Some dishes have a mood that can’t be recreated in the home kitchen. You may have the recipe, the ingredients and the talent, but you still can’t make bhelpuri taste the way it does in, say, the corridors of Connaught Place (CP), Delhi’s colonial-era shopping district.
A colourful heap of puffs, chips, nuts and vermicelli, the salty-smelling bhelpuri is a beach snack in Mumbai, a teatime tidbit in Kolkata and a street munchy in Delhi. Like this cosmopolitan city, it is a mix of contrasting textures and flavours. The stall at CP’s L Block, Inner Circle, serves a mix of 18 ingredients spiked with spicy chaat masala and freshly squeezed lemon.
The first sensation is the giddy crunchiness of moori, aloo chips, baarik sewai, peas (green and red), chana daal and groundnuts (roasted, raw and fried). Then comes a flood of moist flavours of the tamarind and mint chutney. A smattering of onions, tomatoes and green chillies makes the mix as riotous as the strife-riven Balkans. Competing flavours fight for the top spot. Since the bhelpuri-wallah bhaiyya makes the mix in real time, you decide how bloody the civil war must be. For a city that delights in its violent history, this is the perfect soul snack