Bhelpuri is a savoury Indian snack made out of puffed rice, vegetables, and a tangy tamarind sauce. It is often identified with the beaches of Mumbai, such as Chowpatty and Juhu. It is beside the seaside where I had my first ever taste of Bhelpuri and I have been hooked on it ever since!
Bhelpuri is thought to have originated from street food stalls of Mumbai, and the recipe has spread to most parts of India where it has been modified to suit local food customs. For example, the Kolkata variant of Bhelpuri is called Jhaal Muri (meaning “spicy puffed rice”), and a variant of Bhelpuri known as Churumuri is found in Bangalore. But wherever it is eaten, it is simple one of India’s best-loved street foods!
Bhelpuri is made from puffed rice and Sev (a fried snack shaped like thin noodles) mixed with potatoes, onions, Chat masala and chutney as the base of the snack. These simple ingredients provide Indians (and Mumbaikars in particular) with a cheap snack at times when money is usually scarce. The vendors of Bhelpuri, too, are somewhat makeshift, with their dirty-looking street carts providing the backdrop to this pleasant popular snack.
Different chutneys impart a sweet, tangy or spicy flavour. There are two popular chutneys used: a dark brown sweet one made mainly from dates and tamarind and a green spicy chutney made from coriander leaves and green chillies.
Coming to India as a traveller means being brave enough to try the local food, and as a starting point you cannot go wrong with a huge plate of Bhelpuri, which is actually very easy on the digestion system of Westerners, unlike some other Indian foods I could mention!