I’ve been meaning to make bhelpuri for ages, and finally got to it the other day. This is a form of Indian chaat, or street food snack. My first experience of bhelpuri was years ago at an outdoor ethnic fair in the parking lot of the West Windsor Plainsboro High School in Princeton Junction.
I lived nearby then, so walked over after a friend tipped me off to this tasty treat, and I was captivated at the first bite. Oh my! So much flavor, lots of wonderful texture, just enough spice to make it interesting, and altogether a wonderful cooling snack on a hot day. The dish was full of interesting bits of stuff: puffed rice, crisp noodle pieces, and many more ingredients, most of them crunchy. I also spied a lot of cilantro (which I love), bits of cooked potato, and there was some dressing or sauce mixed in, too, which acted like a bit of binder, just enough so you could get a forkful of the bhel to your mouth without embarrassing yourself (well, too much).
Some Indian restaurants have some version of bhelpuri on their menus, and while I tried one or two after that, I never did find anything quite like what I’d had in that parking lot that day. But along the way, I saw bags of pre-mixed dry ingredients and bottles of the chutney in the Indian Market I occasionally go to (Patel Cash & Carry in Franklin Park), so had brought some home. This made the making of bhel very easy, and I especially liked the good (i.e. fairly spicy) spice level in this Madras mix. The mix had numerous ingredients, including peanuts and yellow lentils, besides all the crisped/puffed rice/noodles, and other crunchy stuff.
As for the sauce, the bhel chutney I bought was fine, but you could just as well use bottled tamarind and cilantro/mint chutneys, mixed to your taste. I had run out of the latter, so didn’t have any on hand, but I think I would have liked to add some of that. I had, at least made sure to have lots of fresh cilantro at home, and had microwaved a big russet potato the night before, to chill overnight.
Since I couldn’t find (or if I did, read) any directions on the package, I looked online, and found lots of information, which led me to add not just the potato, but also some chopped onion. I passed on adding tomato, however, as I knew I would not eat this all at once, and didn’t want it to get too soggy too fast. But do keep in mind that bhelpuri is really meant to be consumed promptly, while all the crunchy stuff is still crunchy! Not that I won’t polish off my leftovers over the next couple of days.