Rediscovering Bhel – a popular Indian street food.

Japanese Bhel - 1Last 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.

Japanese bhel puri - 3Even 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).

bhel rice cake 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.

Japanese Bhel -003Instead, 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.

Puffed rice cake bhel.

Ingredients

  • 4 Disks of puffed rice cake
  • 1 cup Boiled potato
  • 4 tablespoons Cilantro chutney
  • 2 tablespoons Tamarind-date chutney
  • 1/2 cup Onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup Tomato (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup Sev (fine chickpea noodle, available in any South Asian grocery store )
  • 1/4 Pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup Cilantro leaves (chopped)

Directions

1. Prepare cilantro chutney and tamarind-date chutney in advance. It can be frozen and stored for several months.
2. Mash the boiled potato, add a pinch of salt and mix well. Unlike other mashed potato recipes, cream or sour cream is not required here.
3. Spread a tablespoon of cilantro chutney and half a tablespoon of the tamarind-date chutney on top of the rice cake.
4. Transfer the mashed potato in a piping bag with a star tip and pipe it to top of the puffed rice cake disk to completely cover the top of the disk.
5. Top the mashed potato layer with chopped onion, tomato and sev. Finally, garnish with chopped cilantro and pomegranate seeds.
6. Prepare the rice cake bhel just before serving as the puffer rice tends to absorb moisture from the chutneys and get soggy if kept for long.

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