While Sri Lanka has successfully tried its hand at many a cuisine, chaats are somehow not our forte. For the homesick Indian, there are few places to which you can dart for a bit of home cooked cheer in the form of a bhel puri.
The Indian Chaat Corner is possibly the only establishment in Colombo dedicated to serving chaat – a barely there little joint on Haig Road, it serves a complete spectrum of the crunchy roadside canapé: paani puri, dahi puri, sev puri, etc.
For those unfamiliar with the cuisine, chaat is a term used to denote the savoury bite sized dishes served from carts on Indian roadsides. These tend to consist of crunchy biscuity bases flavoured with coriander, onions, tamarind and masala, often sprinkled with sev (tiny crispy yellow noodle like things) and ladled with yoghurt or a watery tamarind mixture. Most of the different names indicate something of a variation on these ingredients.
Consisting of a small, slanting room with plastic chairs, the Indian Chaat Corner seems to resemble the back of someone’s kitchen – which I think it essentially is. However, don’t be put off by the shoddy interior. While the place looks a little bit bare and unfinished, the food is excellent and so is the service. Run by a charming family – who each take turns to explain the menu and suggest items – the service is so warm that you can’t help wanting to go back.
And there’s no reason why you wouldn’t. The chaats and pakoras here are excellent – the pakoras in particular. Cooked right in front of you, these cutlet-like vegetable balls are encased in a crispy golden batter; they turn up piping hot, lashed with a slightly sweet brown sauce. The crunch of the outer batter sinks into the softness of the cutlety centre. It’s slightly different from your usual pakora, but it’s delicious.
The puris are packed with shooting flavour as well – the tongue passes from the tart notes of tamarind to the smooth sweetness of the yoghurt as the teeth crunch through the puri. This is one of the city’s most decent attempts at Indian street food.
If you find the menu confusing (what’s the difference between a bhel puri and a sev puri? What’s a pav bhaji?), don’t worry. The family is incredibly friendly and obliging and they’ll probably explain the items to you before you can even ask.
While the Indian Chaat Corner may be lacking that special oopmh you get from the palm juice of a roadside Indian vendor, this is good, and more importantly, clean, food. Have a visit and support a sweet, family run establishment. Also, enjoy some chaat, it’s fun to eat.
If you don’t fancy the idea of eating there you can order in advance and take away. They undertake orders of any quantity. Call 0724100282 for more information.