Memorial Day marks the informal start to summertime. My culinary mind turns to cookouts, hot dogs, potato salad, lobster rolls…and bhelpuri. Yes, bhelpuri, the popular Indian chaat (street food snack) made from crunchy puffs of wheat, rice, and chickpea flours, spices, sugar, and potato, usually bound together with a tangy tamarind sauce.
I first tasted bhelpuri at a hot summer ethnic fair on the grounds of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School (now High School South). Crunchy, spicy, cool, and flecked with coriander leaves (cilantro), I was a goner. Since then I have ordered many incarnations in Indian restaurants where I have found versions with whole chickpeas, coconut, tomato, onion, coriander or yogurt sauce, etc., like the endless variations that are served across India.
Look in the Indian supermarket for bhel mix. There are big bags full of the crunchy ingredients with hot or mild seasoning. You can buy it packaged with the sauce, or purchase jars of sauce separately. The only real kitchen work involved is what is needed for any fresh ingredients you want to use.
So go ahead, fire up the barbie; I’ll be in the kitchen boiling the potato and chopping the coriander.