Chetna Makan’s first book, The Cardamom Trail, was indeed a compendium of very spicy delights, like her Curry Onion Tart and the Black Sesame and Lime Cake.

In this lovely second book — Chai, Chaat & Chutney — Chetna returns home to the street foods she grew up on. In America, we eat fast food, mostly inside brick-and-mortar sites. Actual street food? Like carts? That’s much less common here, although the rise of the food trucks around the country shows that we, too, love the immediacy of something cooked right next to us on the sidewalk.

So, street food really is natural to us all. And in the metropolises of India, you can discover a truly exotic array of dishes. Street food is, necessarily inexpensive. The ingredients are local and will change from one part of the country to the next. Street food terroir? The preparation is quick, perhaps using some elements that have been roasting on the side for hours, but that last assembly has to be quick. There’s an impatient line of hungry people who want to eat. Now.

The book has all of Chetna’s favorites, organized by cities that form the four corners of India:

  • Chennai
  • Kolkata [Calcutta in the British days]
  • Mumbai
  • Deli

And there’s a fifth chapter devoted to chutneys and masalas. You must have chutney!

What’s to eat? Here’s a baker’s dozen of the ideas in the book. Some are familiar to you, if you indulge at Indian restaurants, and some will be a surprise. A happy surprise and spicy, too:

Onion Samosas [the first recipe in the book and a good sign for sure]

Tamarind-Stuffed Chiles [the second recipe in the book and a sign you just buy it]

Cauliflower Pakora [designed for chutney dipping]

Mong Dal [lentils with turmeric, cashews, cumin, tomatoes and chilli]

Egg Chops [hard-boiled eggs covered in a spicy potato mixture, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried]

Eggplant Curry

Hot and Spicy Chilli Chicken [20 ingredients!]

Vegetable Manchurian [vegetable balls in an intense Chinese sauce — see the picture below!]

Rose Scented Lemonade

Pakoras [bread stuffed with spiced potato]

Pistachio Ice Cream

Coconut Chutney

Peanut Chutney

Chai, Chaat & Chutney has great visual appeal. There are dozens of photographs, all sizzling with the deep penetrating colors of India. Chetna is a natural writer, so the recipes are easy to read and follow. Yes, some of these dishes are “different” but Chetna’s instructions will guide you comfortably from ingredients to that first yummy bite. The book’s layout — the paper, a careful layout of multiple fonts, the white space — make it a delicious tome to just cruise through page by page as you decide where to begin.

If you love Indian food, if you’ve never tried it at home before, here’s the best introduction you could possibly have. Don’t forget the chutney. There’s a tomato one, too!

Oh, I have a preview copy of the book. It goes on sale September 5th but you can pre-order on Amazon now. You want to.