sev puri.

I've said it before in these pages, and knowing me I'll probably say it again. I mean who can really keep track of everything they've said over the course of 13 years of jotting down over 2,200 compulsively-rewritten notes to themselves. In public. Who can even count the number of years or notes properly (EDITOR'S NOTE: actually Blogger does a pretty good job of that last part, yes scroll down, it's right there in the right sidebar...but right that was probably rhetorical, anyway, carry on).

Indian food may be the hardest cuisine to replicate in the home kitchen (I say this without ever reaallllly having tried to cook with anything in that challenging-smelling Chinese medicinal herb aisle in the supertoko). I was just thinking. There are two components to the complexity: 1) exotic/authentic ingredients, without which you are not cooking the real thing. And 2) the sheer number of ingredients and techniques involved.

Japanese cooking, for example, also requires exotic/authentic ingredients in order to taste "accurate": miso, kombu, sake, furikake, etc. But once you're cooking, the ingredient list is totally manageable, six or seven things. It's the rare Indian recipe that doesn't involve at least two recipes within itself (I'm including condiments), and each one involves several ingredients, we're not even necessarily talking about curries from scratch yet.

But: I blather on about all this not only to unspool my mind into a text box in order to hopefully put myself back to sleep soon, which is why probably mm half of VDuck was written, but in order to proclaim into the void that I am currently "better at Indian food" than I've ever been in my life. In that what I cook tastes vaguely like the original thing I tasted that made me want to cook it in the first place.

Today's case in point: bhel puri/sev puri. Back in the day (I just spent 10 seconds deciding if quotation marks or italics more clearly indicated that that is not a phrase I normally use), I used to make the 35 mile (57 km) drive down to Indian Delights in Decatur as often as I could manage the incredible boringness of the scenery and the dent that the whole enterprise put in your day's productivity. OK, two hours, a two hour dent. Doesn't sound like all that much at the moment for a chance to eat at Indian Delights. Luckily they didn't serve alcohol or the dent would've been twice that and significantly more structurally damaging.

Annnywayyyy. That was where I first tasted South Indian chaat, special thanks to Cliff Bostock, who sent me into all the dark corners of Atlanta's 1990-2000-era exotic food scene via his column in Creative Loafing. Indian Delights is, of course, closed now, so I can't even find a menu to look at (although Chat Patti's seems to be very similar), but yes, their bhel puri was the stuff my dreams were made of. Crunchy, sweet and sour dreams.

This week, in an effort to re-locate the ever-elusive Pleasure Button, I started looking at chaat again, and thought that sev puri seemed like a slightly easier/more fun version of bhel puri. And, having made it, I can verify that it is. Once you 1) find some chaat masala (which is really nothing like any other masala, if you've been trying to substitute for this do yourself a favor and find the real thing) and black salt and papdi and sev, and 2) make the chutneys, the rest is just assembly.

Each one of these (as pictured above) is roughly the size of a light and crispy golfball.


sev puri.

1 recipe date-tamarind chutney
1 recipe cilantro-mint chutney
5 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed roughly
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chaat masala

1 mango, diced
1 cup chopped tomato
1 lime, juiced

1 red onion, minced
bunch of mint, leaves stripped, chopped

20-30 papdi (somewhere between a kroepoek and a pappadam and a rice cake, puffy and crunchy, the size of a Pringle)
2 cups sev (the chickpea vermicelli sprinkled on top)
1 tbsp chaat masala
20-30 dots of sriracha

This makes enough for at least 20 bites. So, you make the chutneys the day before, you boil and mash the potatoes with the cumin and chaat masala the day before but make sure they're back to room temperature before you try and serve. You can cut the mango and tomato the day before as well, I left them combined in the fridge overnight with the lime juice and a shot of agave because neither was very good by itself.

The last thing that should be done is dicing the onion. Then, assemble: on top of a papdi you put a tsp of potato, a tsp of tomato/mango, a dollopette of each chutney, sprinkle the onion on, put a dot of sriracha on top, throw a tiny pinch of chaat masala at it, and top with the sev and mint. Serve immediately or they get soggy. Apparently if you don't like cilantro, you can also just use a mint leaf instead of the green chutney.


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