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Bhel puri is a snack food that is a common part of Indian cuisine. As a favorite snack around Mumbai, the dish is usually considered a form of chaat, a family of snacks that are normally served on small plates that fit easily in the palm of the hand. While there are a number of different recipes for bhel puri, most include some combination of fruits, vegetables, and spices.
There is some difference of opinion on exactly when bhel puri was first created. Many culturists believe that the earliest recipes called for the use of puffed rice combined with several fried snacks, some of them made with the use of chickpea flour. Adding to the flavor and texture of the snack, diced tomatoes, fresh onions and hot peppers are tossed with the puffed rice and crunchy flour based ingredients. It is not unusual for add some sort of fruit to the mixture, such as diced mango, shredded coconut, or some type of sweet chutney.
For seasoning, coriander is often employed along with some type of mustard oil. All ingredients are tossed together just before serving, since the small amount of liquid from the tomatoes or fruit would soften the crunchy elements and leave the bhel puri somewhat soggy. To accompany the chaat, small flat pieces of crispy bread are usually served on the side. The bread acts as a scoop for the bhel puri, making it easy to enjoy the snack without the aid of any type of eating utensils.
Bhel puri can be served as a hot snack or a chilled treat. When a cold snack is preferred, all the ingredients can be prepared, stored in separate containers, and placed in a refrigerator. Since it takes only moments to combine the ingredients, it is possible to allow them to chill until just before time to serve the chaat.
While bhel puri is most commonly available in India, the popularity of the snack has begun to spread to other parts of the world. Owing to the increase in the availability of Indian cuisine in countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, many ethnic based grocers carry all the basic ingredients needed to prepare authentic bhel puri. However, there is no need to refrain from preparing this type of chaat if there are no ethnic grocers in the community. Since most of the ingredients are also readily available in most supermarkets, it is possible for anyone to prepare this Indian food as a snack or even as finger food for casual social events.
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