The first time I came across Bhel Puri was unexpectedly at Westfield’s (Shepherd’s Bush) food court. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect because the terms papdi, sev, chaat masala, moong beans and so on, didn’t quite ring a bell at the time.
I remember my first bite well, because it was such an intense burst of flavours that I wasn’t sure what was going on in my mouth. But after my second and third bite, I was able to better distinguish the flavours for what they were, and why they make Bhel Puri such a wonderful snack.
No one knows how Bhel Puri originated but most point to the cafes and street food stalls of Mumbai. Bhel puri belongs to the family of chaats, which are salty and spicy snacks sold on carts throughout India. Bhel Puri’s main ingredients include puffed rice and Sev – which are fried vermicelli (angel hair) noodles. Bhel Puri versions include the addition of moong beans or moong sprouts, toasted peanuts, potato, mango, onion, chaat masala and chilli. You could also have wet Bhel Puri or dry Bhel Puri, with the former requiring chutney.
Different chutneys impart a sweet, tangy or spicy flavour. There are two popular chutneys used: a dark brown sweet one made mainly from dates and tamarind and a green spicy chutney made from coriander leaves and green chillies. Red chutneys are also used, and these are generally quite spicy.
For this recipe, I’ve decided to opt for the wet Bhel Puri because I like the intensity of the flavours that the chutney’s provide so well. I have also opted to use papdis – deep fried flour crackers – in place of a spoon.
As I wanted to make this quickly, I went for the Mamra Mix which pretty much includes the two most important ingredients – roasted rice puffs and sev. My mix also included peanuts. Because I wanted moong beans, I bought a Sev mix with moong beans as well but this is optional and not included in the recipe below.
As the chutneys and papdis are not your usual supermarket items, I had to make a trip to my closest Indian supermarket. I always find trips to specialist stored rewarding as you’re transported straight to a culinary adventure. Around 30 minutes later, I emerge slightly dumbfounded by the choice of unfamiliar ingredients I want to dabble with.
Thankfully, I didn’t go too crazy with this recipe, with tradition winning over experiment. Although, I have to admit, I have been toying with the idea of supplanting the date tamarind chutney with my date, lime and banana chutney by Kush Cuisine. Maybe next time!
Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Very Easy
- 3 cups Sev Mamra mix (which includes roasted rice puffs, peanuts, sev)
- 1 tbsp coriander chutney
- 1 tbsp tamarind date chutney
- 6 papdis, crushed
- 1 large peeled and boiled potato, chopped
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
- 1 tsp roasted cumin powder
- 1 tsp chaat masala
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Peel and boil the potato.
- In the meantime, chop the onion and the tomato.
- Toast the cumin powder for a few minutes until fragrant.
- Once the potato has cooled, chop the potato and mix all the ingredients together.