Sampling local cuisine while travelling is one of the quickest ways to meet a new culture head on; and street food is probably the best example of this! The food is honest, un-embellished and an instant doorway into the flavours, textures and fragrances of any country’s cuisine. Some of my most cherished memories are the first bite of satay ayam (chicken satay) with peanut sauce from a beach vendor in Indonesia, or the crackle of piping hot spring rolls just plucked from the deep-fryer of a street vendor in Hanoi. My more hesitant friends have always warned that street food is the fastest way to illness while travelling, but honestly, not indulging in these culinary treasures would be akin to ordering only boiled rice at the finest sushi restaurant in the world, or poached tofu at the best barbeque house in Argentina. It would be blasphemous!
My love of these delights made my heart quicken when I first saw Susan Feniger’s cookbook, “Street Food”. Her work is the perfect homage to street food from all around the world and a great sampler for anyone who has not been bold enough to try any while abroad. This is one of my favourite recipes from her book, so I really wanted to share it with you today. Bhel Puri is served by hundreds of thousands of vendors in India. It is a zesty puffed rice snack whose ingredients vary from vendor to vendor, but it never fails to please. Here, Feniger adds her own touch to the dish. I couldn’t stop eating this mind-blowing salad!
I used commercial tamarind purée and substituted about 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses for the date molasses. This worked beautifully.
Indian Puffed Rice (Bhel Puri) Salad
2-3 red yams cut into ½ -inch dice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 small red onion, diced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems and leaves, chopped
3 cups Bhel Puri mix
Bhel Puri Dressing (see below)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, toss the yams with the oil, salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until the yams are soft and slightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Prepare the salad just before serving or the bhel puri will become soggy.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled yams, chickpeas, red onion and cilantro. Just before serving, add the bhel puri mix, and toss gently to combine.
Add 1 ½ cup of the dressing, and toss. Serve with the remaining dressing on the side.
Bhel Puri Dressing
2 cups Tamarind Purée
1/3 cup date molasses
¾ cups water
½ teaspoon black salt
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems and leaves, chopped (1/2 cup)
½ cup packed fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 (2-inch piece) young ginger, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted
In a medium bowl, stir together the tamarind purée, date molasses, black salt, kosher salt, and water.
In a separate bowl, toss together the cilantro, mint, ginger and cumin seeds.
In small batches, purée the tamarind mix with the herbs in a blender. Repeat until all of the ingredients are incorporated.
Store the dressing in an airtight jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.