It is believed that Bhel Puri, a popular snack item of Indians anywhere in the world, has it’s origin in Bombay. A visit to Juhu Chowpatty or Girgaum Chowpatty is incomplete without relishing the famous Bhel-Puri, Pani-Puri, Ragda Pattice and Kulfi dished out by the U.P. based vendors like Sharma’s and others.
Before the advent of Bhel Puri, “Chaat” food dishes were popular in North India. However in Bombay, a fusion of the North Indian Chaat and Gujarati snacks occurred and the unique Bombay Bhel Puri was born. Bhel Puri is a mix of puffed rice or murmura, pieces of boiled potatoes, chopped onions, raw mango or kairee ; drowned in sweet chutney, green chutney with chillies ; covered with liberal quantity of sev and eaten with a flat Puri/Papadi. Usually a Bhel Puri seller also sells Ragada Pattice, Sev Puri and Pani Puri. The Bombay Bhel Puri trade is dominated by vendors from Uttar Pradesh.
It is also believed that “Vithal Bhelwala” near VT station (now CSTM) invented the Bhel Puri. Vithal Khadawala started selling Bhel Puri as a street hawker near New Empire cinema hall in 1875 and in early 40s rented out a place to start Vithal Bhelwala. This joint became so famous, that a chaat lover visiting the Fort area or the cinemas around this area, had to make a compulsory trip to Vithal Bhelwala. Due to family dispute, court cases etc. the original joint no more exists. I still remember savouring the tastiest and tangiest Bhelpuri at this joint in the 80s, which was then run by 3rd generation of the Khadawala family.
Today Bhel Puri has become synonymous with Bombay just like the Vada Pav, all over the world and not just in India.