Bhel Puri: A Crunchy, Flavourful Delight

bhel puri

Synonymous with the beaches of Chowpatty and Juhu, Bhel puri is a delicious mix of authentic flavours with puffed rice being the primary base.  Extremely popular in the western region of India, especially Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan, Bhel puri, which is typically served in cones made from paper, is intrinsically associated with relaxed evenings and outings by the beach. 

Origins and Variations

With several variations across the regions, Bhel puri is believed to have originated in a restaurant near the iconic Victoria Terminus of Mumbai.  According to another theory the dish is believed to have been invented by the Gujarati community.  While the origins of the dish are not very clear, there is no doubt about the fact that Bhel puri remains arguably one of the most popular dishes when it comes to Chaat and is prepared with much gusto across the country.

The most common way of making this delectable dish is by mixing puffed rice with freshly prepared chutneys including a spicy green one made from coriander, mint and chillies and a tangy-sweet one made from jaggery, dates and tamarind.  Throw in some fresh vegetables like finely chopped onions, tomatoes, boiled potatoes and cucumber, add in spices and salt and serve with a generous sprinkling of coriander and sev (deep fried noodles made from besan or gram flour). 

bhel puri

While the above is the wet version of the dish, there is also a dry version or “sukha” bhel as it is called.  This one essentially involves skipping the watery chutneys and adding crunch in the form of peanuts, papdi (flat savoury cakes made from flour) and even raw mango.  There is generous use of spice powders like cumin powder, chaat powder, red chilli powder with a dash of lime.  It is key to note that there is no one way to prepare this addictive snack and one can feel free to add vegetables, spices and seasoning according to one’s taste.

Regional nuances

Jhalmuri from West Bengal as well as Churmuri from Karnataka are two well known regional variations of the conventional Bhel puri.  Jhalmuri is a spicy concoction of ingredients like puffed rice, cucumber, potatoes, spices etc, all of which are given a good mix with a copious helping of mustard oil which lends it a pungent taste and a characteristic aroma.  Masala mandakki or Mandakki upkarri (translating into spiced puffed rice) is a typical preparation in coastal Karnataka with the key ingredients being puffed rice seasoned with red chilli powder or rasam powder, onions, coconut, sugar, salt, coriander and lemon juice amongst other ingredients.  Girmit of North Karnataka is extremely popular too and it includes the crunch of fried gram and peanuts. 

bhel puri

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cups puffed rice aka murmurra
  • 1/3 cup onions finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup boiled potatoes crushed
  • 1 tsp green chillies finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander mint chutney
  • 2 tbsp tamarind date chutney
  • 1 tbsp coriander finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup sev
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chaat masala         
  • Salt to taste

Method

  • To make the green chutney grind together coriander leaves, a few mint leaves, green chillies per your taste, one-two pods of garlic along with lemon juice.
  • For the tamarind-date chutney, take equal portions (say ½ cup) of tamarind, dates and jaggery and cook the same in water.  Allow to boil and then add spices like 1 tsp of red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder each along with ½ tsp of ginger powder.  Allow to cook for a few minutes after which cool and blend the mixture.  Sieve and store in an air tight container. 
  • For the Bhel puri, put together all the ingredients except the sev and puffed rice in a large bowl.  Give it a good mix. 
  • Once mixed, add the puffed rice, garnish with sev and serve immediately.

Notes

  • Adjust salt, spices and the chutneys per your taste.
  • Feel free to add other ingredients like finely chopped peel raw mango, cucumber and grated carrots to your Bhel puri.

You can use store bought green and date chutney as well.

All images courtesy of Rashmi Gopal Rao

This story is part of our continuing series on the eclectic street delight that is chaat on SEEMA.com. To check out the previous story in the series, read our Introduction to Chaat!