Boat Chaat – The Return of Whole Urad Dal

Mexican cuisine has a group of foods called antojitos (“little whims”), that includes popular items such as quesadillas, taquitos, and tostadas. One of my favorites is the sope: a small disk (5-8 cm diameter, 3 mm thick) of corn-based dough (masa) with a rim around the outside to contain a spoonful of salsa and a sprinkling of cheese.

Since I was in a Mexican-Indian fusion mode when I made the urad dal soup, I decided to experiment again and use the sope techniques to make an Indian chaat.

As noted above, the traditional dough for a sope is made with a corn-based dough (masa). Since masa is distinctly Mexican (as far as I know), it wouldn’t be an appropriate pairing with the urad dal. So as a substitute, I made a basic chapati dough with whole-wheat flour and water (alternative ideas to this are encouraged. Potato? Channa dal flour?). To make the boat, I first shaped disks of the rested chapati dough to about 1/4″ thick by 2″ diameter (0.6 cm by 5 cm). Then I cooked the disks on a medium-hot griddle until both sides were lightly browned (a few minutes per side). I let them cool for a few minutes, then carefully pinched a border around each disk of hot dough to make a little shell that will hold the goodies. I heated some oil in a pan and lightly fried the bottom of the boat. To finish the dish, I filled the boats with the urad dal and topped them with the chutney and yogurt. The result was quite a tasty little snack. The crispy base of the disk was a pleasant contrast to the soft toppings, but the inside of the disk was a little bit too gooey for me. A problem that could be solved through many approaches: adding leavening to the dough, attempting a paratha-type dough, switching to a potato base, to name a few.

Boat Chaat

Basic chapati dough
Urad dal soup or other relatively thick dal
Toppings like chutney, yogurt, chopped cilantro, pickles, mango powder


    1. Heat a griddle on medium heat.


    1. Using your hands, a rolling pin or a tortilla press, form a small disk of chapati dough that is roughly 5-8 cm in diameter and 3 mm thick.


    1. Place on the preheated griddle and bake until both sides are lightly browned, a few minutes per side. Remove to a plate and let them cool for a few minutes.


Cooking the disks

    1. When the disks are cool enough to handle, pinch around the edge of the disk with your thumb and finger to create a rim. Press down in the middle of the disk to improve the holding capacity.


Pinching the border

  1. In a small skillet (or the griddle used in step 3 if it has sides), heat a thin layer of vegetable oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, gently set the disks into the oil, flat side down. When the bottom is crisp, place on a paper towel lined plate for a seconds, then fill with dal, chutney, yogurt, and whatever else you feel like.
Panfrying the disks just before serving

The first photo in this post has a tenuous similarity to chaat that I have eaten in the past, namely pani puri and one with potato patties. And since the concept of putting a topping on a disk of bread is not novel, I wonder if the world of chaat already has a boat-like item.

I’m fortunate to live near a Latin American grocery store that sells fresh masa dough on weekends (Mi Tierra at 2096 San Pablo Ave in Berkeley), and one of these weekends I plan to have a “masa fest”, in which I finally figure out how to make good corn tortillas. I will make sopes with tomatillo salsa and aged cheese and record the process for the blog. Other East Bay/SF locations to buy fresh masa include the Primavera stand at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers’ Market and Las Palmas on 24th Street in San Francisco.

tags :: food : food+drink


  1. Marc ~
    We at Naughty Curry give this post a standing ovation. Where have you been hiding?
    We’ve quoted and linked to you in our Random spice-Punx sideblog.This blog has great content.
    Keep at it, diablo.

  2. Damn that sounds good, Marc! Sprinkle a little chaat masala and some coriander chutney and I’m in heaven. I bet the masa is reminiscent of the corn rotis from Punjab.

    I wish you a happy holiday season and look forward to reading more of your blog in the coming year!

  3. That was an awesome idea! Urad is particularly healthy and my son loves your version of serving it on small boats. Thanks!
    FYI, katori chaat is a deep fried boat like base with usual suspects like chickpeas, coriander mint chutney, potato etc… on top.

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