Behl Puri with Pomegranates and Cashews
Serves 4 generously
Behl puri is my favorite member of the grand family of Indian snack foods known as chaats; chaats typically feature a mashup of crunchy, salty, sweet, tangy, savory textures and flavors spiked with chutneys and fresh herbs.
This chaat is often naturally vegan and is a true party in your mouth; melting bites of potato are folded into crispy puffed rice, crunchy sev (golden fried chickpea noodles), at least two tangy, fresh chutneys and a helping of fresh herbs and vegetables. The absolute best bhel puri I ever did meet included the luxurious additions of roasted cashews and pretty pomegranate arils. This gorgeous chaat makes great party food, or something that feels slightly naughty when enjoyed as a casual, light weeknight meal. Bhel puri (and most chaats), must be eaten immediately after assembling to avoid getting overly soggy, but it’s easy enough to prepare the chaat elements in advance and takes only a minute or two to mix everything up, serve, and party on.
Make ahead tip:
Toss together the potato, pomegranate, tomato, lime juice, onion, and cilantro and keep chilled in a tightly covered plastic container. Pour the sev, puffed rice, cashews, and garam masala into a large zip top bag and keep tightly sealed. Along with separate containers for the chutneys, you can then transport your bhel puri ingredients anywhere for spontaneous chaat-making. The potato mixture can be made up to 24 hours ahead of serving, and the sev mixture lasts for weeks if tightly sealed.
-Look for fine threads of sev and Indian-style puffed rice in Indian groceries. There are really no good substitutes for these ingredients, but they are cheap and plentiful in any Indian grocery store. Indian-style puffed rice is different from the stale-tasting American breakfast food stuff; the long elegant grains taste toasted and are super crisp.
And while you’re hunting for sev (often stocked in the snack foods isle), look for colorful pre-mixed behl puri sev and rice blends; there are many to choose from and they all will make your chaat taste a little different. These often will include other goodies including roasted dahl, different shapes of sev (thick and thin), tiny “chappati” crackers, just to name a few things and are often infused with spices. Have fun and try a few! Typically behl puri is made with one of these festive blends and then sprinkled on top with a generous layer of plain fine sev.
Bhel Puri Chaat
- 3/4 pound potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
- 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
- 2 plum tomatoes, cored and finely diced
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 medium sized red onion, peeled and finely diced
- 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
- 1 1/4 cups fine sev (fried chickpea noodles)
- 2 1/2 cups Indian puffed rice
- 1/3 cup roasted chopped cashews
- 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/3 cup tamarind chutney
- 1/3 cup cilantro chutney
1. In a large saucepan cover the diced potato with 2 inches of cold water. Over high heat bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook the potatoes for 10 to 11 minutes until tender but not overly mushy. Drain the potatoes well and let cool for 10 minutes.
2. In a large mixing bowl add the potato, pomegranate arils, tomatoes, lime juice, diced onion, and cilantro. In a separate bowl or a plastic bag combine 1 cup of sev, puffed rice, roasted cashews, and garam masala and combine to coat with the spices. The potatoes and the sev can be left alone for about 45 minutes at room temperature prior to mixing.
3. Just before serving, pour the sev and puffed rice mixture into the bowl with the potatoes. Pour both of the chutneys over everything, then use a rubber spatula or a wide wooden spoon to fold all of the ingredients together, making sure that everything is coated in chutney. Mound the bhel puri onto a large serving plate and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup of sev. Serve immediately and consume as soon as possible for maximum enjoyment.
If desired, assemble only half of the bhel puri, let your guests (or you) eat their fill now and then assemble the remaining half a little later when everyone is ready to puri party it up again.