Some call it puchka, some call it goll-gappa, some prefer the name phulki and some other like gup-chup, but to me pani-puri is a tsunami…….a delectable tsunami.
This popular Indian street food consists of mildly spiced tangy water, pani filled in hollow crunchy bite sized bread called puri along with mashed potato, sprouts and chick pea. It is eaten one at a time and as soon as it gets in to the mouth the puri which was holding the filling and water so far cracks open releasing the chilled spicy water.
The crackling sound of the crumbling puri, followed by the tsunami of cold, tangy and minty pani in the mouth truly awakens every sense……Pani-puri is not just a dish it’s an experience…an unforgettable experience.
The concept of pani-puri; bite sized crunchy bread filled with soft filling and spicy tangy water is very unique to this dish. Every dish I have eaten, seen or read about so far has its cousin or a distant relative in at least one other culture than its country of origin. For example Italian risotto and Indian khichri or Indian chapatti, Mexican tortilla and Middle Eastern pita are based on very similar concepts. However, I am yet to encounter a dish that is based on the similar concept as pani-puri.
In India pani-puri is prepared and served by roadside vendors in a bowl made of dried leaves. There are several versions of pani-puri recipe but all of them contain four components.
- Spicy water or pani (made with fresh mint, cilantro, lemon, ginger, green chilies and black salt)
- Crispy bread or puri (made with wheat and semolina)
- Filling (consist of mashed potato, chick pea and mung bean)
- Tamarind and date chutney
In this post, I will be describing recipe for pani, the bread, puri and the filling as well as how to assemble and serve the whole dish. The recipe for the tamarind-date chutney is described elsewhere.
The water (pani) for the pani-puri is prepared by blending Cilantro, fresh mint, ginger, lemon juice, green chilies and most important black rock salt. Every ingredient is absolutely important and must not be omitted (except green chillies) for the authentic fresh taste of the pani. Most of these ingredients can be found at any North American groceries store except black salt. Black is a type of rock salt dark brown in appearance. Because of the sulfur content of this salt it gives a characteristic flavour to the dishes it is used in. Black salt or sanchal as it is known in India, gives any “Chaat” dish its identity. It is not possible to imagine any kind of Chaat without sanchal.
For making pani, blend all the ingredients and add water. You can filter the pani, but I prefer not to, as there is nothing wrong in having little bit of fibres.
Two main verities of potato based pani-puri filling are popular in India. The one which is also known as “ragada” is usually warm and prepared by cooking a mixture of potato, green peas and tomatoes with various spices until it becomes a thick paste.
Another simpler filling involves mashed potato, chick pea and sprouts mixed with some salt and chili powder and coriander powder. I prefer to use this filling for pani- puri because of its milder taste; it lets the fresh minty flavor of the pani to dominate. For making this filling mixed chopped boiled potato, boiled chick pea and steamed sprouts. Add salt, red chili powder and coriander powder as pre taste.
Assembling the Pani-puri
Once you have all the ingredients ready, the final step is to assemble the dish. This involves punching a hole in the puri and filling it with all other components as per taste. This should be done right before serving; as the puri will lose the crisp if left with filling or chutney for long.