets were gone I knew that people enjoyed eating them- and what’s not to enjoy- its Chaat-everyone loves it!) And since I got the coffee during the July 4th weekend, for extra measure I made tiny flags with the respective possible add-in mentioned on the flag. So I had a chickpea flag, a red chilli powder flag, a boiled potatoes flag and so on!

Tokri chaat is a fairly simple thing to make if you have the tokris ready. I did not have access to any tokris (yes, I stay away from civilization), so decided to make my own. I will warn you, though, making the tokris is a time consuming process but the end result is so totally worth it. The best part is you could make these tokris on your free day and store them in an airtight container for days and they would be good to eat the day you do decide to serve them. If you have a food processor, then your work is made that much more easy!

The add-ins that I have chosen are flexible as well- depending on what you have on hand, but traditionally, these chaats have chickpeas, boiled potatoes, mint chutney, tamarind chutney, yogurt, chaat masala and bhujia/sev.

No matter what add-in you choose, I can guarantee one thing, this chaat station would be a hit at your next party. Feel free to use add-ins of your choice- avocados, corn, etc.


For the Tokris (makes about 15 tokris)

    • 5 potatoes, preferably old ones (that are a little stale- will give a crisper basket)
    • 2 steel tea strainer
    • Oil, for deep frying


  1. Peel the potato skin off.
  2. If you have a food processor, then you are lucky! Because this step would be a breeze if you have one. Put the grater attachment on your food processor. And grate the potatoes. If you are not so lucky and are using a regular grater, try to grate the potatoes as long as possible.
  3. Once grated, wash the potatoes in cold water. You do this to remove the starch in the potatoes so that they are no longer sticky. Wash them 4-5 times.
  4. Line them on paper towels and let dry for 30-60 minutes. You want the potatoes to be absolutely dry, else when you put it in the oil, they will splutter and you might get serious burns.
  5. Heat oil on medium-high heat.
  6. Once dry, take your tea strainer and put a handful of the grated potatoes in it. Spread the grated potatoes a little to the side as well. (Make sure you have a thick layer covering the whole inside of the tea strainer- a thin layer will break the moment you try to remove the fried bowl from the strainer). Put the other tea strainer on top of it. And immerse in the hot oil. Let cook for 2-3 minutes. Once you see the potato-bowl browning remove the top strainer and leave the bottom strainer with basket in oil till the whole bowl is evenly browned. Once done, overturn the strainer and gently tap to release the bowl. I am including a video here, which will be helpful to see how to do this step. The video is in Hindi, but if you skip to 4:18 minutes, you will see how to do this step.
  7. Repeat this for the rest of the grated potatoes.

(I did find this a little time consuming and since I had a lot many to make- I decided to bake a few. I sprayed a muffin tray with some cooking spray. Added the grated potatoes to each muffin cavity. Added another muffin tray on top so that the grated potatoes get sandwiched between the two trays and form a proper cup. I baked it at 400 F for 15 minutes. When I removed the top muffin tray, I realized, while the bottom of the cups had browned the top was white. Since, I had the oil in the pan still hot, I dropped the cups in the oil and cooked them till the tops browned. Since this way you can fry 5-6 cups at a time- I found it faster. I had 12 cups ready in 20 minutes. Of course, the ones done with the tea strainer were prettier, taste-wise though, the half baked, half-fried ones were pretty good too. And, they were faster to make. But, honestly, when I make them again, which I will, I will use the tea strainer method because that’s how I have always had them! And, even though I am sure I have scared you- it really isn’t that time consuming and once you get a hang of it, it is actually pretty easy!)

For the Chaat Station

serves 12 people

    • 15 potato tokris (recipe above)
    • 2 potatoes, boiled and cubed (I pressure cook them to two whistles and remove from fire and let stand for 30 minutes. Remove, peel and cube them. Do ahead: boil the potatoes and keep unpeeled. When ready to serve, unpeel and cube the potatoes.)
    • 6-8 green chillies, finely chopped
    • Pickled ginger ( Julienne a 2-inch piece ginger. In a small container squeeze out the juice of 1-2 limes. Add a 1/2 a tsp sugar and 1/2 tsp salt. Add the julienned ginger and cover the container till ready to serve)
    • 2 cans of chickpeas (You could boil your own chickpeas, but I used canned chickpeas with 50% less sodium)
    • Roasted cumin powder (Dry roast cumin seeds for about 2 minutes, keeping a check on them to avoid burning. Once roasted, grind to a fine powder.)
    • Red chilli powder
    • 6-8 Lemon wedges/lemon juice
    • 1 cup yogurt
    • 1/2 cup mint chutney
    • 1/2 cup date-tamarind chutney (I used store-bought but there are tons of recipes online for a good date-tamarind chutney.)
    • Sev/Haldirams Aloo Bhujia
    • handful of fresh cilantro/coriander leaves, finely chopped
    • Bhalla/vada (optional) (you can use MTR Vada Instant Dry Mix)
    • 2-3 tomatoes, finely chopped
    • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
    • salt
    • Chat Masala

In appropriate sized containers, line each add-in. For convenience, make labels for each add-in, so that your guests know what they are eating, in case they are unfamiliar with the ingredients. let your guests make their own “chaat” as pre-prepared ones tend to get soggy because of the liquid involved.

Take a potato-bowl/ tokri. I would add a bit of each ingredient and in this order- chickpeas, cubed potatoes, tomatoes, onions, green chillies, pickled ginger, yogurt, a good serving of tamarind chutney, a little of mint chutney, a sprinkle of each-red chilli powder, roasted cumin powder and chaat masala. And in the end, garnish with cilantro and sev/bhujia. You could use a spoon, but feel free to get dirty and use your hands!

I am linking this to the Hearth and Soul Hop