If I told you about a delicious snack that I had in Mumbai, the best description of which I could provide was “rice krispies, sweet sauce, cubes of tomato, covered in cheese,” you would start to question my ability as a food blogger (alas I am sure you do anyway, but moreso)…
…And this is what my friends thought, until I took them out for some Bombay street food in London and convinced them otherwise.
The snack I speak of is called bhel puri, and belongs to the family of “chaats,” which are spicy, salty snacks sold from roadside carts.
Bhel puri itself is as I described above – however to put it in a more appealing way, it is puffed rice, vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, chilies and onions), coriander leaves and a spicy tamarind sauce; it is often served alongside papri puris (small, round discs of wheat bread) and frequently served with sev (a fried snack that looks like short, thin noodles – like you get in Bombay mix).
As you can imagine, many different variations exist (as you already know, the one I had in India had cheese on top – see photo), and different versions are eaten throughout India.
Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai
Girgaum Chaupati, known colloquially as Chowpatty Beach, is one of the most famous public beaches in Mumbai, and is located in the heart of the city, just off Marine Drive in the Girgaum district.
It is the place for “Mubiakars” of all ages to be on a Friday night. The thing I liked the most about Chowpatty Beach is just how “local, normal and real life” the place is. Young couples walk hand in hand along the waterfront, groups of teenagers hang around the candy floss stands, and families watch on as their children ride on ferris wheels that look like they were built out of Meccano® back in 1983.
It is a place for locals of all classes to escape the bustle of a city of 18 million people. And there is not a firangi in sight. Bliss. (Sorry other firangis.)
And the main reason I had gone to Chowpatty Beach was for the largest collection of bhelwallahs in Mumbai, to taste the famous bhel puri.
Served on a small paper plate and eaten with a plastic spoon, we devoured our bhel puri while we sat cross legged with the locals on a large rug laid on the sand.
We topped our meal off with a trip to a kulfiwallah. Look out for future posts on kulfi because it is also flippin amazing and on my “to make” list.
Bhel puri in London
Not an easy thing to find, I have sampled excellent versions in the following restaurants in London.
Roti chai3 Portman Mews South London W1H 6HS Tel: 020 7408 0101
Dishoom Covent Garden12 Upper St Martin’s Lane London WC2H 9FB Tel: 020 7420 9320
Dishoom Shoreditch7 Boundary Street London E2 7JE Tel: 020 7420 9324
I know of a few other places in London that sell bhel puri; however, I haven’t tried them out yet so cannot recommend. I will go and let you know, and if you know any, please do let me know in the comments below.