I was first introduced to Bhel as I read the opening paragraph to The Namesake, about the main character Gogol’s mother and her attempts at making a snack that she sorely missed. It somewhat reminded me of a snack I once had when I was growing up in Malaysia – unable to remember the name or the exact location I had it, the only thing that stood out to me was the use of peanuts and Rice Krispies or puffed rice. I shuffled that particular observation and memory to a corner of my mind, until earlier this year, while I was walking in Shoreditch with my sister and we happened upon Dishoom. The place looked very inviting, and the food choice was excellent. But what stood out was Bhel, and its a very satisfying salad/snack.
My particular recipe is an adaptation or should I say inspired by the Bhel I had at Dishoom and the one I read about in The Namesake.
It’s a safe Vegetarian option (or Vegan if you make your own puffed rice), and its sweet and savoury and spicy and tangy all at the same time. It’s very addictive and satisfying, and I find sometimes that a bowlful of this for brunch is enough to last me for the day until dinner.
1 1/2 cups of Rice Krispies/puffed rice
1 cup of roasted peanuts
1/2 cup of pomegranate fruit (arils)
1 small onion, diced
1 spring onion, sliced thin
A handful of thinly sliced coriander (cilantro), approx. 30-50g, depending on taste.
1-2 tsp of chilli powder
Juice from 1 small lime.
Tamarind juice, from 1 tsp of tamarind paste soaked in 3-4 tbsp of water (remove the pulp)
Spiced mustard oil:
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
1/2 tsp of mustard seeds
4-5 pieces of dried curry leaves
Salt and pepper to taste.
- Prepare the oil by heating up a pan and adding the oil, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Fry until the spices start to pop. Remove from heat, and let steep.
- In a mixing bowl, add the rice krispies, peanuts, pomegranate arils, coriander, onion and spring onion. Mix thoroughly. Add half of the chilli powder and mix again.
- In a separate bowl, add the lime juice and tamarind juice. Remove the mustard seeds and curry leaves from the oil, and add oil to the juice. Whisk until it’s all mixed well.
- Add the juice to the salad/snack bowl, and mix thoroughly. Taste and season accordingly. The spicy heat should be manageable, and if you want it spicier, add more chilli powder.
- Serve, and happy snacking!