Why not celebrate this Valentine’s Day with a bowlful of spicy ‘Bhel’? One of the most iconic street foods of India, Bhel is a snack that’s very easy and quick to rustle up. It’s a perfect combination of puffed rice, spicy savoury mixes, finely chopped onions and tomatoes. What sets this dish apart is the Date & Tamarind Chutney that goes into it, along with pungent Chaat Masala and fiery Green Chillies.
For the Bhel:
- 1 large Onion
- 1 medium Tomato
- 1 small bunch of fresh Coriander leaves
- 1 bowl Puffed Rice (Chur-Muri)
- 1 bowl Farsan Mix (Spicy Savoury Mix)
- 2 tablespoons Date & Tamarind Chutney
- 1 tablespoon Chaat Masala (or Dry Mango Powder)
- Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
- 2-3 Green Chillies (optional)
For the Date & Tamarind Chutney:
(Recipe adapted from Dassana & Amit’s wonderful site)
- 8-10 large Dates
- 1/4 cup concentrated Tamarind Paste or, 3/4 cup (lightly packed) Tamarind pieces
- 1 1/2 cups Water
- 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds (Jeera)
- 1/2 teaspoon Coriander seeds (Dhania)
- 1/4 teaspoon Dry Ginger powder (Soonth)
- 1/4 teaspoon Red Chilli powder
- 1/4 cup Jaggery or Sugar (add more, as per taste)
- Salt (preferably Rock Salt), as per taste
To make the Date & Tamarind Chutney:
In a deep pan, dry roast the cumin seeds and coriander seeds until they turn fragrant. Once cooled, grind the seeds to a fine powder and keep aside. Deseed the dates and the tamarind. Chop the dates into small pieces.
In the same pan used earlier, combine the chopped dates with the fresh tamarind pieces (or the concentrated tamarind paste). Add water to the pan and allow the mixture to simmer on low flame until the date and tamarind pieces soften (this will take about 10 minutes). Stir in the jaggery or sugar and continue to cook the mixture on low flame for another 3 minutes. As the jaggery melts, it will begin to thicken the chutney. More water may be added to the chutney at this point if you’d like a thinner mixture. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool.
Add the ground spices, dry ginger powder, red chilli powder and salt to the chutney. Mix well and then taste the chutney, adding more salt, jaggery or red chilli powder, if required. Once the chutney has cooled completely, transfer it to an airtight container. The chutney may be stored in the refrigerator for up to a 10-15 days.
To assemble the Bhel:
Finely chop the onion, tomatoes, coriander leaves and green chillies. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients together and mix well. Check the mixture for salt or spice, adding more salt or finely chopped green chillies. Add in more Date & Tamarind Chutney if you like your Bhel sweeter or more Chaat Masala if you prefer it more pungent. Garnish the Bhel with fresh coriander leaves and serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Bhel is always at its best served as soon as it is made because the puffed rice and farsan tend to soften with the moisture if the Bhel is stored.
- The Bhel recipe can very easily be scaled up or scaled down to serve more or fewer people.
- The Date & Tamarind Chutney recipe makes about a cup and a half worth of chutney. It’s perfect for assembling a variety of Chaat (Indian street food) such as Bhel, Sev Puri, Dahi Puri, Dahi Vada etc. It can even be used as a tangy flavouring for Burgers!