Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pani Puri from the streets of India - Muh me pani aagaya :-)

Chat, thy name is sufficient to infuse tingling sensations in my brain and make me start salivating uncontrollably. If you follow my blog regularly, you can picture me being totally partial to spicy, chatpata snacks and ignoring the sweets and desserts except when I have a craving for sweets - I am just a good eater :-). Over the years I have also learnt that I am not the only strange person in this world with a chat crazy palate and I have shared my recipes and plates of chats with many a friends. There is something totally delectable about these snacks that make you shed all pretenses and just enjoy the food.
In India, push carts morph into chat stations by late afternoon in every street corner and start emitting those unmistakably 'chat-ey' smell all around. There are also hundreds of restaurants serving chat items in the evenings (so people can be deceived into thinking they are eating something healthier than from a street side open cart :-)). Shanti Sagar in namma Bengaluru has an air conditioned room upstairs in their restaurant and you will be handed a nicely printed menu card with chat items listed. But when you order them, they all come from the down stairs open chat service center which uses the same ingredients, water, plates and hands as if you were standing next to the busy, dusty street and eating off of the plate :-). But you can forget all that or imagine your special chat being created in a hygienic, modern kitchen using bottled water and pay the cost difference. So, here is my take on eating chat in India, it is not only for the taste but also for the experience, so unless you have a strict no-no from a doctor, go ahead and stand by the open cart and eat the chat while enjoying the sights on the street, it is an experience you just cannot get any where else.

The cart vendor never prepares a full plate even if there are 10 customers standing around him. He serves 4-5 people at a time going in a round robin fashion from customer A to B to C .. remembering exactly if they had asked for extra spicy or sweeter serving and also remembering exactly how many he has served each of them so he can tell them when they have exhausted a full plate worth of puris :-). It is always one pani puri at a time, with the right amount of sweet & spicy chutney and everyone always asks for a bowl of pani at the end.
Ever since we moved to US, I have tried several chat places only to be disappointed. It somehow seems to fall short in both taste and the experience. I stopped eating chat outside quite a while ago and have been working on my chat making skills at home. This is a tested (many times over) and certified by family and friends, so go ahead and try it out and let me know how you liked it.

Coming back to Pani puri, it is a special type of chat and goes by different names in different parts of the country (Golgappa in Delhi, Puchka in Kolkata, gup chup in Orissa, Phulki in Bihar and Pani Puri in most parts of India). It is a highly customizable snack that can be filled with pretty much anything that you love for texture and taste. The essential ingredients of pani puri are pani (Tamarind water flavored with cumin, black salt and chat masala) and Puri (deep fried bread that is round, hollow and puffed up). If you have never tried this, it might sound really lame - puri served with tamarind water! The super yummy taste comes from how well you prepare the 'pani' and what you stuff the puri with. The crispy puri filled with addictively delicious pani accompanied by the goodness of potatoes, lentils, crunchy onions - all going into the mouth for a burst of flavors before the puri becomes soggy with the water, yummmm.. nothing can beat a Pani puri on a rainy evening.

There are many variations to pani puri and you can choose the one that you love most. If you are Indian, I would think you have tried this at some point in life, if you are not of Indian origin you might have atleast heard about this chat from someone. Whatever the case, give this puri with tamarind water a chance and in all probability you will be a fan after the first one goes inside :-)
A few years ago, when we were in Bengaluru, DD got hooked to this Pani puri. It was a small cafe/store which the old timers in the area called 'Gundappana angadi' (Gundappa's store) though it was renamed as 'Pavithra store'. May be it was her first experience eating chat or she really liked it, so much so that she wanted us to take her to eat Pani Puri every week when we were there. I personally am more of a Masala puri eater (this recipe will follow soon, I have had too many requests for it from friends that have tasted my masala puri) but for today it is all about the Pani puri.

What do you need to make Pani Puri? 
1 cup chiroti rava (very fine quality rava)
1 Tbsp maida/All purpose flour
1/4 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp baking soda
1 Tsp oil
5-6 Tbsp water
about 2 cups of oil to deep fry
Tamarind water: 
6 cups cold water
1/4 cup packed mint leaves
2 Tbsp cilantro
1/2 Tsp black salt
1 Tsp cumin
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1-2 green chilies (adjust to taste)
1 Tsp sugar/brown sugar
2 Tbsp tamarind-dates chutney
1/2 Tsp chat masala
1/4 Tsp amchur or juice of 1/2 lemon
1 medium potato (boiled and chopped into small pieces)
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
2 Tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
1 cup cooked green peas
Sweet chutney/Date-tamarind chutney (as needed)
Green chutney (as needed)

How do you make Pani Puri? 
Making puris:
  • Add the chiroti rava and maida in a wide bowl. 
  • Add the salt and baking soda and mix it well with finger tips. 
  • Add the Tsp of oil and and bring the ingredients to a crumbly state by rubbing them against your fingers. 
  • Add water slowly and simultaneously kneading the dough, prepare a stiff dough. 
  • As you knead, the coarser feel of the rava changes into a smooth dough. 
  • Knead for about 5 minutes, cover with a damp cloth and set aside for 20-30 minutes. 
  • Knead again for 2-4 minutes until you feel the supple dough beneath your fingers. 
  • Roll the dough into a thin disc (about 2mm thickness), use AP flour to dust if you need. 
  • Using a cookie cutter or a round cup with sharp edges, cut out small puris. 
  • Heat oil and fry the puris - a small batch at a time. 
  • When the puris turn golden brown on both sides, take them out onto a paper lined plate and let them cool down. 
Making 'Pani': 
  • Dry roast cumin seeds until they are fragrant and start to crackle. Take care not to burn them. 
  • Cool and make a fine powder. 
  • Grind all the ingredients listed under 'Pani' along with the powdered roasted cumin and about 1/2 cup water into a smooth paste. 
  • Pass this paste through a fine sieve and using the remaining water extract as much of it as possible. 
  • Taste and adjust any of the ingredients as needed. 
  • Cover and refrigerate for atleast a couple of hours for the flavors to develop. 
  • The pani in the pani puri is always served chilled. 
How do you prepare and serve Pani Puri? 
  • Select 6-8 fluffy puris. 
  • Poke a hole in the center on the top surface of the puri using your thumb, arrange the puris in a plate. 
  • Add a couple of pieces of boiled potato. 
  • Add a little amount of chopped onion. 
  • Add small quantities of boiled peas.
  • Top it with sweet and spicy chutneys. 
  • Dish out a cup of 'pani' into a bowl. 
  • Take a prepared puri, holding it between 2 fingers, dip it into the 'pani' so the puri is filled with pani, immediately plop the entire thing into the mouth in one go. 
  • Close your eyes, do a chomp, chomp, let the spices do their magic on your tongue and throat as the pani puri finds its way into your stomach. 
  • Repeat with the rest of the puris until you can eat no more, then end the fiesta with a bowl of chilled pani. 
  • Show gratitude with a smile if you can manage before falling into a slumber. 
  • Puri making tips: 
    • The dough should be stiffer than regular chapati/roti dough. 
    • Dough should be kneaded well and kept covered with a damp cloth. 
    • 1 cup of rava yields about 25-30 small puris. 
    • If you make puris in large batches, keep the cut out small puris covered in damp cloth until you are ready to fry them, this prevents them from drying out. 
    • Make sure the oil is hot before you drop the puris, put a small piece of the dough into the oil and if it comes up immediately you are ready to start frying. 
    • When you drop the puri into the hot oil, pour oil on top of the puri with the spoon so it puffs up. BE VERY CAREFUL WHILE DOING THIS AS THE OIL IS HOT!!
    • Once all the puris are done, preheat the oven to about 200F, switch off, put the puris in a single layer on baking sheets and keep it in the oven for 30 minutes. This helps the puris stay crispy and crunchy for longer. 
  • Pani making tips: 
    • Use cold water and always serve pani completely chilled. 
    • Pani needs to be spicy, sweet, tangy all together for the best impact. 
    • Black salt and roasted cumin powder are the key ingredients for the pani as is mint leaves. Do not skip any of these. 
  • You can serve Pani puri with just the puris dipped and filled with tamarind water. 
  • You can use sprouted & cooked whole green gram or cooked chick peas instead of the peas.
  • You can prepare 'Pani' with the store bought Pani puri powder or Jaljeera powder for a quick alternative, but always add black salt, roasted cumin powder and mint for a flavor boost.


Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Sach mein muh mein pani aa gaya...Looks very it

NamsVeni Pothas said...

really mouth watering pictures. wonderful weekend snack to munch and watch a movie!!!

Shweta Agrawal said...

pani puri from sctrach well thats hygenic.
oh my my it is indeed one treat to eyes and tummy:)

Priya Suresh said...

My mouth is just watering here, i want to have some rite now..

Jayanthy Kumaran said...

perfect recipe...thanks for sharing dear

chowringheekarolbagh said...

I have never tasted this roti. Looks really yummy and bookmarked right away. will be trying..
Restaurant in Karol Bagh