If you love savory breakfasts, I get you. And I have the condiment that can wake you up with its minty, spicy kick, even before coffee. Prepare yourself for elevated eggs and heavenly hash browns because the condiment of the summer (or mid-spring) is here, and it's inspired by an Indian street food. “Pani puris have a combo of flavors that basically forced me to defiance as a child,” says chef Maneet Chauhan as she recalls her childhood after-school snack in India. “We weren’t supposed to eat the street snack, but the sweet crispness of the crust, the creaminess of the potatoes, and the combination of the herbs and spiciness—it was just too attractive. I used to have competitions with my sister to see who could eat more.”
The golf-ball-sized street snack is a lesson in unpredictability as well. A light-as-air, crunchy orb holds spicy potatoes, chickpeas, and a sip of mint cilantro water, the "puri" of the situation. Taken in one bite, it’s a burst of fresh, spicy flavor, and it's easy to see why the schoolgirl Chauhan risked punishment to enjoy it.
Despite internet assurances promising that I can in fact make pani puris at home, I have my doubts. I can imagine myself forcing my friends to observe intently as I craft each sphere. Then I'll stare at them for the appropriate bliss reaction as they taste the treats that I took all afternoon to make. It’s just too much pressure, for me and them.
Chauhan understands, and she is all about ease. When I visited her restaurant Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville recently, I experienced the delicious flavors of the puri transformed and concentrated into a chutney. I tasted the chutney drizzled on a lamb chop, then on naan as I sopped the plate. Then I spooned some on my rice, and a selection of grilled seasonal vegetables that seemed to be begging for a dollop. I may or may not have swiped my finger on the plate’s edge for the very last of it.
My mind wandered to breakfast and everything bagels with cream cheese, steak and eggs, and breakfast burritos. Yes, yes, and yes. Chauhan’s mint cilantro chutney might just go with everything.
“It’s so versatile,” she says. “I teach this recipe in all my cooking classes, and I use it for everything from the spread on mint cucumber sandwiches to a ketchup alternative with a burger and fries. And of course, it’s good on just about any grilled meat.”
Pull out the food processor, procure restaurant-supply squeeze bottles, and really use that whole bunch (and more) of cilantro you bought at the market that you told yourself you’d totally use. Make a batch and be a breakfast bad-ass all week.
Mint Cilantro Chutney
PHOTO BY CHAUHAN ALE & MASALA
From chef Maneet Chauhan of Chauhan, Nashville, TN
Note: In order for the chutney to retain its bright color, Chauhan advises processing ingredients in the following sets. Alternatively, you can just throw everything in the processor together but the mixture is likely to dull in color during its duration in the fridge.
1 yellow onion
1 green bell pepper
2 poblano peppers, seeds removed
5 green Thai chiles or jalapeños (for less heat), whole
4 tablespoons chaat masala
Juice of 2 limes
2 ounces buttermilk
1 quart full-fat plain yogurt (traditional, not Greek or other low-moisture varieties)
4 bunches cilantro, stems and leaves
2 ounces sour cream
2 bunches mint, leaves and stems
1 tablespoons black salt (substitute kosher salt if not available)
2 ounces buttermilk
Additional salt to taste
How to Make It
Place all ingredients of Set 1 in a high-powered blender or food processor and blend. Repeat with Sets 2 and 3, blending well after each set. Pour in squeeze bottle (or 2) and place in refrigerator. Will last up to a week.