Fruit Chaat- Peach Salad in the Pakistani Manner

peach salad

I loved those kaanch ki churiyaan; glass bangles you’d find right before Eid at the Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore’s Old City. The vendors had every colour you could imagine- neon lemon, bubble-gum pink, dark and light violets and shimmery silver ones like mother-of-pearl. I loved going to the Anarkali Bazaar with my Nani Ami to buy my Eid outfit with matching churiyaan. Of course I had to buy the dull bangles, the plastic ones, which didn’t even make that all important ‘clink clink’ sound with every hand movement. Unlike the glass ones, you could easily stuff your hand into them. Glass bangles were supposed to be slipped on after lathering up your hands with soap and water so they would slide on effortlessly. I spent most of my childhood in envy of my cousins who wore glass bangles every Eid. But then again, I had slit my wrist at the age of three after taking a fall whilst wearing them. I even have the scar of five stitches to prove it. So as a child, I just had to lump it and wear the plastic ones.

After churiyaan shopping I would grasp my grandmother’s hand and walk towards the sandal shop, passing the fruit chaat kiosk on the way. On a counter sat the fruit vendors, their hands ‘bloodied’ by juicing garnet-red pomegranates almost the size of my 6-year old head, and the man next to him chopping creamy textured guavas and tossing them in a large bowl with jewel-like pomegranate seeds, sliced bananas, coral-hued peaches and red orb-like apples. And then, adding with his fingertips, a generous dusting of chaat masala- that wonderfully tangy, earthy, hot, and salty spice concoction. In the end he’d add squirts of fresh lime juice to bind it all together.

It was that addictive and perfect combination of sweet, spicy, salty and sour that I craved.

peach salad

But did I mention that I wasn’t allowed to eat that? Apparently, that kiosk had questionable hygiene conditions and I could get food poisoning, or typhoid, or some other disease which I thought Nani Ami was just making up. After all, there were ladies sitting there on the stools with their khaki bags of Eid shopping resting at their feet, whilst they ate their fruit chaat in glass bowls to take some respite from shopping, and ‘they didn’t seem to have typhoid’, I thought to myself. I wanted that chaat almost as desperately as I wanted those kaanch ki churiyaan.

But both were verboten. And because I loved my grandmother too much, I didn’t utter a word in response. My Ami would surely have gotten some foot stomping action from me with an, ‘It’s not fair!’, followed by a lot of endless whinging. But grandmothers? They are never mean and are always fair.

I suppose once we got to the sandal store, none of that fruit chaat business mattered anymore. Lined up against the wall were sandals with rhinestones and others with hand embroidery and some with glittery beads. But I knew exactly the kainchi chappal; thong sandals, that I wanted- they had two thin straps with a silver mini-pom pom to go with the Eid outfit Nani Ami had chosen for me.

When a little girl has her Eid ka kurta shalwar, silver shoes and bangles- fruit chaat sort of becomes less important.

Though now I think I may just choose fruit chaat over shoes. Especially the one Nani Ami made for me, with her homemade chaat masala.

peach salad

My grandmother used to make a great chaat masala that really packed a punch, but I am still in the midst of finding that recipe from someone in my family who remembers the proportions of spices Nani Ami used.

So in the meantime, I make a fruit chaat of my own, with just a bit of chilli, salt and lime. If the fruit you use isn’t sweet enough, add some brown sugar to taste.

peach salad

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Comments

  1. Oooh Shayma! The torture of not being able to eat fruit chat on the streets is one I know only too well.Come to Old Delhi and we’ll be naughty together x

  2. Fruit chaat is still a common sight in India. In Mumbai where I live, every street with an office building, every locality with a school and every college has a fruit-chaat wala outside! And even though peaches are a rarity, we have bananas, papayas, grapes, watermelon slices and apples decorated on a small plate and sprinkled with a special chat masala and some lemon juice. Of course the hygiene IS suspect, but we give in to the temptation just like we give in to the road-side pani puri vendor :D
    And we get very good packaged Chaat Masala here that’s a must in every Indian kitchen… though i’m sure your Nani Ami’s must have been special :)

  3. Ah yes, the verboten clothes and food… sigh. Well, the clothes part were mainly throughout high school.

    I’ve not had fruit chaat but was recently introduced to a delicious fruit rojak – it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’ve got some chaat masala at home (bought a box) and I ought to try sprinkling it on fruit!

  4. i am so glad to know that i was not alone in suffering the denial of fruit chaat. that was just one thing on the list aside from lemon soda and those incredibly addictive raw mooli’s rubbed with masala that was sold outside schools. your post makes me miss the rituals of eid and chaand raat and kaanch ki churiyan. i remember binding the broken bits over a candle.

    as always. it is lovely to read your writing.
    m xx

  5. What a delightful post Shayma…the streets of Saddar and Burns Road in Karachi are still filled with these scrumptious looking Fruit Kiosks/thelas…the ‘verboten’ is now sadly, self imposed!

  6. Shayma, what a heartwarming story! I used to follow my grandmother to the wet markets and she’d chat to her elderly friends at the local kopitiam (coffee shops).

  7. I used to love those kaanch di churiyaan! I would save up my pocket money months ahead of our trip to India to be able to buy all the wonderful colors. My nani would take me to the market and I would buy as many as my nani would allow me to. With care I would wrap them up in several tissues and newspaper with the intention of bringing them back. But my the end of summer, when it was time to head back to Doha – most of the churiyaan were broken. Fruit chaat was not always my favorite when I was little. It was the jalebi man that got all my attention ;o) But later I developed the taste for fruit chaat, my mum would make a mixed fruit one and sometimes add tiny potato cubes to it too. Delicious!

  8. uf I am craving a bowl of chilled fruit salad so bad after reading your post. and nani’s really warm up one’s heart with their kind and gentle disposition. think I’ll call my nani now :)

  9. Stormsandrainbows says:

    dear shayma,
    I came across your blog trying to fing a good aloo bujya recipe beacause my mum insisted that “if you dont know how to cook by the time you leave high school then you never will”! so listening to darling ummi ji I decided to make it.
    I have to say that it was the best recipe we’ve ever tried of aloo bujiya!
    Ever since i have been coming on your blog and I absolutely love the stories that you put with each recipe of your childhood-Making it your own.

    I am also from lahore and left when I was six, so I feel that your stories are extra special.
    Im trying your dahl recipe tommorow! wish me luck!
    once again, Thankyou!!!!!!!!!!

  10. @Pam you truly are very naughty- I am in. x shayma

    @Swati The food traditions of Northern India and Pakistan are so similar- lots of deliciousness there.

    @Su-Lin I had to look that one up- fruit rojak- it seems like the perfect meal for me- fruit with lots of spices, including sambal paste- heaven. Chaat masala is also lovely on dahl- just a pinch, it gives it that tart kick. x shayma

  11. I can almost see the colours and smell the spicy sweetness. What a wonderful evocative story. GG

  12. I love the idea of sprinkling chaat masala on fruit and only wish I’d discovered this earlier in the summer…can’t wait to try it on plain old apples!!

  13. oh yes S. Kacchi kari was one thing I crave so often. As a child, my dad would never let us eat on streets as well. But because I was not the best of kids :-) I would insist and cry till I got it. Love your peach version.

  14. Love the nimbo covered in red chillies and salt-I could just eat that alone! I have memories of cuts and bruises with the chooriyan and the stress of pulling them off even with the soap lathered all over my arms. My last memory is of my sisters shadi in chicago and chooriyan stuck on my pudgy baby cousins arms-my father sat for hours cutting each one off after protecting her arm with a thick piece of cardboard under the bangles!

  15. @Shayma love the photographs, which camera?
    I’ve always barely tolerated fruit chat (it always gives me acidity problems) but love any aaloo, chana, chanay ki daal concoction with loads of tomato, green chilli, onion, tarmarind chutney, beaten up curd & papri sprinkled on top with a huge spoonfull of chat massala on my bowl. :-)
    Someone mentioned khatti masalla moolis, well they were the best followed down by an icecream soda! Too bad they’ll always be ‘mamno’ for kids in each successive generation.

  16. Fruit Chat is vicious in the rainy season but perfectly edible the rest of the year…and thank God now sidewalk shops have adopted disposal plates and cutlery. So next time in Lahore eat as much as you want but rapidly before the flies settle on the chat…after all they too pine for such stuff!!!

  17. I just love fruit chat with lots of cream/yogurt and very little masala in it. I love the recipe here and I would give it a try.
    I like your blog with all the pictures. I’ve lived in Lahore all my life and I used to crave to eat from roadside thelas but both my parents were very strict on this.
    I could actually write a blog post over this.
    Anyway thanks for sharing.

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