“Log bohot chatore hote hain,” (people really love to eat chaat) overheard outside chaat shop. Aur Lucknow ke log to kuch zyada hi chatore hote hain (and people in Lucknow even more so). The chaat of this city turns you into one. I think the word chatore must have been coined in Lucknow seeing the love people have here for chaat. It comes from the word chaatna or licking cause you will definitely want to lick clean your plate of chaat, and it’s a socially acceptable practice. The evening plans in Lucknow are made around eating chaat. Shopping is fun here cause you can take a quick chaat break. As a kid my only reason to accompany my mother for shopping was a post shopping treat of pani ke batashe and hot aloo tikkis. For the uninitiated, chaat is sold mostly in the evenings so don’t come to Lucknow expecting to eat chaat in the middle of the day.
So what’s so special about Lucknow’s chaat? I have been asked this question a number of times, mostly by people who’ve never eaten Lucknow’s chaat. It’s a bit difficult to explain what makes the chaat here the best chaat in the country, but I’ll try. Let’s start with the common element of chaat anywhere in India – pani ke batashe or pani puri, puchka, golgappe as its called in various parts of the country. In Lucknow the batasha or puri is stuffed with boiled and mashed white peas and then topped with water. The water is the key here and at most places you’ll find the right balance of spicy and sour flavours with a distinct taste of hing. Some shops have multiple flavours of this water like lemon, tamarind or a sweet one with little sugar in it. Every shop has its own signature on the water and none of it is underwhelming.
The aloo tikki is almost deep-fried till it’s crisp and then topped with dahi (thick, not too sweet), tamarind and jaggery chutney, and a mix of masalas. And then there is matar ki tikki – white peas are boiled, mashed and then fried into a tikki. All of this is uplifted by a generous garnish of lime juice, ginger and coriander. Apart from the masalas and garnish, the chaat here has variety; papdi chaat – small flat papdis topped with matar (white peas), sliced potato, sweet and tangy chutney and a mix of masala; palki – batter fried palak patta topped with dahi, chutney and spices; dahi bada – soft lentil fritters topped with dahi and chutney; tokri chaat – a basket of deep fried potato strings stuffed with aloo tikki, dahi bada and topped with dahi, chutney, crushed batasha, pomegranate and masala mix. Every chaat shop in Lucknow has its own special masala mix too. And above all, there’s heart and soul that goes into making chaat.
During my multiple visits in the last four years (since my parents moved back to Lucknow), I have had chaat at various shops in Lucknow. And while every locality has its own favourite (and you wouldn’t be disappointed anywhere), there are a few that will blow your mind away. here’s a comprehensive list of chaat shops in Lucknow where you should absolutely must eat.
Also Read: EXPLORING LUCKNOW’S VEGETARIAN SIDE
Shree Kalika Chaat House, Aminabad
Located at the corner of Naaz Cinema Chauraha in Aminabad, this is one of the smallest and oldest chaat shops in the city. My dad tells me stories about people lining up for the papdi chaat here and patiently waiting while the owner prepared a large plate sprinkling a number of masalas on the chaat and then giving that final touch with a spritz of lime. The shop is manned by Naresh Gupta who is the fourth generation owner. Almost everything is a must try here especially their papdi chaat. The tiny batashas are crisp and you’ll just love that tangy, spicy water. The matar ki tikki here, in my opinion, is the best that Lucknow has to offer.
Pt. Ramnarayan Tiwari Chaat Wala, Ganeshganj
Tiwari ji’s is another old shop which is now divided between the two brothers; you must go to the one on your right when facing the shops. Start with pani ke batashe; they have pani in four flavours and the hing one is just brilliant. Wrap it up with dahi bada. Tiwari ji is also one of the few chaat sellers who still make palki so have that too.
Pandit Chat Corner, Gurudwara Road, Naka Charbagh
A little ahead Tiwari’s, Sharma ji’s small, unassuming shop is around 40 year old and has chaat that’s absolutely brilliant. The papdi chaat and aloo ki tikki (the potato is smashed and fried instead of shaped like a tikki), matar ki chaat and pani ke batashe. are the must tries.
Jain Chat, Lalbagh Chowk, Near Novelty Cinema
This is a shop with maximum crowd. The aloo tikki here sells like hot cakes and most of the stuff gets over by 9. It’s perfectly crisp from outside and slightly soft as you reach the centre. Pani ke batashe too are one of the best here.
Radhelal Parampara, Chowk
Probably one of the oldest sweet shops in Chowk area. They have a chaat counter outside the shop. Go for their pani ke batashe and aloo tikki.
Chappan Bhog, Sadar
The legendary shop in Sadar makes chaat in desi ghee. The aloo tikki is fried crisp through and through. Matar tikki is topped with julienned ginger. Dahi bada has no chutney but is topped with this oh so amazing masala. Also try the kulfi here topped with thin falooda.
Sharma Chaat Bhandar, Bhutnath
Bhuthnath Market in Indranagar has a few good chaat shops too, but I would recommend Sharma Chaat Bhandar. Have their aloo tikki and pani ke batashe.