Growing up in Ranchi, a city in eastern India, Maneet Chauhan frequently traveled with her family by train, sometimes spending two or three days in the open-air cars. She didn’t mind the long trips: In train stations throughout India, vendors sell chaat, a broad term for savory street snacks, so every stop was an opportunity to taste new things. Decades later, the Chopped judge still thinks about those journeys. “I got a glimpse of the amazing diversity of Indian food,” she says. Her new cookbook, Chaat, is filled with recipes inspired by memories — like eating bhel puri at a historic Mumbai train station, or warming up with a Tibetan noodle soup called thukpa during a winter ride through Guwahati. “I’ve had some of these dishes only once or twice, but they made a profound impact on my life,” she says. “Years later I still remember them.”
In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, serranos, cumin and oil and process until smooth. Transfer the paste to a heavy-bottomed pot along with the chicken and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until aromatic, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrot, bell peppers, beans, bamboo shoots and cabbage. Cover the pot halfway and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate. Once it is cool enough to handle, tear it into bite-sized pieces and return it to the pot.
Add the noodles and lemon juice and simmer until the noodles are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Season with salt.
Spoon the thukpa into bowls, garnish with scallions and bean sprouts and serve very hot.