For me...its mostly the street foods....Bhel, Pani poori, Dabeli, Chana Choor,SPDP(Sev Potato Dahi Poori) etc etc.Not that we cannot make them here in USA....but the ease of stopping at one of the stalls, telling the vendor -how 'spicy' or 'sweet' you want your dish, the dish being made in front of you, chaating- gossiping with your buddies, savoring the tangy-spicy-sweet mouthwatering chaat.....ufff even the 'thought' makes me nostalgic and my mouth water!!!
Once,I was telling my colleague at Cornell 'How I miss Indian food'.He was surprised, he said.....but there are so many Indian restaurants here..why don't you eat there! I told him....they do not have 'all' the foods we get in India....and ofcourse the 'taste' is not as authentic. He asked me to describe some dish which I miss the most.I tried describing to him..'Bhel'...Puffed rice mixed with savory snack mixture, raw onions, tomatoes, Tamarind chutney.. etc etc He seemed confused....couldn't really 'get' what I really miss????
I can totally understand....he hadn't tasted the addictive tangy-sweet-spicy taste of Bhel ...how would he know..what I really miss???
When I was reading 'Namesake' by Jhumpa Lahiri....a book about an 'immigrant' family......there, the couple migrates to US (may be in 1970's..don't exactly remember when) The lady is 'Bengali'. After coming to USA, she misses ofcourse her homeland, her friends and family....but also the 'food'. She becomes really homesick and tries making 'Bhel' with Rice Krispie cereal !!!!! How cool was that! Because those days finding 'puffed rice and indian grocery' wasn't as easy as it is now! So....we are amongst the lucky ones!!! We atleast can find what we need to make our favorite dish here in US of A!
Here is the recipe for 'Bhel':
2 cups Puffed rice ( I haven't tried using Rice krispie cereal yet!!) Make sure its crispy.
1Cup Savory 'Hot Punjabi Mix' Farsan
1/2 cup thin Sev
1 onion finely chopped
2 tomatoes finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp roasted peanuts
1 tbsp raw mango chopped (if you like the tang)
Flat pooris if you want to make 'Bhel Poori'. I sometimes use 'Pringles' !!!
1 tbsp Tamarind extract
1/4 cup grated jaggery
1/2tsp cumin-corainder powder
1/2tsp chili powder
1/4tsp chaat masala
Mix everything in the water and make Tangy-sweet- spicy chutney.This chutney is pretty watery.
For extra spice:
Crush green chilies and garlic together into fine paste. Add to bhel as needed.
1) Mix together the puffed rice, farsan, half of the sev, onion, tomatoes, peanuts, mango etc.
2) Add the tamarind chutney to make the bhel 'wet' but not soggy.
3) Garnish with remaining sev, cilantro, pooris/ pringles etc
4) Serve immediately!
Enjoy the blissfull combination of various textures and tastes all packed in one mouthwatering dish!