The Great Cornflake Chivda Taste-Off
Chivda (pronounced "chew-da) is like Indian chex mix, but better, and with many more variations.
Some kinds are made with toasted, flattened rice, some with bhel or sev (short, deep fried noodles), fried potato sticks, nuts, lentils and dried fruit. Many feature some or all of those elements, and they are all heavily spiced.
My favorite kind is cornflake chivda, which is exactly what it sounds like: cornflakes mixed with other various crunchy things (see above), fried in spiced oil.
Chivda should be crunchy, not greasy. It should have a good balance of spicy, sweet, salty and sour tastes, and each mouthful should have a nice mix of all the elements—cornflakes, lentils, nuts, etc. And although it should be spicy, it shouldn't be so overwhelming that you can't munch on it comfortably.
So which cornflake chivda is the fairest of them all?
Meet your contestants (and where they are made):
1. Surati (Canada)
2. Haldiram's (India)
3. Swad (India)
4. Masst (US)
5. Mirch Masala (US)
6. Joy (US)
7. KCB (US)
All are available at Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights. We tasted all the chivda blind, not knowing which was which.
After lots of crunching, Haldiram's emerged victorious in the race for Best Cornflake Chivda, in a vote of 3 for and 1 against.
Haldiram's had a fresh, crispy crunch and a good mix of elements: cornflakes, potato sticks, cashews, green lentils and raisins. "This tastes like something my mom would make," said a taster of Indian heritage. Haldiram's had a nice balance between sweet and hot, and also featured the sour flavor that some mixes were missing—probably because it has mango powder in it—and the low, slightly sulphurous funk of asafoetida.
Surati, the Canadian entry, was also a favorite, with crunchy peanuts and cashews, but was definitely the sweetest of the bunch, with lots of cinnamon and a peanut buttery flavor.
Swad was tasty, but with too many different spices bouncing off each other in an overwhelming way. It tasted strongly of mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric and asafoetida. It was also the oiliest. But it gets points for having large slivers of toasted coconut.
Unsurprisingly, we found that the versions made in the US were generally less complex, and less spicy.
Joy, however, was one taster's favorite of all. He liked the texture of the cornflakes, thicker and crunchier than others, and the assortment of nuts and sesame seeds.
"I like the sound of number five," said one taster, as she ran her spoon through the Mirch Masala version. This one did have the nicest texture, with very large, crisp cornflakes, studded with raisins. It had a clean, corn and lentil flavor, but was lacking in the spice department.
Masst's version had a strange, chemical aftertaste.
KCB's version was dotted with lentils colored an unearthly green, and was too salty.
There you have it folks. Perhaps the world's first blind taste test of cornflake chivda. Did we miss your favorite? Drop me a line.