Not really ‘poori’

delhi sarojini nagar market bhel puri

There’s no such puri and mixture of gravy curry (I always thought bhel meant gravy curry!). A very popular street food in India, bhel puri is mixture of so many things.. Here’s what a Wikipedia entry tells us:

Bhel Puri is a puffed rice dish with potatoes and a tangy tamarind sauce. It is a type of chaat or small plates of savory snacks, particularly identified with the beaches of Mumbai (Bombay), such as Chowpatty.

Bhelpuri is prepared across India, and may be known by different names – Churu Muri in Bangalore, Jhaal Muri in Kolkata (meaning “hot puffed rice”) is different in that it does not use any tamarind-based chutney in the mix. The ingredients include diced boiled potatoes, chutney dal, coriander powder, grated coconut, and mustard oil. (Other types of cuisines available on the beaches of Mumbai include pani puri, cham cham, Kachori, ragda, and pav bhaji.)

Bhelpuri was originally a Gujarati fast food. It later got merged with Mumbai culture and became synonymous with Mumbai. Bhelpuri is best consumed as soon as it is made. If left for a while, the juices from the tomatoes, chutneys, etc. combine to render the sev and mamra soggy.

Commonly used ingredients

There is much disagreement on what goes into the “original” bhel puri, even among chaat experts. Most recipes include puffed rice, sev, (a fried snack shaped like thin noodles made from besan flour) and mixture (a mix of different types of fried snacks mixed together), as the base of the snack. Other commonly used ingredients include tomatoes, onions and chilis added to the base; northern recipes also add boiled and cut potatoes.

Here’s what I wrote about my first encounter with Bhel Puri in Calcutta a few months back:

We went to a busy market area (I forget the name) and had bhel puri recalling a Hindi movie song that went something like this: Long drive jayenge, bhel puri khayenge… I was eating bhel puri for the first time. In a way I was surprised. I had heard about bhel puri a lot and had imagnied it to be something like a mixture of dahi and puri (curt and bread). That was because I had liked dahi bhalla already in Chandani Chowk, New Delhi. There was no trace of neither dahi nor puri in this bhel puri.