The first time I tasted Bhel Puri salad was in an Indian restaurant in San Jose California many years ago. Someone at our table had ordered it as an appetizer. I couldn’t believe the explosion of flavor in every mouthful. Sweet & sour, crispy and crunchy, and loaded with fresh herbs. It was light, crunchy, puffy… I also couldn’t figure out at first what were the puffy things in it, then I discovered it was puffed rice. What a fun way to use breakfast cereals!
Turns out this salad is one of the most popular street food snacks in India. But you don’t need to travel to enjoy it! If you are looking for this dish on a menu next time you are at an Indian restaurant, look for either Bhel Puri or Jhal Muri. Or do what I usually do, ask for the crispy puffed spicy salad and they will know exactly what you are talking about! This being said, I haven’t seen this dish on the menu of Indian restaurants we have been for a long time so the more reason to learn how to make it.
The traditional recipe usually has bits of chickpea crackers and other types of traditional Indian snacks added to the salad. Since we may not have an Indian grocery store nearby, I have adapted the recipe to be a little healthier (less packaged fried crackers) with the addition of mung bean sprouts (or other sprouts) with the same fresh herbs effectively transforming this appetizer salad into a full-on nutritious and incredibly satisfying salad! You can also crush some potato chips if you want more zing!
Sprouting is a quick and easy way to get more nutrition and antioxidants in your diet. All you need is a mason jar with a mesh lid (or clean cheesecloth) and a dish rack or foldable stand for proper drainage.
Soak beans overnight, drain and rinse the next day and they are ready to eat that evening or the next day. That’s it!
We all know rice crispies but there are many other puffed grains that can be purchased too like wheat, quinoa, millet, Kamut, buckwheat, amaranth… They can all be used in this recipe and to top salad for an added quick fun crunch!
TIP: If your puffed cereal looks a little soft (because someone left the bag open or not properly sealed), just heat up a skillet and roast the cereals for a minute making sure they don’t burn.
In addition to the tomatoes, cucumber, and onions, you can add cubes of roasted sweet potatoes or yam, potatoes, tarot, or even chickpeas. This adds nutrition and a soft texture to contrast the crispy rice.
Traditionally, the dressing contains tamarind paste mixed with lime juice to dilute it, and some sweetener like maple syrup or coconut sugar to balance the sourness. If you don’t have tamarind paste at home, you could use lime juice and brown sugar.
I have also seen people mix sweet chutney with lime juice, this makes a lovely dressing but you may not have chutney. What to do? My favorite way to make the dressing with ingredients we all have at home is to mix some apricot jam with some lime or lemon juice. This does the trick.
TIP: When preparing the salad, start with the fresh vegetables, the spices, the fresh herbs, then add the cooked potato and mix well. Only gently incorporate the puffed cereal right before serving. You must assemble, serve, and eat the salad quickly so that the puffed rice stays crunchy!
This salad also makes a great filler for lettuce bundles!
Indian Puffed Rice Salad
- Mason jar for sprouting mung beans
- 2 cups puffed white or brown rice
- 1 small cucumber diced
- 2 medium diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup red onion
- 1 cup sprouted mung beans
- 1 cup finely chopped cilantro (leaves and stem)
- 1 cup finely chopped mint leaves
- 3 tbsp apricot jam
- 2 tbsp lime or lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp cumin powder or garam masala
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
- 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
- 1 cup crushed potato chips
Sprout mung beans
- Soak 1 cup of mung beans overnight.
- Drain and rinse. Pour mung beans into a mason jar and cover with a cheese cloth and secure with the ring.
- Place the jar upside down at an angle on your dish rack.
- Fill the jar with water and drain once the next day.
- The beans will be tender and ready to eat.
- Finely dice the tomatoes, the cucumber and the onion place in a large bowl.
- Finely chop the cilantro and the mint, add to the bowl and mix.
- Add 1 cup of sprouted mung beans.
Prepare the dressing
- Mix 2 tbsp lime or lemon juice with 3 tbsp apricot jam to thin it.
- Add the olive oil, cumin or garam masala powder.
- Add the teaspoon of sea salt and pepper and stir.
Put it together
- Add the dressing and the roasted peanuts to the salad and mix well.
- At the very last minute, gently fold the 2 cups of puffed rice.
- Taste and season. Top with more mint or fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.