It is a common notion, that more the oil more the taste, and vice versa. This is one thing that totally defies the notion. Sukha Bhel !
Bhel was the ultimate treat in school days. There used to be this bhel wala with his cart and a glass box mounted on top of the cart. He used to serve bhel puri, sev puri and pani puri like any other bhel wala. This ‘bhaiyya’ used to stand right opposite my balcony in Wadala, and that wouldn’t make life easier for me. My grandparents wouldn’t allow me to eat street food and it required many many days of excellent behaviour to convince them to let me indulge in that tangy treat.
In the glass box, there used to be stacks of fresh kurmura (puffed rice), another stack of sev, 3 steel dabbas filled with green chutney, sweet tamarind chutney and the last one with red hot spicy chutney. The walls of the box would be lined with tomatoes, boiled potatoes and in the mango season-raw mangoes. Onions and coriander, finely chopped would fill another big bowl. I would always go for the medium bhel as I wouldn’t like to sweat it out with the spicy red chutney.
It was always a delight to watch him throw the puffed rice, peanuts, green and tamarind chutney, finely chopped tomatoes, onions, boiled potatoes, kairi (raw mango) and his special masala into a big vessel, swish it around and then slide it into a big paper cone. Sev, more onions, coriander, peanuts would go on the top with a final squeeze of lime and a couple of flat puris which are edible spoons. By this time, the salivary glands would be more than reasonably stimulated. All this for a sum of Rs.3.
Guys, guys, please don’t make wrong calculations about my age with this. It wasn’t THAT long ago, honestly! Just some 15 years ago and then inflation took it’s toll. The same bhel would cost anywhere from Rs.10-30 now, depending on the area. You will find umpteen bhel puri stalls lining the beaches in Mumbai, that could be one of the reasons that the beaches here are not-so-clean.
Cut to present…
At home, I’d rather make a simple, healthier version of this childhood treat. It’s good to keep a bag of puffed rice handy, always makes a great snack. The puffed rice at home was a few months old and had lost it’s crispiness. That’s why I had to dry roast it over a low flame for 5 minutes to make them crisp and fresh. If you have crisp kurmura, you can omit this.