Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pani puri - need I say more?

A common sight in Pune city is telawallas standing at street corners selling Pani puri. Even if you can't see the pani puri maker you can definitely spot his stall from a mile away because of the huge gaggle of girls engulfing him.


"What is it with Pani puri and girls????" asks my husband quizzically. He just can't figure out why an empty pastry shell stuffed with spicy mashed potatoes,chickpeas and filled with the sweet and spicy hot pani drives almost all girls mad. If you've ever been to a crowded pani puri tela on a busy weekend - you would know. It's mental. But also very fundamental. Hee hee. Couldn't help myself.
And I'm ALL girl. One hundred percent of it. At least my undying love for pani puri vouches for it. Girls love pani puri.
I think I know why - it's because when a pani puri explodes in your mouth you taste it all - spicy,sweet,crunchy,syrupy,smoking hot with little pieces of the puri shell all finally going down giving you just enough time to gear yourself up for the next onslaught. Akin to the toffee shock that Silky and Moon-face hand out to Jo,Bessie and Fannie atop the Faraway tree.:)
The fun and anticipation accompanying the wait in line for another morsel of this quintessential street food of India makes it irreplaceable as one of the most craved-for foods by Indian women!


My love for pani puri began when I was a little baby. Amma never gets tired of telling me the story about how she walked 9 kms the day before I was born to get to a Pani puri vendor. On reaching the place she proceeded to order and eat every single thing on the menu at the chaat stall. Now, research says that a pregnant mother's habits can influence her baby. Listening to Mozart,reading books or learning algebra may ensure that your kid is a whiz. On the same lines of thought - could I have inherited this chaat fervor from mommy dearest? That is what I think!
Amma used to take three public transport buses to get to a cookery school where she learned the art of making chaat. Well all that chaat has turned me into an avid and sincere lover of all things chaat-like. But Pani puri remains my essential favorite.

Pani puri goes by various names in India.You call it Pani puri in the South and the West. Way up North it's called golgappa and in the East they call them puchkas. But what a pani puri essentially is - a crisp fried puffed pastry case that is stuffed with a potato and legume mixture and then filled to the brim with a spicy and sweet watery concoction. The heat factor comes from the bright green theeka or khara pani made with fresh green mint,herby coriander,pungent ginger and hot green chillies.The sweet and tangy counterpart is the meetha chutney made with jaggery and tamarind.There is a a good deal of ground spices like black salt,amchur(dried mango powder),chilli powder and fresh lime juice that add to the zing of this dish.


The pani puri recipe that I'm going to share with you comes from my mother's old and well preserved recipe handouts from those classes that she attended almost 26 years ago! They are all yellow and folded over twenty times at least. Little notes adorn these much loved and used pages. And I'm very lucky to have them with me today.
Hope you love making them and sharing them with your loved ones as much as I do!



The puris are easily available at an Indian grocery store.Make sure the pack is fresh as soft and stale puris are no fun. A pack contains about 50 puris.
Allow at least six puris per person.

For the hot/teekha/khara pani

1 cup packed fresh coriander leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger
6 - 8 hot green chillies
1 tsp of freshly roasted and ground cumin powder
1/2 tsp of black salt
1/2 tsp of amchur powder
1 lime juiced
salt to taste

For the sweet/meetha date and tamarind chutney

1 cup of tamarind soaked in a cup of warm water for at least 2 hours.Or nuke in microwave just to soften
1/3 cup of seedless dates soaked in warm water to soften or microwave them
1/2 cup of jaggery
1 tsp of freshly roasted and ground cumin powder
a big pinch of chilli powder
a big pinch of salt

For the potato stuffing

3 medium sized potatoes
1/2 cup black chickpeas soaked in water overnight.You could also use garbanzo beans/kabuli channa or moong beans.
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp of coriander powder
1/2 tsp of freshly roasted and ground cumin powder
1/2 tsp of black salt
1/2 tsp of amchur(dried mango powder) or 1/2 lime juiced
2 tsps of finely chopped coriander leaves


For the hot/teekha/khara pani

Grind together the coriander,mint,ginger,green chillies,cumin,black salt and amchur powder.Add lemon juice and salt.Taste for the right level of hotness and sourness. Dilute with water to make the teekha pani.

For the sweet/meetha chutney

1)Grind the SEEDLESS dates in your blender to a fine paste.Please please please double check to see if it is indeed seedless or you'll end up smoking your blender.
2)With your hands extract the tamarind pulp.Strain and keep aside.
3)In a thick bottomed pan heat the tamarind pulp and bring to a gentle boil.Now add in the date paste.Cook for 5 mins.
4)The color of the chutney will go from a light brown to darker brown.Break up the jaggery into pieces add it in and mix well taking care to make sure that they dissolve.
5)Add the salt,chilli and cumin powder.Cook till the chutney thickens. This should take 10 - 15 mins.

For the stuffing

1)Boil,peel and cool the potatoes.
2)Boil the black chickpeas.Cool and drain.
3)Mash the potatoes gently and break them up.Add in all the listed powders.Add the chickpeas.
4)The resulting mixture should be lumpy and uneven.Take care not to over mix or you'll end up with a mush.
5)Garnish with the finely chopped coriander leaves.

To assemble the pani puris

The traditional street hawker way - don your grimy old pani puri vendor turban. Hand out tiny plates to your eager audience. Deftly make a hole in the middle of the puri so it can be stuffed with potato. Then add a few drops of the sweet tamarind and date chutney. Dunk in the hot green pani ensuring that it is brimming with the flavours of India.Now you literally have your guests eating outta your hands!

The do-it-yourself way - This is a fun idea when you have friends at home for a chaat or pani puri party. Simply fill a couple of woven baskets with the puris. Leave out individual cups for the other accompaniments. Let your guests have fun assembling and eating the pani puris.


  1. yummy yum..tempt dear.....with these yummos

  2. omg! You write charmingly - I lapped it all up in under 1 minute.

    Did your mom really walk 9 km the day before you were born? Where? and Why??

    Do you think you'll have momentum to continue with this? I've never started a blog, coz I don't think I can sustain..

  3. Nice write up but it still doesn't answer that timeless question - Why do girls love paani puri? Here in BTM, Bangalore we have lots of roadside stalls and almost as a rule they are mobbed by girls.
    I'm thinking it has something to do with the eating experience as a whole - observing it being made, anticipation and then climaxing in sensory bliss.

  4. Check out : for golgappa contest!

    (Bangalore only!)