Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bhel Puri (Indian street-side snack) ~with Chaat Chutneys' recipes

Bhel Puri is a popular street-side snack (called 'Chaat') in India. This is something that can be whipped up in minutes if you have the chutneys (sauces) ready. It also allows one to customize the dish according to your own taste. Traditionally, Bhel Puri is a mixture of puffed rice and sev (deep fried chick pea noodles) with vegetables tossed in spiced mint sauce and tangy n sweet tamarind sauce. But you can also add boiled channa or rajma, roasted peanuts and pottu kadalai (fried bengal gram skinned), fried moong dal, raw mango, cucumber, spouted green bean dal and many more...C'mon, play around with what you like and what you can find in your kitchen!

You can find ready-made Bhel Mix in Indian grocery stores/supermarkets all around the world. You'll need to add tomatoes, onions and potatoes and mix in the sauces given. This makes a great travel companion, especially for vegetarians traveling to places where you wouldn't find good variety of veg food easily or you're short of time or where food is too expensive!


I dared to make my first attempt with Bhel Puri (from scratch) just 2 days after getting married. My mom-in-law was very supportive and made sure it came out well. And yes, everyone loved it :) Bhel Puri is very special to me for another reason - it was the first 'meal' we had together on our first 'date' ;)

The recipe is from my chithi from whom I also learnt recipes like Cutlet, Baingan Bartha, Stuffed Baingan.

Getting the chutneys ready is the most time-consuming part. Let's get started...

Sweet n Tangy Chutney (Meeta chutney for Chaat) :

You'll need -

Tamarind(de-seeded) - a small lemon sized ball [OR Use 1.5 tbsp of tamarind paste]
Dates(de-seeded) - 6 to 8 nos.
Jaggery - 2 to 3 tbsp
Raisins - about 10 nos.
1/4 tsp of red chilli powder 
1/4 tsp of jeera powder 
1/4 tsp of garam masala/kitchen king
A pinch of salt

Pressure-cook all the above together with just enough water to immerse. (Remove strands from around the tamarind and filter off parts of seeds, if any). Once ready to take it out of the cooker, grind them to a thick solution while it's still warm. If you find it too watery, boil the solution and let it thicken. I store mine in the freezer ; it stays good for a week to 10 days.

Voila! That's your meeta chutney. It would be almost chocolatey in color because of the ingredients' coming together.



Mint n coriander chutney (Spicy green chutney for Chaat and Sandwich) :

You'll need -

Pudina/Mint leaves - 10 to 12 leaves (Don't add too many, the flavor will be too over-powering!)
Coriander leaves/Cilantro - 1 small bunch (see picture)
Garlic - 3 pods
Shallots (Small onion) - 4 nos ==> Roast slightly with a drop of oil and then grind to avoid the raw smell of onion
Green chillies- 3 to 4
Cumin powder - 1/4 tsp
Chaat Masala - 1 tspHing/Asafoetida - a pinch
Sugar - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste (roughly 1/3 tsp)

Remember to discard the stalks from mint and use only the leaves. Grind these to a fine paste by adding water, little by little. You should get a rather thick solution. Store it in the freezer as well. Add water as needed for using in Chaats on the day of using. For Sandwiches, the thick chutney can b spread as such.


Assembling the Bhel Puri :

You'll need -

Puffed rice - 400 g
Puris - 10
Boiled potatoes - mashed - 1 and a half
Chopped tomatoes - 2
Chopped onion - 1
Chopped coriander leaves - to garnish
Thin Sev (Omapodi) - 200 g
Chaat masala - 1 tsp

  • Take a plate/bowl and fill in some puffed rice. You may toast it for 3-4 minutes for a better texture and crispier taste.  Break n add puris to it. Puris are nothing but spiced flour paste flattened and fried. It usually comes with the Bhel mix. If you don't find this, add what you find - I have tried adding Corn puffs and Cheezels' cheese balls and they blend well too :)

  • Now, add chopped onions, tomatoes, boiled & mashed potatoes. Sprinkle some chaat masala over it.

  • Now add the mint-coriander chutney and the tamarind chutney in the proportion your family loves! That's the flexibility with Bhel Puri :)

  • Finally, add plenty of thin sev (oma podi) and garnish with chopped coriander leaves :) Toss everything together gently and serve immediately!

Tip : Don't mix everything in advance, else the puffed rice will get soggy. 

Notes :  'Sev' can be made by mixing besan and rice flour in 4:1 ratio, making a tough dough with salt, chilli powder, hing with a little ghee and of course, some Omam (ajwain in Hindi) and pressing it in the mould over hot oil to get those deep-fried thin noodles. However, you can buy a 500 g pack at any Indian store for $3 or less :)

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