Chatkazz Vegetarian - Harris Park NSW

Pretty and yummy - the Dahi Puri.  Sweet tamarind and spicy green chutneys garnish the popular Maharashtra hard and puffy shells with chickpeas and potatoes, found easily in chaat stalls in Mumbai.
 Photo Credit - Mr. Edwin Chee

When John from Eastwood suggested going to Chatkazz, I was fascinated with the feedback from his family, especially
from his children, one in university and another in high school.  I understand Chatkazz cuisine is one of their family favourites, so the rest of us sat back and observed as the youngsters ordered the dishes for us.   Our table had a balance of grains, yoghurt, crunchy bites, dips, sweet, savoury and various textures.  What a spread for the ten of us!  Plenty of bottled water was provided for us throughout the meal.  We were given a table near what was interestingly marked as "Chilli Storage".  I also noted the breakfast options and a choice of Indo-Sino food dishes.

Chhole Bathura with chickpea curry dip.  Spicy, served with pickles and onions.

The menu is extensive but has a common theme - the principles of Jain, which emphasises on Sattvic, aimed to encompass the achievement of lightness, happiness and goodness.  Translated into table serving terms, we noticed an absence of ingredients that may cause putridness, lethargy and darkness to the body and the human emotions - items I take for granted like garlic and eggplants.   I asked another family waiting at the Chatkazz entrance for a table on an early Saturday evening if the Chatkazz menu is specific to a region of the Indian subcontinent, and the wife said it is eaten everywhere there - Gujarat, Karnataka, Delhi, Rajasthan and more.  So a sub-continent wide menu is made available in the heart of greater Sydney, thanks to the multiculturalism openness of the Australian government.

Dhoklas have mustard seeds sprinkled over them (photo below) together with coriander, curry leaves, and grated coconut - they are often eaten at breakfast time and are made from chickpea flour, yoghurt and baking soda. The resulting batter is seasoned with a pinch of turmeric, green chili paste (wonder of wonders!), lemon juice, sugar, salt, oil and a fruit lime green colouring before steaming.

Not rice cakes but well appreciated , the plate has been increasingly cleaned out -  Dhoklas that had been sliced for easier munching, served with mint sauces and more.

Yoghurt on a bread shell - sweet entree of  a Puri.

The food genre has many common elements with those in Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.  I can see menu items from Chatkazz that are familiar to anyone with a Chinese Malaysian background - Parathas, Chaats, Samosas, Kulfis, Sambhars, Khormas and Bhajis.  Growing up in what was a mature multi-cultural environment does have its benefits.

I did find the onion Pakhora over whelming, it was over salty but still good as a stand by snack.  I loved the Puris best, in all forms, as they are petite, offers various sensations and you never know what you are going to bite into.  Puris are generally round wheat flour pieces deep fried with both savoury and sweet -  often Sabji potato curry and a strained yoghurt called Shrikhnad. 

My dining group that night did not delve into desserts much, as we were already full.

Saturday evening 7pm - and more to come!

We could have been dancing to so-called Bollywood music piped in between our dishes.  Sari was intently checking out the menu as she reckoned her son William would love trying out this place.  Perhaps our group stood out as being the only non-Indians that evening but each of us were comfortable with this - next time we may ask our Indian mates to come along.  My body's digestive system had a welcome experience that cold evening and I slept like an infant over night.

Doughnut like dessert.

To the initiated, many dishes are street food back in the Motherland but I was fascinated with each and every one of them.  Chaat refers to savoury food snacks served at street side food stalls all over India.

Throughout,  to me, it was how normally bland ingredients are harmonised with the use of selected spices, cheeses and herbs to lift the dish up all together - and also the level of attention paid in preparation and presentation to result in various textures on the palate.   Many of the dishes have to be eaten fast after being served, whilst others remain good and content having them cold.   The careful choice of spicy, plain or aromatic dips and gravies also play their part.  Servings are often easy bite sized.  Fluffed up snacks do lose their size if ignored for too long and the yoghurt can only taste as good as they have just been prepared.   There are so many plates spread across a family table I wonder how cleaning up is best done!

Photo credit - Mr. Edwin Chee

The presence of ingredients like potatoes and chickpeas can make for a more than wholesome meal, and each of the ten of us at our table felt more than adequate after the dinner.  I had usually such access to vegetarian food only on weekends day time (for example the Hindu temple canteen at Helensburgh just south of Sydney) - so it is a pleasure to have found this place.  Servings are also rather on the generous side.  My preferred dishes that evening tend toward aromatic, fluffy grains like the Pulav or Briyani and light crepes like the Masala Dosa.

The more familiar Masala Dosa, with a light and easy crepe skin and potato filling inside.
Photo Credit - Mr. Edwin Chee

It is important to bear in mind the Jain philosophy and practice behind such cuisine of lacto-vegetarianism - this is to minimise adding to the supply chain elements of violence (Himsa), so there are assured no eggs, milk, seafood and meats.  Such intent is to break the cycle of reincarnation for human beings, as Ahimsa or non-violence is an indispensable condition of achieving this spiritual liberation.  Buddhist precepts closely echo this mindset.   Purer forms of practice even avoid the consumption of rooted vegetables like potatoes, onions, brinjals, garlic and tubers.

Mango Lhassi in a milk bottle.  Photo Credit - Mr. Edwin Chee

Ambiance:  Buzzing with activity and diners, it gets really crowded the later on a weekend evening.
Families, with piped in music and a close sense of community.  It makes me forget I am even in Australia.
Staff engagement: Friendly and responsive.
Table bookings not provided for on weekends.
Would I return? A definite yes.  I am eyeing the Mumbai Roadside Special,  the Pani Puris, the Chai Ya coffee, Frankies, the veg pizzas and their version of fried ice cream.
I especially like the idea of "eating with a purpose" with this cuisine.

Chatkazz is located at Shop 4
14-20 Station Road East, Harris Park near the buzzing hub of Parramatta CBD.
Telephone 02 86770033 and 0433 688 501
Opening hours: Weekends from 9am to 10pm, Tuesdays to Fridays 10am to 10pm and Mondays 5pm to 10pm.
Harris Park can get real busy at certain times which may prove to be a challenge for easy vehicle parking but there is a rail station.  Chatkazz has its own vehicle parking compound but it can get not so easy to navigate out later in the evenings.

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