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Bhelpuri is an Indian snack food that is built on a base of puffed rice mixed with vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes and onions before being covered in tamarind and green chutney. The dish is considered a snack and can be included as part of a large spread of other snacks or purchased from roadside vendors in some parts of India. There is no one set of standard ingredients in bhelpuri, but other snack foods such as sev or fried chickpeas frequently are incorporated into the mixture. The dish is sometimes served with puffed Indian bread, although it also can be served on its own after being topped with freshly cut vegetables and a dusting of ground spices.
The main ingredient in most bhelpuri recipes is puffed rice. This is normal rice that is cooked in a very moist environment under high pressure. Although there are other ways to make puffed rice, the use of a pressure steamer is very common. The resulting rice is very airy and crisp and can be served as a snack on its own.
Sev is another common ingredient in bhelpuri. This also is a snack that is sometimes served on its own. The small, thin strings of dough are usually made from gram flour and are baked or deep fried until they are very crisp. When mixed with the other ingredients in the dish, they provide some textural variation, because they are crunchier than the puffed rice.
The basic preparation of bhelpuri involves mixing chopped tomatoes, onions and sometimes boiled potatoes together with the puffed rice. Additional ingredients — such as sev, chili peppers, bean sprouts, eggplant, chickpeas and beans — can be added to create a flavorful mixture. Spices such as cumin, coriander, mint and any roasted garam masala also might be added at this point.
Two distinctive ingredients that give bhelpuri its unique flavor are tamarind and green chutney. Green chutney is a combination of fresh cilantro, mint, green chilies and lime juice that is mashed together. Tamarind chutney is made from tamarind, dates and sugar. The two flavors combine when mixed together to provide a spicy bite and some sweet-and-sour interaction. Occasionally, only one of the two chutneys is added to the dish to steer the overall flavor in a certain direction.
Bhelpuri is meant to be eaten very soon after it is done being prepared. This is because the crisp puffed rice and sev will start to break down in the acidic juices and become soggy. The snack can be served with small discs of poori bread or placed in a bowl with fresh cilantro leaves and lime wedges on top.