Last week I was visiting a Korean friend who has recently moved to Canada. While we were chatting, she offered me some puffed rice cakes. I must say that I had seen them many-a-times in grocery stores but never tasted them before. I really loved them and the crunchy light texture offered in the form of compacted cakes got registered in my mind. Later, on doing some googling I learnt that these puffed rice cakes are originally a Japanese invention which are very popular street food in other Asian countries as well. They are prepared in a special rice-cake-making-machine, where partially cooked rice puffs when treated at high temperature and pressure just like corn kernels expanding in to popcorns.
Even though I’ve never had this Japanese style rice cake before, I was familiar with the puffed rice as they are very popular snack in India and are known as mumra or murmura. Murmura is generally stir fried with various spices and are served with sev (thin chickpea noodle). In fact they are the main ingredient of a street food dish called bhel or bhel-puri very popular in Indian and Pakistan. A typical bhel does a great job of stimulating every single taste bud in your mouth (ummm…..may be except the bitter one).
So, in this fusion recipe I used the Japanese puffed rice cake with other ingredients of the Indian bhel to make what I call Japanease Bhel. Two absolutely important ingredients for any authentic bhel are cilantro chutney and tamarind-date chutney. Other ingredients are boiled potato, raw tomato, onion, sev, pomegranate seeds and cilantro for garnish. In the Indian bhel these things are mixed well with spiced puffed rice and served in a bowl.
Instead, I used the rice cake as base and spread the cilantro and tamarind-date chutney over it. It is important that both the chutneys are thick pastes (and not watery, otherwise the rice cakes will quickly turn soggy) to retain the firmness of the cakes. This was followed by a thick layer of mashed potato piped off a piping bag with a star tip. Although, you could choose to just spread the mashed potato on the cake. Finally, I topped the mashed potato with row tomato, onion, sev, cilantro and pomegranate seeds.
And here you go……a Korean inspired, Japanese traditional food with an Indian twist prepared in Canada is ready to savour the taste buds of the world.