India’s bustling food markets are a true spectaclefor the everyday traveller. They are an assault on the senses, with endless stalls awash with varying colours and aromas. Tables are stacked high with exotic fruit and vegetables, while on the floor lay sacks filled to the brim with spices.
An Indian food market is where you can sample some of the country’s finest street snacks, sweets and drinks. And, one delectable dish you are bound to come across is bhelpuri; a savoury snack that is said to have originated in Mumbai’s street food stalls, but is now popular in many regions across India.
Essentially, bhelpuri is made from puffed rice and vegetables which are mixed in a tangy tamarind sauce and served with either a sweet or spicy chutney. The typical bhelpuri contains bhel (rice puffs, potatoes, onions and chat masala), puri (fried wheat dough) and sev (small pieces of fried, crunchy noodles). Other regional varieties may include ingredients such as chillies, for that extra kick, as well as tomatoes.
The most popular sweet chutney is known as ‘saunth chutney’ and is made from dates and tamarind. The most popular spicy chutney, on the other hand, contains coriander leaves and lots of green chillies.
Preparing bhelpuri is easy; you simply combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. The snack is best eaten straight after it has been prepared, as sometimes the chutneys and tomatoes (if used) can make the mixture soggy after a while.
If you buy bhelpuri from a street vendor, there’s a good chance that it will be served to you in a paper cone. Papdi (deep-fried breads) are a typical accompaniment to bhelpuri as you can use them to scoop up the snack before eating it.
Bhelpuri is considered to be a ‘chaat,’ which is the name given to spicy and salty snacks sold throughout the country. But, why do Indian people love bhelpuri much? Well, mainly because it tastes so great. The snack has the perfect balance of sweet, spicy and salty flavours, and its texture is both crispy and crunchy.
If you were to ever travel around India, there’s no doubt you’ll come across many variations of the snack. Dahipuri is a combination of bhelpuri, chutney and papdi with lots of yoghurt. Another variation is churmuri, which is commonly made with tomatoes, onion and coriander leaves, as well as chilli powder and coconut oil.
Many regions dice raw, sweet mango and add it to the mixture, while others will prepare a dry bhelpuri mix (often referred to as ‘Bhadang’) and garnish it with coriander leaves, onions and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving. Whether you eat it as a mid-morning treat, for lunch, or as a starter to your evening meal, there’s no doubt that bhelpuri is the perfect Indian snack.
However, you don’t need to travel halfway around the world to sample mouth-watering Indian snacks. If you live in, or are visiting, London anytime soon, just book yourself a table at one of its fine dining Indian restaurants.