Summery Bhel Puri (Chaat)


There is a little Indian restaurant in the area where I grew up that serves one of the tastiest appetizers I've ever eaten. The dish is called Panipuri, and it's a common street food found in many regions of India. It consists of hollow puffs of crisp dough, filled with delicious chaat, served alongside chutney and tamarind water. Ever since my husband introduced me to this savoury snack, I've ordered it in various restaurants. Each chef has their own take on it, with spices and ingredient choices likely dependant on the region of India that they are from. Sometimes, the puffs are broken into pieces and mixed with the chaat then swirled with herbed yogurt. The chaat itself generally consists of diced potato, onion, and heaps of cilantro, tossed with various spices and a variety of other vegetables, nuts or legumes. 

And then, something magical happened. I took a book out of the library, solely based on how pretty the photos were. Then, I bought myself a copy, because I literally want to try every single recipe in it. One of those recipes is called Bhel Puri, a type of chaat that is mixed with puffed rice. My love of all things chaat and puri made me certain that I needed to try this recipe as soon as possible. I decided to give it my own spin by adding a few extras that I had on hand - and holy moly. You have to understand, this isn't just a salad. It's an experience. 

Need a great way to use up all of those garden cucumbers popping up right about now? Maybe you have a few too many cherry tomatoes and need them to be tossed into something tasty. Perhaps you don't even garden but you want to make a refreshing no-cook summer meal to beat the heat., or to impress at a friend's BBQ. Whatever your reason, this medley of colours and flavours is your new go-to. 

Before we get onto the recipe, just a little FYI, the book is called 'Good Veg,' and you can find it here! As always, if you place an order through any of my Amazon links, you are helping to support my blog at no extra cost to you!

Bhel Puri (Chaat)
with Tamarind Water & Mint Yogurt
adapted from Good Veg by Alice Hart

*Notes
  • For the puffed rice, I used this gluten-free brown rice cereal - it lends itself better to savoury dishes as it is unsweetened, unlike traditional Rice Krispies.
  • I buy papadums and tamarind paste in the international section of my local grocery store, and I've seen both at most large chains around here. There are also some papadums available online here and here and tamarind available here.
  • If you are planning on making this ahead of time, do NOT add the rice or the crushed papadums until just before serving - you want them to remain slightly crunchy, and putting them in too early will sog them right up!

ingredients

for chaat
800g fingerling or baby potatoes, chopped (large dice)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped 
2 cups cucumbers, diced 
2 small spring onions or shallots, finely chopped
6 large Medjool dates, chopped
1 cup pomegranate arils
1 cup puffed rice* (see notes)
6 cooked papadums, crushed + additional pappadums for serving* (see notes)
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

for tamarind water
3 tbsp. tamarind paste 
2 tsp sugar
3 cups water

for mint yogurt
1/2 cup plain yogurt (non-dairy coconut yogurt works very well!)
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp. cumin seed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 chilli pepper, minced
3 tbsp. mint leaves, chopped

method

Place potatoes in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Potatoes should be tender, but not falling apart. Drain and allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine all yogurt ingredients and set aside, allowing flavours to steep.

In a separate saucepan, combine tamarind, sugar and water. Allow to come to a boil and gently break up the tamarind paste. Boil for 10 minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid, discarding the paste.

Combine all chaat ingredients - if not serving right away, leave out the crushed pappadums and rice cereal, only adding once ready to serve.

Garnish each portion with tamarind water and yogurt sauce, and serve with additional papadums & lime wedges.


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