THE Story of BHEL PURI
Bhel Puri (fondly referred to as Bhel) is the most nostalgic part of my childhood. It is the most popular of the Indian street foods and the beauty of it is, how commonly available they are on almost every street corner in all of India.
I come from the southern most metropolitan city of India called Chennai (used to be known as Madras) where Bhel puri is not as common as the north, east and western parts of India.
But, that did not stop me or anyone else I grew up with from fighting with our parents for our ‘pocket money’ (allowance) to devour it!
And the best part about Bhel was not just that it was a mouth-watering snack, but it was also an unforgettable Indian street food experience. So, I with so many others used to watch the 'bhaiyas’ (Indian street vendors) in awe while they swiftly assemble the various ingredients that constitute the Bhel - before we could blink an eye. And these bhaiyas were our own magicians waving their magic wand to make a paper cone in about a fraction of a second, and then start filling that with this crunchy, flavorful goodness that is savory, tangy and sweet all at once.
The Bhel could be sukha (i.e. dry in Hindi) or gila (i.e. wet) Bhel. For me personally, I like the dry version with the extra crunchiness in every bite. And my biggest complaint used to be how some places could not get this right - i.e. prevent the Bhel from becoming soggy.
But very soon, when I started experimenting with this in my own kitchen, I realized how hard it was to keeping the Bhel from getting soggy. There are definitely some tricks to master the authentic taste of the Bhel. If you searched for ‘Bhel recipes’ there are a gazillion recipes on the web to describe this. So I will not go in to those details for this blog.
For a quick glimpse of how my Bhel turned out, the pictures below should suffice.
THE WINE to pair with the BHEL
Without further delay, I will jump right in to the main subject of my blog: the wine pairing.
When I decided to make Bhel for a nice mid-Sunday snack, I was wondering about the different wines I can pair with this.
As far as white and rose wines go, there are many that will pair beautifully with this dish, some of them are:
- Unoaked Californian Chardonnay,
- Sparkling Malbec Rose,
- Pinot Grigio with crisp acidity and a little bit of residual sugar like those in the Alto Adige region of Italy.
In the red wine category, a dry red un-oaked and dominated by fruit flavors will compliment the Bhel very well. Some of my choices would be:
But then I got thinking about what other wine would bring out the sweet and sour flavors of the chutneys, the tangy tomatoes and yet also stand up to this dish overall with the wine’s own character and its refreshing after taste.
Ta-da! Then it came to me - How about a Sangria?!
You got to love Sangria. I have a new found respect for Sangria especially after learning all about its roots, history and etymology.
And it turns out that Sangria was originally chilled wine with infused spices and fruits. Knowing this made me feel like there is a connection between all the spices used in Indian food and the authentic Spanish preparation of the Sangria.
So I am more convinced than ever and decide to buy all the ingredients for my classic Sangria recipe.
My classic Sangria recipe:
1 bottle of dry red + 1/4 cup Cognac + 1/4 cup Triple Sec (Orange Liqueur) + 1/2 bottle of dry or sparkling rose + 1 table spoon of sugar + juice of one lemon.
Add diced apples, pears, peaches etc. at the very end.
I ensured to make the Sangria a day in advance and meticulously refrigerate it overnight.
So I was excited to wake up on Sunday for a treat like this.
I got working on the Bhel and when I was ready to serve, I set my Sangria glass filled with ice and poured the refrigerated Sangria.
I take a mouthful of the Bhel and enjoy every bit of the delicious goodness. Then I wash it down with the chilled Sangria.
- The apples, pears and lemon juice infused in the wine gave the Sangria a fresh ‘lemonade-like’ after taste which was great to wash down the spices in the chutney blended with the Bhel.
- The Cognac did its part by imparting strong dried-raisin flavors which gave a nice kick at the end of each sip.
- The Pinot Noir Rose was worked perfectly to top off the Sangria as that gave a youthful, effervescent feel in the mouth, which balanced with the sourness of the tomatoes and raw mangoes.
All in all, the Sangria pairing with the Bhel Puri hit the spot real good!
With Sundays like these, what Monday blues??