While this month’s Indian Cooking Challenge was not new to me, I had never gotten around to make at home, what is a major part of this challenge. Pani Puri, or Gol Gappe as they are called up in North India, was the almost unanimous choice when Srivalli opened the space for suggestions and I have to admit that although I didn't register my choice, I was quite happy that Pani Puri was chosen.
Pani Puri happens to be my favourite chaat item and while I prefer to eat it out at the stalls, I started making it at home (when in India) just to achieve that taste and here in London because of the lack of such chaat stalls. The ones that you get in proper restaurants somehow dont have the same charm for me!
The dish itself brings back a lot of memories, all of them associated with friends. What is the fun in having Pani Puri alone? Try having a Pani Puri eating competition with your friends and you will know what I am talking about.
And then there were the preferences for a particular ‘bhaiyya’, i.e. the chaat stall owner. I always preferred the Dhaniya-Pudina Pani (water) while some of my friends preferred the ice cold one which had tamarind in it as opposed to the Lime juice in the former.
But whichever option you choose, nothing can beat the experience of having Pani Puri from your favourite stall, waiting impatiently for the Pani Puri to arrive on your plate, trying to fit the whole puri in your wide open mouth, never once thinking about how funny you might be looking at that instant, relishing the sweet, spicy, sour taste and then struggling to finish it in time for the next one that has been already plonked on your plate.
Coming back to the challenge, as I have mentioned I had been making Pani Puri at home for a long time but had never tried to make the Puri at home although it was in my ‘to-do’ list. I failed miserably at my first attempt and had to go back to look at the recipe to see if I had missed any note or important point. Thats when I read in the comments about using baking powder instead of the soda. So I tried that and the puris puffed up nicely after that. But now I think that the first attempt might also have failed because there was a tad bit more maida and sub consciously, I corrected that the second time. Next time I am going to try reducing the Maida and using the soda to determine if the Soda was indeed the culprit.
Also I used lime juice in the Pani instead of tamarind as this is how we prefer it.
Makes about 3-4 plates i.e. 18-24 puris
For the Puri
1/2 cup Rawa (Semolina)
1 tsp Maida (All purpose flour)
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
A small pinch of salt
Oil to deep fry
For the Pani (Spicy water)
2-3 tblsp chopped mint leaves
1-2 tblsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
Juice of 1 lime
2-3 green chillies
1 tsp Roasted Cumin Powder
Black Salt (to taste)
4 cups of water
For the sweet (Tamarind) Chutney
2-3 tblsp Tamarind pulp
2-3 tblsp grated Jaggery (Increase if the chutney gets too sour)
1/2 tsp Red Chilli Powder
1/2 tsp Roasted Cumin powder
Black Salt (to taste)
Filling for Puri
1 Potato, boiled & roughly mashed and mixed with a pinch of salt
For the Puri
Take all the ingredients except for the oil in a mixing bowl, combine & make a stiff dough using very little water. Since Semolina is the main ingredient here, you will need only a few drops of water to make the dough. Knead for 2-3 min and then cover it with a damp muslin cloth and let it rest for 15 min to half an hour.
Heat the oil for deep frying. Pinch off a little dough at a time and roll out very small Puris, keeping in mind that they have to be had whole.
I rolled the dough out into a big chapati and used a cookie cutter to give me small puris, gathered the remaining dough and repeated until all the dough was used up. This was quick and gave me uniform sized puris.
Deep fry the puris in the hot oil just like you would a normal puri so that it puffs up. Drain them on kitchen towel and allow them to cool down completely before storing them in an air tight container until required.
For the Pani
Grind together all the ingredients mentioned for the Pani, except the water. Use a little water for grinding to give you a paste. Mix this paste with the 4 cups of water and chill until ready to serve.
Take the puris, crack open a bit and fill with the potato filling. Add about 1/2-1 tsp of the sweet chutney and then fill it up with the spicy Pani and gobble up immediately!
My Notes: The puris turned out great but I would have liked them to be a little more crispier. Maybe the Maida was the real culprit all along. I will definitely try it again and update this space.
You can try other filling options such as
Boondi – Soak salted Boondi in warm water for 5-7 minutes, drain and then use them as a filling
Lentils – Boil Chana Dal till completely cooked & mushy, add salt, turmeric powder & Garam Masala. This is a bit like the Ragda and can be used as a filling
Its great to have Pani Puri made at home and specially with no one watching you make those funny faces but I will still vouch for the ‘stall’ experience and urge those who have access to go out once in while and have Pani Puri at their favourite stall. My favourite used to be a stall in Ghatkopar (West) near the station, I still go there every time I visit India.
What has been your favourite place to have it? Would love to know.